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Over here, or overseas, incompetence knows no boundaries.

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If you call the tech support lines for many major companies these days, you can't really be sure that the person you're talking to isn't a few miles away or on the other side of the planet. We've all heard of technical supporting being outsourced to overseas companies, often in India, to reduce costs. The current state of technology allows us to communicate anywhere on the planet cheaply and instantaneously, so it does make a certain amount of sense that, all else being equal, companies would be foolish not to consider it.

But is it evil? Many think so.

I don't.

What I believe that most people actually find evil isn't where their tech support representatives might be located ... it's the quality of that tech support. They may believe that they're seeing a lower level of expertise when they can detect that the call has been routed off shore, and it's certainly possible that that's the case. But it's not the location that's the problem - it's the incompetence.

And incompetence knows no geographical boundaries.

I truly and honestly don't care if the person I'm speaking to on the phone is in my neighborhood, my country, or half way around the planet, as long as they can help me. That, typically, can be summed up in two measures: can we communicate, and do they know what they're talking about?

You don't have to be overseas to blow it. I've nearly hung up the phone on U.S.-based support reps because their regional accent was so thick that I could barely understand them. I left my former ISP because their technical support staff was incompetent and could only follow the script that they had been given.

I would have been quite happy in both cases if I could understand them, and if they could actually help me - even if they'd been overseas.

My bottom line? Don't blame overseas outsourcing, per se, it's part of what's keeping your costs down - but do hold companies accountable for the quality of their service, regardless of where it's coming from.

I'd love to hear what you think. Visit askleo.info, and enter 9653 in the go to article number box. Leave a comment, I read them all. And while you're there: sign up for my free weekly newsletter.

This is a presentation of askleo.info, a free on-line technical question and answer service. Hundreds of questions and answers are online and ready to help solve your computer problems.

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Article C2510 - January 4, 2006 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

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47 Comments
John
January 5, 2006 6:48 PM

I purchased a HP laptop 6 months ago and had a tech support problem. I called them and the answer I got was to format the drive and reinstall the os and all the software. Not the answer I wanted. The tech support person was in India of course and could not understand the problem I was having. I did not follow his advice and fix the problem on my own serveral days later and after much researching the problem my self. I did send an email off to HP about the problem with the tech support staff in India and I got no responce. I am not supprised.

The real funny part is the tech support person wanted to sell me more tech support time for just 199.00 for another 2 years. Yea right.

Thanks
John

Danny Boy
January 6, 2006 8:46 PM

I used to work for a an outsourced center here in the Philippines - a country in South East Asia. I perfectly agree with Leo's opinion on the matter. Competence plays a primary factor when it comes to Technical Support interactions. Another thing to note that for effective communication to occur, both the agent and the customer must know what they are talking about. Furthermore, customers usually are unaware of the stringent restrictions or the so called metrics imposed on agents by the contracting company. For my center the limit should be 17 minutes to resolve an issue - which is quite long since the medium that was utilized is chat. Usually, problems arise when the customer might think that the problem lies elsewhere - which is understandable given that the customer is on the end where the problem is. In the long run, I would say that much remains to be seen if outsourcing is really a solution or merely a means to cut down on expenditure. Ultimately, this would depend on the center that the company has outsourced their operations to.

Greg Bulmash
January 7, 2006 12:12 AM

I think the real problem lies in checklists.

Before they're allowed to actually listen to you, it seems the support techs are required to run you through a checklist of tasks like rebooting your PC and cold booting external peripherals (not just turning them off, but unplugging them and letting them sit a minute before plugging them back in and starting them up).

If you've gone through tech support a couple of times, these steps are obvious and you've already done them by the time you call and sit on hold for an hour to talk to someone.

But even if you have a highly competent tech support person on the other end of the line, sometimes it feels like they're an idiot because they run you through the list even when you tell them you've already done it.

It would be nice if they had a test online to see if you know what the heck you're doing, and if you can pass it, you get a special code to talk to a tech support person who will listen to you and work with you instead of running you through a checklist.

The last time this happened, I got a DOA cable modem from an online vendor. I knew it was DOA. I'd RTFM'd back and forth and checked online sources and troubleshooting docs.

I had to spend 2 calls and nearly an hour on the phone, plus try to apply a firmware patch that wouldn't go (because the damn thing was BROKEN) between the calls before I could get it certified as DOA and get a reference number I could use to get an RMA from the vendor. And most of it was on-hold time or the following "Did you do X?" "Yes." "Well please do it again while we're on the phone."

