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The International Language of Customer Service; Huh?!

April 28, 2009
by

phone-bank

Alright, I need your opinion. I have been having quite the experience with telephone customer service reps these past few weeks, and I just about blew through the roof yesterday when trying to set up a repair appointment with the local telephone company- a call I’ve made a few times in as many days.

This issue is nothing new; calling customer service for some random company and being connected to a person half way around the world who- aside from the manual on their desks- have absolutely zero idea what you are talking about- if it’s not in the manual, it doesn’t exist.  This is not my idea of stellar customer service.  In fact, it’s a slap in the customer’s face.  “Outsourcing” customer service is a cost cutting measure; it is done for no other reason than to save companies a buck.  Often times, cost cutting leads to a decline of quality- in this case, in customer service.  Thus, companies care so little about what you and I are going through, they put us in the situation to experience extreme bouts of frustration when we need help with said service.

So let’s just be honest here, okay?  It can be a challenge to understand folks whose first language is something other than English.

I’ve started to notice that telephone customer service, even in the US, is staffed by people whose first language is anything but English- is this a trend?  Does it have to do with race?  Is customer service seen as a job that other people wouldn’t want, thus these folks are the only ones to employ?

Those questions aside, is it “racist” for me or anyone else to want to speak to someone in customer service who has a firm, thorough grasp of the English language, who has a general knowledge that extends beyond the manual on their desk?

Let me go ahead and toss in the disclaimers that I don’t have a problem with people that speak more than one language, nor do I feel that English should be the “official” language of the US- all I’m saying is I want someone on the other end of the line who understands what the hell I just said, and vice versa.

I want to hear from you on this one.

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. Delinda permalink
    April 28, 2009 5:47 pm

    Okay, I was just having this conversation with someone the other day, and the answer is NO it is not racist. When I call to make an airline reservation to fly from San Diego to Miami and the answer is “Yes, Ma’am, we can fly you to Paris from New York” then we have a slight communication issue here. When I call and ask if I can use my miles to upgrade and the answer is “Yes Ma’am, we do fly to Rio” then we have a problem. I have many, many times asked to be transferred to a ‘call center’ in the US. I even had a guy fake an ‘American accent’ and use a fake name…it wasn’t until he said “yes, Ma’am, I have you on a confirmed flight departing Cairo…” I am not by any means a racist. When I asked a representative of the airline-in person-to upgrade me because I got “Yes Ma’am’ed” she couldn’t stop laughing. She said the customers have to complain directly to the airline, it falls on deaf ears if it comes from the employees….anyway, that’s my rant!

  2. Teneighty permalink
    April 29, 2009 6:34 am

    Racist, no, but let me suggest it’s “language-ist”. We do live in a global economy and every industry is becoming more and more global. I think we all need to reach across the language barrier just a little bit as we come across folks in the customer service (or any) industry who do not speak our native language, whatever that may be. Speak clearly and slowly, not loud. Do not use contractions, idioms or colloquialisms, and learn a few words of hindi, spanish or chinese (The big customer service 3!). That’s helped me a ton!

  3. SolvayGirl permalink
    April 30, 2009 4:43 pm

    Sorry, but I disagree with Teneighty. It’s not a big deal if I am making a simple transaction if some does not speak perfect English. I grew up with grandparents from Europe, and their English was far from perfect. But when it comes to technical support for an expensive item like a computer, I am the customer, and I need to speak with someone who understands me and whom I can understand. It is bad enough that many of the support people do not know much, if anything, beyond their customer support manual. The thing that irks me most is when they use fake names like “Sean” and “Kevin,” when they are obviously in Bombay or some such. (Not that there could be no one named Seanor Kevin in Bombay, but I have NEVER had someone who is obviously in India give me an Indian name. It really insults my intelligence.) I’d much prefer to talk to “Deepak” and have the company acknowledge they are using outsourcing than go through the charade.

  4. SPS Parent permalink
    May 2, 2009 5:45 pm

    I find it really frustrating when I am on a call (especially technical support) and cannot understand what the person is saying. I feel horrible having to ask them to repeat themselves over and over. But I am not going to enter the wrong command or not understand how much is being charged to my credit card. I don’t think that is racist, just being smart with your money and possessions.

    The names they use, I do find amusing. There is cute movie called Outsourced made me laugh a bit.

  5. Jack Mayne permalink
    May 4, 2009 10:28 am

    I use Vonage and had a problem recently and spend a few minutes on the phone with a girl in India. She was more baffled at my MacIntosh than with the conversation and the questions I had. there are stupid people with bad dispositions everywhere. The real problem is that we are losing jobs to other places because we won’t (or can’t) pay the cost of having the jobs here.

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