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Outsource This!

Friday, Nov. 18, 2005 11:51 PM

A story in Thursday's SF Chronicle spoke of a growing dissatisfaction among India's growing pool of technical service employees, and the treatment they often receive from Americans who call service and repair lines to get help.

Along with a number of horror stories about the verbal abuse these people receive, the article describes measures which these people feel compelled to take, such as 'accent neutralization,' changing their names, lying about where they are, and offering to transfer the call back stateside.

Though I'm not a fan of outsourcing, let's look at some of the implications here. It's wrong for an employee to even feel that level of fear. Would you do your job if people accosted you that way? If you had to cloak yourself in anonymity and change a regional speech pattern (like a southern drawl, a midwest twang, or a Boston accent)?

It's sad to see Americans who treat any service employee like dirt. That's everyone from janitors, security guards, theater ushers, waitresses, and the kids working their summer jobs at amusement parks. They're the bus drivers, the cab drivers, the store clerks, the letter carriers, the nurses, the teachers, the very backbone of our society.

I've witnessed at least one woman at Disneyland, upset about the momentary lack of maps at an information kiosk and mistaking her annual pass for a license to be rude, loudly castigate a young man who remained patient, courteous, and had dispatched his partner to obtain more maps. Clearly, the woman mistook his backside for a printing press, or wanted him to mug someone's grandmother and give her the map.

We should set the example. The next time you go to the movies, consider taking your empty popcorn bags, hot dog wrappers, candy boxes, and soda cups to the trash can instead of leaving them all over the theater floor. Yes, the ushers are paid to take tickets and sweep up spilled popcorn, but why does the basic lesson of cleaning up after yourself end at the theater's front door? After all, you're leaving the theater, and the trash can is right there. Unless, of course, your hands are full with the cell phone you (hopefully) did without for the past two hours?

Second, the employees in India are competing for jobs which, to them, are high paying ones, offering the opportunity to better their and their families' lives. That's the essence of the American Dream, isn't it? Taking an opportunity and applying a solid work ethic?

However, corporate America has its share of blame. To offer jobs that pay someone $440 a month and consider it some kind of largesse to the populations of other countries is both ridiculous and insulting. It also shows what you think of your customer, if service - a commodity they have earned through the purchase of your product and possibly even brand loyalty - is something farmed out to be as inexpensive as possible.

Customers have a reasonable expectation to be treated courteously (even the ones who can't muster the same in return). The operator should be well-trained and conversant on the product; information and expert systems should exist to enable the operator to identify and remedy the problem as speedily and sensibly as possible. The operator should also be professional enough to approach a customer's question in a positive manner. Don't put me on hold, and don't lie to me about not having the answer when it's in a clearly marked binder at your desk.

Exercise: If you are a corporate manager, call the customer service line for your company. Without identifying yourself as an employee or someone who might be entitled to extra attention, see how well the call center handles your question, and whether or not you, as a consumer, would be satisfied to the point of keeping the product/service and/or purchasing additional ones.

Our anger as consumers, however, should not be directed at the people who accepted the outsourced jobs. We've done it to ourselves, not only through the executives who choose to outsource, but the way in which we choose to treat each other, regardless of which end of the service relationship we may be on.


The Ministry has received 1 comment(s) on this topic.



carly - 2005-11-21 08:58:48
I so agree with you. We, as a society, are very spoiled. One of my Professors even pointed this out in class once by stating that, "If I were to leave the cup here and not pick it up. I know someone will come along and pick it up." All because we know someone is piad to do it, so why should we. So I try to help keep our classrooms clean and I always through away my trash after a movie =) You're blog is very interesting, I will be back