Sheesh.

- Greg

Shaymus22
January 7, 2006 6:58 AM

I think what's really an issue is incompetent Tech Support. Although at times the accents may be confusing, at times it seems as if (and this is probably 100% correct) they are reading off some kind of flow chart: If they answer yes to this question, ask this one, if no, ask this one on page 5, etc.
What's interesting is this; is the Tech Support that's been outsourced more, less, or equally reliable?

TheZeroCard
January 7, 2006 8:11 AM

HP's answer for *every* problem is to put that CD in. If there's still a problem, the answer is then to ship the unit to their factory. I quickly learned to back-up my data, live with the default, Windows environment, and build my own computers henceforth.

My problem is of a different sort, and Leo touched on it briefly in his article.

As a hearing impaired person who cannot distinguish between various consonantal sounds over the telephone (with no lip-reading clues to go on), the "I can't understand you"-problem is so common, tech support has become flat-out useless. The moment I hear the accent, I politely say, "Oh, sorry, wrong number!" hang up, and click my Google icon.

Ever since an infection ravaged my otic nerves 20 years ago, I've had to depend upon various clues in order for my brain to choose between one or more probable scenarios as to what has been said. These include the familiar rhythms of normal speech and the correct enunciation of vowels. Most importantly, a speaker must use plain language, that is, words and phrases that one might expect to hear in a discussion about a given topic. Complex, round-about sentences (read: "on-the-fly translations from a different language") just won't do. East Indians, as far as my ears can tell, seem to pull off the entire language using at most two or three vowel sounds. (I must reiterate in an attempt not to offend: this is what it seems like to me, with my hearing the way it is.) It *literally* sounds, to my ears, like they're saying, "Eee-bee dee-HEE-bee dee-BEEE-hee dee-hee-bee." For the most part, I cannot understand a word they're saying.

When I try to explain that I cannot hear what they're saying and ask to speak with a super, they naturally respond with a question or stipulation of some sort: "Eee-bee hee-DEE-bee hee-bee-dee!" and wait for my response. As I shake my head in disbelief, they repeat: "Eee-bee hee-DEE-bee hee-bee-dee!" Then again, sterner this time: "EEE-bee HEE-DEE-bee HEE-BEE-dee!"

(Wha...?)

"I'm sorry, but I cannot understand what you're saying. I appreciate your trying to help me, but my hearing is damaged from an infection 20 years ago. My ears do not work very well any more. May I please speak with your supervisor? Please?"

Occasionally I'll get lucky and happen upon an older person from the middle-eastern regions, Hyberabad or Vijayawada or thereabouts, where my two business partners grew up, and I'll be in more familiar territory.

More often than not, they become offended. Obviously, each worker has struggled for thousands of hours learning our language, and they naturally feel a hurt in their pride when they encounter someone who, after all that, still cannot understand what they're saying. Such people usually just hang up on me.

For this reason, products sold by such companies as Microsoft and HP come on an "as-is" basis, and do not carry any tech support package whatsoever. When I buy this stuff, I am truly on my own.

I'm almost tempted to get a TTY system, even though technically I don't need it. At least I *shouldn't* need it! With my luck, though, that system will be run by someone who grew up where I did, who speaks in a perfect Los Angelean Beach Community accent!

Take care, everybody!

The Cliff-Walking Fool
aka The Zero Card

Kevin
January 7, 2006 9:04 AM

I bought a Dell back in October and within a week I needed to call tech support. I was unaware of this outsourcing of tech support so was extremely surprised to find out that in the course of our conversation George Varghese was from India. I was able to understand him better than most people and certainly better than the french speaking people of my country - Canada. I was very happy with the service I received. Although it took an hour to *fix* my problem it indeed did get fixed and I have not had a problem since.

Mark
January 7, 2006 8:13 PM

I work for a major US ISP's outsourced tech support centre in India.

The two things decide the outcome of any call to a tech support number is the clarity of speech of the tech, and his/her ability to understand whats going on and offer a solution to the caller. Oh, and in retrospect I'd add the caller's mood/attitude to that list.

Scripts? Yup they do exist, they're there to standardise stuff, i mean there almost always is an opening and a closing script regardless of whether tech support is outsourced or not. What goes on in between the opening and the closing scripts depends on both the caller and the tech. Sometimes techs do sound robotic(a.k.a. scripted), it might be because they've been having to work on similar calls repeatedly(imagine walking callers through configuring outlook for the same settings on 10 successive calls).Believe me folks, I am not trying to defend techs who sound scripted here, just listing one of the possible reasons for it. I guess what makes offshore techs sound more scripted is the fact that the callers are not accustomed to the tech's accent.

