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Monday, May 21, 2007

Off-Shore Call Center Experience

While I've been somewhat agnostic on the issue of having on-shore vs. off-shore call centers, an experience five minutes ago may have changed my mind. One of my business credit cards changed aspects of the card and sent me the new card. I called up to get the card switched back. The person who picked up initially was from an off-shore call center in India. She took both my old card and new card information, but clearly didn't understand quite what I was telling her. She then told me literally - "don't worry you can charge above the credit limit on the new card." This was not a topic of discussion and likely it must have come up on her screen.

I considered just canceling the card at that point, but instead asked to speak to someone else. Someone from an on-shore call center got on the phone and fixed the problem within 15 seconds. Literally, they just said... "No problem, Mr. Karrer, I'll change everything back. Just cut up the new card. Is there anything else I can help you with?"

Wow - what a difference.

And if I hadn't pushed, I would have canceled the card and had a bad taste for the several large brands involved (major bank, major airline, major credit card).

That's a pretty steep cost and was an eye-opener for me. I wanted to save this in my blog just so I could remember it when someone asks about on-shore vs. off-shore.


Anonymous said...

Two things.

First, I am really glad you got the matter resolved on just the second call. I recently experienced my card being swallowed by an ATM in Spain and was passed from pillar to post before getting an unsatisfactory resolution which left me with no access to money for the rest of my stay. Fortunately my husband had his cards with him...

Second, I think your illustration has more to say about people who listen to and understand their customers versus those who do not. I'm not convinced that it necessarily follows that they need to be on-shore to do that.

Tony Karrer said...

Karyn - that's a really good point that there's a lot of bad on-shore customer service as well. I wonder if it's partly that by going off-shore you are opening yourself up for a new kind of criticism. In other words, we know you've decided to save money by going off-shore and so if your customer service level is low, clearly that's because you've tried to save money at my (the customers) expense. Even if quality level is the same, I wonder if the bias is built into the scenario.

Of course, it doesn't help that the person who was clearly incompetent (outrageously incompetent) was off-shore and then rather than transfer me to someone who was good who was off-shore, they put me back on-shore and this person was extremely competent.

BTW, Karyn, did you cancel your card?

Anonymous said...


The tenor of your post suggests that you have come to a conclusion based on but one experience.

I've had some *great* experiences with some off-shore support reps, as well as some terrible ones. Same goes for my experience with on-shore support.

Tony Karrer said...

Steve - you are absolutely correct that I'm basing this on one experience. I've not really paid much attention before I guess - again I've always been agnostic thinking it doesn't matter much on-shore vs. off-shore. But this was so off-the-charts for me, that it made a definite impression. Am I reading too much into it? Probably, but it certainly left an impression.

Anonymous said...

I think what is evident from this post and the subsequent exchange is that, rightly or wongly, people do form impressions based on single incidents. And they will extrapolate all sorts of conclusions from that incident. Of course things will go wrong from time but it's how the supplier handles it when the wheels fall off that will make the most lasting impression on the client.

BTW - I didn't cancel my card - the service levels I get from the person they call my "relationship manager" - used to be known as a "personal bank manager" - far outweighs occasional run-ins like this. But it was very frustrating. What I would have done if my husband hadn't been with me I have no idea.

Anonymous said...

According to me If your project is of sufficient size, use more than one vendor. The management of offshore operations generally requires more intensive management. The use of two or more vendors is an effective way of driving continued improvement from your vendors. It also acts as a safety net in case one under-performs. Ensure that the vendors are aware of the involvement of the other vendors. This will motivate them, as they will know there is the opportunity of additional work and having the work taken away from them depending on their performance.