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As many of my readers know, I am a former Internet Technical Support Rep.  I worked doing phone based technical support for two different companies for the better part of ten years.  It was time that was extremely educational.  I honed my skills at troubleshooting.  I honed my skills at dealing with difficult people.  And, I lost my faith in the general intelligence of humanity.

Well, not completely.

During my time in the trenches I witnessed many of my friends lose their jobs to outsourcing.  In fact, one of the call centers I worked in is now completely shut down due to every job in it being outsourced.  I got out to another company just in time, but a friend of mine actually had to spend his last weeks with the company in Indonesia training our replacements.

Good times, let me tell you.

Last week, my normally rock-solidly dependable home DSL service decided to go down.  I was frustrated, but hardly helpless because of my time as a troubleshooter.  So, I spent some time going through all of the rigmarole any tech worth their salt would check.  Thus, when all of these things failed to correct the problem I expected sooth sailing.

I should have known better.

The call to my provider ended up in India.  I should have expected as much, but it still irritated me.  Here I was, an out of work tech worker, and my technical support call is being answered in Mumbai.  Those jobs used to belong to my friends and I.  What’s worse, instead of demonstrating savvy technical skills I was led through a script, half of the things I was asked to do were either irrelevant to my problem or were obviously not going to help based on the facts I had already laid out.  It was maddening.

My DSL did get fixed, though it took nearly 24 hours for them to get the tech to their local office to fix the redback as I requested from the beginning.   And my service seems to be back to its old reliable ways.  But, this experience is just one of many I have had since watching my employer firing all of my colleagues to send their jobs overseas.  It seems every time I call any company these days the phone rings outside this country.

They call it business, saving money on the overhead of providing customer service.  I call it giving the customers, We The People of this great country, substantially inferior service to save a few bucks while not passing any of that savings on.  Oh, and as an added bonus taking jobs away from hundreds of hard-working Americans.

I know some of you might think I am being racist saying that the overseas contractors are providing substantially inferior service.  But, it has nothing to do with their intelligence or ability.  The problem lies completely in two areas: communication and ability to take action.

A large majority of these agents speak English as a second language.  No problem, if they had a decent level of fluency.  But, between unfamiliar accents and lack of fluency it can be hard to communicate with them.  They get as frustrated as we do because they have trouble understanding us as well.  This makes the whole process painful for everyone involved.  I shouldn’t have to struggle to get my bill corrected or my DSL fixed.

And then there’s the lack of power.  These contractors are invested with extremely narrow ability to do anything.  And when they can take an action, they often have to get supervisor approval to do it.  My DSL was broken.  The problem was obviously at their end.  The only way to correct it was to dispatch a technician to their equipment.  But I still had to wait on hold for five minutes while he got supervisor approval to do so.  But, try to talk to that supervisor.  That will be a fifteen minute argument about every reason you can’t do that.  That same argument will come up if you try to get something done outside their narrow parameters.

That’s not customer service.  And that’s not fair to the customers or the agents who have to deal with people made angry by these situations.  These jobs never should have left the country, in my opinion.  And, one of these days, the backlash from customers failing to receive the help and service they need is going to show companies that this has never been a smart move.

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