Is outsourced tech support bad? It should'nt be as long as the caller's issue gets resolved, would love to hear ur views.

Thanks
Mark

TheZeroCard
January 9, 2006 7:30 AM

> I guess what makes offshore techs sound more scripted is the fact that the callers are not accustomed to the tech's accent.

Whenever I call *anybody*: the bank, the cable company -- whoever -- I usually try to do something that's entertaining at least once: a quick one-liner, a play on words, a wry, sarcastic, or cynical comment about management, etc. This is my way of trying to "humanize" what is, for both of us, a stressful situation.

When I am familiar with the accent, I find it much easier to "read" the other person and to determine whether this behavior on my part is appropriate, that is, whether the recipient will take it in the manner I have intended. If I am not familiar with the accent, I cannot "read" the person as accurately; clues that I usually process on the "automatic pilot" of ingrained habit I must now process consciously and deliberately.

This may account for why workers with (what we see as) foreign accents may seem "mechanical" (that is, not like me). This is not coming from a part of the brain that we can get in touch with, although practice, like with a sport or a musical instrument, can help.

Another example: I live in the Russian section of a predominantly WASP American city with a strong representation among the Native Americans (Portland, Oregon). When the newspaper maps out the crime statistics, this little triangle-shaped neighborhood is distinctly void of the little dots that indicate a burglary. Ditto for the two neighborhoods where large populations of Vietnamese settled in the years following 1975. Why? The burglars cannot "read" Russians and Ukrainians! They dare not assess the risk of getting shot, etc, so they stick to the homes of Whites and Native Americans. All of the prejudices we learned during the Cold War come to play, but this time, it is to our benefit!

I suggest that the appearance of "scripting" has more to do than just the script. There is no room for anything more intimate than the universal "Hello" of all humans conducting commerce, and then it's down to business.

Take care!

The Cliff-Walking Fool
aka The Zero Card

Danny Boy
January 9, 2006 6:55 PM

If I may share a secret, having worked in a contact center in the past I could say that most of the things you've stated are true and accurate. Let me give you an in depth analysis:

1. There are many technical support levels that a customer may get passed on to. The first level is what I would call the "filtration level".

There are customers who at the beginning of a call would ask you something like "What are you wearing now?". Blip~! Level 1 techs take care of them.

Generally Level 1 techs take care of the obvious - which is understandably quite an inconvenience for the customer but is nonetheless required. They may ask you really really stupid questions, like "Did you plug the power cord?"

To that, I could attest that the customer should be patient and answer as honestly and quickly as they could since this is a way that the company is ensuring that the problem is a legitimate problem with that specific company's service area.

Oftentimes ISPs have problems with customers asking about Windows or Hardware concerns which they totally can't support since the training that they given the Reps are for the ISPs!

2. YES THERE'S A CHECKLIST. And it is an interesting thing for reps now since it is like the Bible. Lol! I personally try to question it every now and then but the Supervisor would say that this has been given by the contracting company and it has to be followed to the dot!

3. THE CHECKLIST IS ABSOLUTELY INVIOLABLE. You cannot deviate from it even if the customer gets angry and irate. Whew! take into consideration that Customer Satisfaction is one of the things that they measure your performance with. I experienced a customer getting angry because I asked if she did a restart, her response was "No, I haven't restarted my computer and I don't want to restart my computer because it might not start again!"

I was trained for e-mail specific issues at the time.

Lol

Imagine a very enthusiastic ISP rep who asks the customer to do a "Format c:" to alleviate a virus concern. Lol!

4. When everything has been done in the checklist there's a second level of tech support personnel to handle the concern. These are the techs that do the real work. Of course, the level 1 people better be sure that they pass on a legitimate concern from a legitimate customer.

The second level of tech support is greatly benefited by greater accessibility to working tools (software) and more information.

My advise is to get to the next level of tech support. Be kind and sound legitimate to the first level! Follow the instructions and answer as honestly as you could the first level. Otherwise they might transfer your call to who knows where.

Lol!

Danny Boy
January 9, 2006 7:30 PM

This is in response to Zero Card.

I have good news for you my friend. Some companies are already using alternate mediums for technical support. Among them would include e-mail and chat!

It's really cool! I suggest that you suggest to the company that you're having problems with in investing to those kind of mediums.

Lincoln
January 16, 2006 7:15 PM

Outsourcing Tech Support = Evil

I get absolutely SICK of getting tech support people that I can't understand. I understand that everything's about making a buck these days, and not about keeping customers happy, but eventually people get sick and quit buying your products, and then you're not making money any more, are you? Not to mention, this strikes a nerve with me on a personal basis. My mother works in a tech support center in the USA for a major U.S. satellite television provider. If the company decides to outsource their call centers, my mom loses her job. Americans need jobs, and American companies need to provide those jobs.

Ann Onymous
January 18, 2006 7:35 AM

I have had no, nada, zip, zero support calls handled well by outsourced support. It has reached the point where if they sound even vaguely indian I politely say goodbye. Where possible I stop doing business with any company that values their customers soo low that they can't even have a local representative.

The bank I now use gives me two contacts. I know their names and their mobile numbers. The hardware vendors I now use have dedicated local teams. I wouldn't have it any other way - it costs a little more up front but saves me so much money in the form of time wasted.

asf
February 9, 2006 7:23 AM

incompetence comes from writing "knows know"
instead of "knows no"

Leo
February 9, 2006 9:25 AM

LOL. Actually it doesn't "come from" writing that, it's "exemplified by" writing that.

Erik Semmel
May 3, 2006 9:21 AM

Understandable Tech support is the real problem. We launched the TAB@HOME helpdesk in response to our 10 year running Computer Talk show on WTIC News Talk 1080. Our callers spent hours and days on the phone will Dell (India) support and still had the same computer problem. They would call our Computer Talk show and we would get them the answer. Our phone support service is 1 flat cost of $199 for unlimited phone support on your home PC from Techs you can understand that are NOT overseas. www.computertalkwithtab.com

diane
May 7, 2006 1:11 AM

Outsourcing is evil. I miss the days when I could speak to a savvy American working for Microsoft and willing and able to handle complex windows issues. I purchased a computer from circuit city with XP home, since the game is to NOT offer pro so your system will crash when you try to upgrade. Paid 99 bucks for 75 minutes of tech support. India. Egads, AGAIN?? Fake politeness, shuffled through the system, computer crashed again. I had saved PIN they gave me on the desktop. Lost that information and now it'll be 12 hours before I get a call back. I purchased an HP computer with a media center on it. found out, after bringing it home, that I could not upgrade to pro. The whole OS is infiltrated with HP's presence. Took it back and got this laptop. Crashed several times and NO one could help me in INDIA!@!! I miss those guys in Utah and Seattle. I miss Americans so very much. I miss competence. I am packing this HP back in the box and taking it back to circuit city. I think the government's interference with free enterprise has gotten us into this mess. Many cheered when they attacked Gates and forced MS to spread the wealth. Well this is the result. Have to find a company that gives me XP pro without all of the corporate intermingling on my system.

chrisdavistech.com
June 28, 2006 6:59 PM

For me it does not matter solong as the call is answered quickly and the techs are allowed to think a little on their own. One thing I can not stand is calling and hearing a script, asking a straight forward question and being forced to go through a few pages of written directions. Of course being able to understand them should go without saying

Chris Davis
www.chrisdavistech.com

Lee Williams
July 3, 2006 5:36 AM

I can't tell you how tired I am of calling or even emailing HP's technical support. It's always someone in India who just reads down the troubleshooting card. Most the times they know very little about computers and as they go through their troubleshooting charts they're always saying "A moment please" and then they start to read the English response. It's so frustrating! Give me someone who speaks English and cares!

I'd even be willing to pay a little more for the computer if the technical support were here in the United States with someone who understands, cares, and speaks in a way that I understand! Let HP, Dell, and other giant computer corporations outsource their "front-line face" to India. Meanwhile, I'll stick with the smaller companies where you can still call someone and get home-grown English!

Ethan
July 18, 2006 2:50 PM

This is all I have to say
http://www.break.com/index/microsoft_support_center.html

Cory
July 18, 2006 5:18 PM

Im trying to get my wireless router fixed. I called the tech support number they gave me and of course it sent me right to INDIA! I am sooo sick of talking to someone i CAN NOT understand. Im trying to run a business and it doesnt help me much to spend hours on the phone trying to work things out. Today i went as far as calling their sales center and of course... AN ENGLISH SPEAKING PERSON answers the phone. What a bunch of crap. I know it helps big companies to save a buck and adds more jobs for people in india... BUT man is it frustrating. I told the indian on the phone that he wasnt helping me and i wanted to speak to someone else and he got an attitude with me! "CORY, I KNOW WHAT I AM TALKING ABOUT!!" I just said "goodbye" and hung up. UHGUHGUHGUHGUGH NO need for a response, just thought this was a good way to get some frustrations out! THANKS!

Paul Armstrong
June 23, 2007 11:54 AM

Outsourcing transcends your desire for cheap electronics Leo. It's bad for the USA's economy long term. Here is an interesting article that discusses why in more detail: http://www.memagazine.org/contents/current/webonly/wex30905.html

Jimmy Mehta
October 12, 2007 8:41 AM

I am an a former Dell Technical Support Representative and I was based in a India center. I went through all the above posts and thought I would do a reality check on the above issue.

I hate my employers as well as Dell (same with my colleagues also) for making my life a living hell. I know that all the above experiences are true and in no way an attempt to defame the Outsourcing Industry in India. Now I have worked with Dell for about a year and half and I have customers in USA that I still interact with in other words my support was not that bad. And this people do seek my advice on how to get their computer working if there's a snag...so I was(am) good and almost all my colleagues were better than me so the service was not bad. The support or the accent was not that bad or else there would have many posts.

Take a look at the working condition at a Dell Contact Center 10 hours shift(often you have to work overtime and the 6th day for which you are not paid), only two breaks of 30 minutes and 15 minutes allowed during which you have to stuff your dinner (remember we work nights) and rush back to your station...Dell users often complain they have to wait a lot before reaching a human voice...trust me its Dell who is to blame for that..agents get 3 second interval between calls at the max it could be 30 seconds or it is a defect and you will have a pay cut. Now imagine someone on a station picking up calls for 10 continous hours do you expect that person to give you the best resolution...he reads out of a script because his brain and body stops working...my question is WOULD AN AMERICAN ACCEPT THIS TYPE OF WORK ENVIROMENT? And we are blamed that we are eating your jobs...we are even more under priveleged than you so we have to take this jobs and the effort is not to harass you from our side.

LOOK AT REAL PICTURE IT'S DELL (AN AMERICAN COMPANY) THATS HARASSING BOTH YOU AND US. SO YOU KNOW WHAT TO DO NOW.Try calling any of them (the agents) that you are dissatisfied with after they have left their jobs at Dell I am sure you will get a better service free of charge (which you won't get in US) provided you are willing to pay for the Long Distance call.

nicholas lim
December 20, 2007 6:49 PM

I've had enough! Because of this horrible support in India, I Will NEVER buy another HP product and hope that others take heed. I called up to ask for a replacement power supply adapter, and it took me 3 calls and 3 days just to make sure they got the address right! THe first time I gave them the address, and it was not taken down. The second time, they had it but forgot to put it down on the order. Hopefully this time it is correct! You get the usual reply of "my sincerest apologies...." , "I can't find a supervisor around" and so on, but this level of incompetence is just not cutting it. They had better move their support elsewhere or more ppl will respond with their pockets. NO MORE HP STUFF for me as far as I'm concerned.

vicky
March 13, 2008 3:23 AM

Im a tech. support from Hp and i tell you work in one of ur company in INDIA and then you would find out how hard it is to give support ..when there is huge call flow they dont even give breaks ..u have to take calls and calls ..there have been so many good people from US who do understand what the problem is ... and there have been few who only show attitude because they are from US ..oh god plz stop this ..i've tried to conference with the ISP's in US and i've found out how Good they are when it comes to tech support in US ..hahahha ..life working in a callcenter sucks ...come and work once in our company and u would enjoy ur life .trust me all u guys who have nothing to do except sharing ur experience with the world.

Betty
May 13, 2008 7:21 PM

I can understand both sides of this issue, probably only because I worked many years as a CSR. I have to say that I have, for the most part, not had a problem with the few support calls I have had to make. Yes there can be a problem understanding the technician but I think that may be a two way street, I suspect they may also have a problem understanding us as well. I personally have found that giving as much information as possible about the problem, and what I have already done to try and fix it, makes a big difference in the quality of help I get no matter where in the world it comes from.

Betty

George
October 3, 2008 12:50 AM

The entire HP technical support is located in the Philippines, just call them up and ask them. I mean what the hell, they can't afford to hire people in the states? I don't care about globalization of economies, but the most important and the least each business can do is to ensure the same quality of service in every country, in this case, hire only the ones who can speak fluent English is not too much to ask. I don't want to hear Philippine-English or Indian-English, either you speak fluent English or find a different job. When you have to spell out every word in order for them to understand that is not technical support from their part, that is English support from our part... outsourcing is only good for the company, bad for the consumers. In the end I will recommend to all of you, buy any computer brand except for HP.

Sarah
October 21, 2008 3:16 PM

Alright, I just need to say I am sick of people bashing support wether it's being outsourced or not. You, as a customer, are dealing with international companies and then become irate when you talk to some one who is not a five minute drive away. You want to know where HP support is coming from? Ontario (Canada), Oregon (US), New Delhi(India), New York (US), New Brunswick(Canada), British Columbia(Canada), Costa Rica & yes the Philippines. Is this a bad thing? Have we as a society become so close minded we can't take a moment to work through an accent or a time zone?

I know that there are a lot of folks who are prejudiced against any tech support that doesn't "sound" native. But that's not the issue here, I don't think.

What people care about is getting their problem solved, and being able to communicate - both ways - is critical to that process. It's about much more than an accent; if the tech support person doesn't understand me, or if I can't understand them, then the problem will not get solved.

What people want is tech support that is competent, nothing more, nothing less. That means not just technical competence in the areas that they's supporting, but competence in one-on-one communication as well.

Personally, as long as the support is competent and effective, I don't care where on the planet they are.
- Leo
22-Oct-2008

Cat Moves
October 28, 2008 10:22 AM

Leo, allow me to put my two cents in here. (Do you think an Indian or Filipino, speaking English as a second language would understand that comment? Especially since neither country uses dollars and cents?
Do you think they would understand other phrases and idioms that we use?
Do you think that they sometimes act dumb because they don't understand our slang? Or convoluted sentences?
Or long words that they may have only seen or heard once?
If some of these workers are so badly treated, then I urge them to find other jobs where they may enjoy working.
I have neither sympathy nor time for companies that abuse, employees who bellyache about how hard they have to work nor those who buy products knowing they have to deal with aliens.

Beth Goldmeer
October 28, 2008 11:43 AM

Hello Leo,
Just a few weeks ago, I needed tech help with my desk top computer.
I was so happy to have a second computer here for online help.
I found the help site and used their instant messenger, answered a few questions and got my fix. To make it even better, it was done using plain English.
For all I know, they could have been in India.
This was by far easier than trying to understand an accent from a different country.
Too bad this isn't available for all types of customer service.
Lastly, Thanks for your Newsletter.

lrl
October 28, 2008 12:12 PM

Like Leo, I care about competency, not location. However, realistically, I find US support much better, and not just for the language. I think there is a better chance that the support staff might have at least some experience with the equipment (especially with computers) than someone working offshore does. Sure, all might be following a script, but US personnel seem to be more willing to ad lib to jump to a real solution rather than slavishly following the script, especially if they understand YOU have some technical expertise. Plus, if a company employee, they might actually have some loyalty to THAT company, with a vested interest in having the company succeed.

fastfreddie1959
October 28, 2008 7:56 PM

Here are the facts.
I do desktop support all day long.
Like leo i do it for free.
The one major complaint is the fact that 99%
of the people from india do not speak english
very well.
Plus they read stuff out of a manual supplied
by what ever company hired them.
I personally would never waste my time calling
them for this reason alone.
More times then not the answers are not
in the supplied manual.
I deal with thousands of people on a daily basis
and even i don't have all the answers.
I say that if your gonna sell a product in America
then keep your desktop support in America.
All HP & Dell are gonna do is push customers away
from buying there products-simply because
there support leaves a lot to be desired.

Jim Vetor
October 28, 2008 9:27 PM

EVIL. I buy American I expect to hear someone speak good English if I call support. I hate it when I give detailed information on a problem and I get a canned response that doesn't make any sense then wait 5 minutes for them to come back with a response that has nothing to do with the problem. I no longer use customer support unless it is to get money back they shouldn't have take out. I work on the problem until I figure it out or find someone or a site like Leo's for the help. Makes live easier and better on the heart. Now if I can just figure out how to fax from Vitsa like I can in Windows XP home without buying a dedicated fax program. That one has me stumped. Good luck to all.

Glenn P.
October 29, 2008 9:33 PM

I don't think it's "evil", although it DOES take away jobs from Americans (many of whom badly NEED jobs). In that sense, it is perhaps bad for the American job market. (But then, so are lots of other things.) And, let's be fair -- you can't entirely blame the companies; this $%$%!#& economy is hurting THEM, too! What do you do when your Customer Support expenses skyrocket? How do you cut costs? If the choice is between outsourcing or ceasing to offer Customer Support at all (arguably the best option of all in terms of cost-cutting), which would the user prefer?

But more to the point, as a User, I CAN'T UNDERSTAND THEM! Their accents are too thick. I honestly cannot tell what they are saying to me! I have had to call twice, or even three times, before finally getting someone I could understand.

Once THAT little difficulty is solved, generally speaking I've found them to be reasonably competent. But companies do need to take care that the people they hire can be understood by the average caller, or all their effor is for naught!!!

Gary Adsitt
October 30, 2008 1:53 PM

I pay Dell $13.00 a month to talk to someone in North America when I call for support. I did it so I would be able to understand them. Until this last computer I bought from Dell I didn't need it but this one has been a pain in the ###.

Steven George
November 18, 2008 3:12 AM

Its true, that if you cannot communicate there is no point calling to support center, But believe me as a tech support engineer I have seen most of the time the person calling support center is impatient, and he expect all the answers are with the support executive, Not forgetting that the guy trying to help you without seeing the problem himself or resolving it himself, his eyes and hands are you who do it on his instruction., many time the customer give them half information, he need to pull out more inputs from you and without irritating you..

It is not the matter where the support engineer answering from , if the company outsourcing it to Phil or India the cost benefit is passed on to we customers., to bring the product more affordable, same time we call the customer support without even bother to read the manual or have a google check., which increase the number of calls to the support center and they need to accommodate more staff and only way to control that costing is outsourcing.. So please read before you dial..

Also the companies outsourcing to Phil or India , is many time not taking care of the quality, if the problems can be limited to FAQ the agents has , then the life would have been easy, the guys need hands on experience to support rather than reading out from a script or FAQ database., you need to spend time and efforts to train your agents after all they are your face to the customer and if they cannot respond to the customer, you the company who loose the credibility

Regarding the American accent or British accent, or phil-english ot Indian English it is not that hard to communicate , we already grown beyond the Geographical boundaries, America is in Iraq or Kuwait today is not that Americasí concern is only with in its geographical boundaries., If American believe it as world leaders then speak like that, donít shrink your thoughts so small, Do you know there are civilization and languages before English had its alphabets..

Ken
November 22, 2008 2:18 PM

I am wondering if anyone knows of a US company you can outsource technical support to. I have a small company and I am either looking to get technical support for off hours. I want high quality support, I don't mind paying more for better support for my customers.

Thank you

Navinder
January 12, 2009 7:38 AM

All i want to say on this discussion is, not all the five fingures are same.Price always pays you quality, If you go for the right one you will never face such problems.On other hand every company providing support should work on two aspects i.e quality support and assigning technically skilled staff.Have come accross many big whales in this field who themself prefer the Tier 1 staff to use canned responses and then escalate the issue to Tier 2 or Tier 3 staff.The reason for same is huge number of requests on the live chats and helpdesk support, the other reason is some major issues of hardware failure or hacks or the time span needed to fix the issues.These are the main reasons where canned responses are used to let their customers know that the techs are working on things and will be back to normal soon.Rest if you pay a good price to a company for support i am sure no company would like to loose such a client :)

Ashish
July 30, 2009 12:03 PM

I do not think that it Evil from any possible angle. I work in TAC (Technical Assistance Centre) for a reputed US company & I believe we are doing a tremendous Job. When we talk about Quality and competency please let me know why India is highly recommended for outsourcing. Let me tell you couple of points:

1. Cost Cutting
2. High Quality
3. Neutral Accent (That Can be modified)

& several others.

Think about it. We are the future....

alric
September 28, 2009 1:12 AM

Outsourcing Tech Support is a great thing, specially on time of emergency. I don't see any evil thing there.

Alric
http://myglobalstaff.com

Tim Turner
September 29, 2009 10:39 AM

Most of the time they are incompetent. They read from scripts of the most basic troubleshooting without acknowleging your own experience and things you've already tried even after you tell them.

Most of the time, I sense that they don't even fully understand what my problem is before they are start troubleshooting, as they'll often tell me to do something completly outragesous that has nothing to do with my problem. For example running a system restore is not going to fix a hard ware failure. As a matter of fact they can be completly oblivious to very common problems that can be easily Googled.

With todays delining job enonomy in the US, with hunreds of thousands of Americans getting laid off, it serves best to keep as many jobs in the US as possible. There are plenty of Job starved communities hear that could use whatever opportunites are availible.
Once America gets itself on track, then they may outsource but until then we need the jobs here.

Glen
February 21, 2010 10:03 PM

Wow... a lot of really interesting (and mixed!) views on outsourcing, years after the original post.

Leo I think you're spot on. Outsourcing is often assumed to mean "offshoring", where many companies can benefti from "onshoring" their outsourced services.

From an Australian perspective, much of our tech support is also sent offshore by the 'big boys' (not so much by the smaller players, in my experience). However, this is really not smiled upon these days - and "offshoring" in some circles is a bit of a taboo topic!

In reality, an inadequately trained person in India or China is just as inadequate if they are sitting in the same office as me. However perception is everything. I know many Australians who will hang up if they hear a long delay between the phone ringing and the answering of the phone; knowing it's going overseas.

I also believe culture plays a huge part in tech support; an Australian using "Aussie slang" with someone in India or China, usually results in silence on the other end of the line.

Truth is, for technical support - outsourced or in-house - the best solutions come from conversations, not scripts.

Evil? No. Good? Depends on MANY factors :)

Take care.

Glen Parker
Sydney, Australia
OmniSupport.com

Anthony
March 10, 2010 5:45 AM

Outsourcing per se as the article states isn't evil. However if you can't understand the person or the person competence level isn't up to par then forcing your customers to indulge this lack of customer support is evil. Customer support in most companies now adays seems to be an after thought and that's a real shame.

david bandel
March 24, 2010 11:47 AM

The fact that it's evil has nothing to do with the poor quality of service. It has to do with job competition.

People trained in America, living in America, paying American costs for goods get completely screwed by having to compete with someone else (less qualified, though that's not the point at all) who is willing to work for less-than-American wages.

Outsourcing is a huge part of the cause of our current economic problem. Too many people are jobless. This means way less spending. And with the social burden growing, the middle class gets to shoulder an even greater tax load, pushing them into a state of taxed poverty, reducing their spending drastically.

Why should a company hire me (very qualified) for the type of salary I need to survive when they can hire someone else (less qualified but still qualified enough to get the basic job done - (indians are known to be the worst programmers in the world, though bill gates released a statement saying the opposite to justify microsoft's excessive outsourcing)) who can work for a third as much, without any benefits?

There's no question that outsourcing is evil and greedy. It's also destructive and should be illegal.

It's pretty sad that you're focused on the customer side of things and not the massive unemployment and droves of Americans forced to work for pennies in jobs they are horrendously overqualified for.

Maybe try to grow up and take a look at the real world. This crisis isn't exaggerated. If anything it's downplayed. Outsourcing isn't the only cause or even necessarily the greatest cause of our problems, but it's definitely a major one.

Jay Shepherd
April 19, 2010 11:53 AM

There are a lot of mixed reviews especially regarding keeping jobs in America. If you ever want to find an answer for anything just follow the money.

Us Americans want to have our cake and eat it to. We want cheap products and then get upset when the company reduces cost to provide those for us.

Does outsourcing reduce jobs for Americans? Maybe. Probably. However it's not the companies fault. Unlike Government they can't just make money they have to earn our money. If we want Technical Support to be in America then don't give money to companies that won't keep it here. The problem is American's have overwhelmingly chosen we would rather have a cheap product.

Tassy
November 14, 2011 12:44 AM

I come across the problem "Scripted Assistance" all the time and can never be helped with my problem. If it's a problem that can be fixed in the simplest way possible regardless of what damage is done, they go for it. Generally, both "Tech" and "Support" are outright jokes.

I have called for support at least 5 times in the past, and I have NEVER gotten a correct solution. The evil is these companies paying people to sit around copy-pasting responses.

Bob Bowman
December 25, 2012 10:23 AM

I had this experience recently with my ISP.
I had lost connectivity.
The person I spoke to was reading from a script and asked what model of router I was using, and i told them I wasn't using a router. We go on for a few minutes without success. I'd rebooted and recycled my modem already.
This is where I knew the rep didn't know what they were talking about.
They told me to type in the address bar 192.168.1.1 to reach my modem.
That as many of you know doesn't reach a modem, it WILL reach a router if you are using one.
But I'd already told the rep I WASN'T using a router.
Hours later, I figured out the problem myself.

Abdullah
January 9, 2013 8:25 PM

I like India, but I find them the dumbest of all support "specialists". Philippines seem a little better, but are unsafe to trust your computer with even remotely, even if they work for Microsoft. I try not to buy products of companies who outsource jobs. USA corporations are definitely greedy and USA government is dumb for allowing USA economy being sent away and destroyed by greedy corporations.

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