Oct 07, 2007
Customer Service, International Style
That said, I do try to make the experience a little better for me and the vendor. Last January I had a pretty fun time talking with "Peter" at Dell tech support while we were running diagnostics on my machine. I guessed pretty quickly that "Peter" was actually "Pedro", and after a few pleasantries exchanged in Spanish, he took me on an (English-speaking) virtual tour of Panama, home to him and 2,000 Dell tech support staff. I had a second computer nearby, so Pedro toured me through all sorts of Panamanian websites while we waited for the four- or five-minute tests to finish. It was fun. And we figured out my computer problem, too.
On other customer service calls, it's common to hear a Filipino accent on the other end of the phone. A quick "salamat, po" ("thank you, sir (or madam)") always gets a surprised giggle from the other side. I tell them that my mom is from Pampanga, and they invariably tell me that they're talking to me from Manila. And that news invariably makes me visualize them sitting in a white cotton shirt, crisply ironed and still clean despite the fact that the city is both hot and dusty. I don't know how Filipinos stay so clean. It's magic.
At some point I should try to learn a little bit of Hindi, so I can give appropriate greetings to "Jim" or "Bob" on the other side. Tech support people need their giggles, I'm sure of that.
Image from the York Entrepreneur's Diary
A little conversational Hindi may or may not help you on the phone with an Indian tech support staffer. A lot of these outfits are based in Bangalore, where the local language is called Kannada.
Gujarati and Marathi would also get you far. :-)
English is basically India's Esperanto.
Posted by: Barry Campbell | Oct 8, 2007 10:17:34 AM
A relative of mine works at a call center for a major mail-order medical supply company, here in the US. She is now in the "customer retention" division, where the job is to retain angry customers who want to cancel their accounts because of service problems. Despite the sometimes irate customers, she actually likes it better than regular customer service (i.e., sales) for one reason: no quotas. At least no quotas yet--it's a new division. If you want some additional topics to chat about, you could ask the tech person what kinds of daily or hourly quotas they're supposed to meet, if there's pressure to keep calls short, if there's appreciation from the bosses for taking the time to correctly solve the customer's problem, if they have scripts or other protocols they're supposed to follow, and how frequently their operating rules are changed, what are the most frequent customer problems they're dealing with of late. On the other hand, since the calls are being recorded, you might get the employee in trouble for talking about these things. It gives you some appreciation for the stresses of these jobs.
Posted by: Glenn | Oct 8, 2007 10:36:31 AM
Phil, I love this post, and what it says about you. I'm guessing a call from you makes a tech person's day, and possibly their week or month. :)
Posted by: Lisa | Oct 8, 2007 7:29:12 PM
As a long time only moderately serious practitioner of arnis, a Filipino martial art, all I can say in Tagolog is to count to 4 (which was the level I reached before my attendance became so infrequent that my level certification expired before I could test again); say "counter for counter," "butt strike," but can't spell them. So I guess I can't amuse the Filipino tech supporters very well.
Glenn, that's interesting. We've heard of anal-retention. I guess what your relative does could be called, some days, a**hole retention.
What about when telemarketers call? If they're selling welcome mats, I tell them I tore down my curtains and I'm using them to wipe my feet. If they're selling placemats, I tell them I cut up my welcome mats. If they're selling curtains, I tell them I use tablecloths.
If they're selling yard service, I tell them I paved my yard and painted it green.
Posted by: Elrond Hubbard | Oct 8, 2007 7:56:10 PM
I had a great conversation recently with a "Henry" in India. We talked about our favorite Amitabh movies.
Posted by: Sarah Ovenall | Oct 9, 2007 8:14:09 AM
Lisa: Aw, shucks :-) But seriously -- I get a lot of joy from spreading extra sunshine, even if it's only for my benefit. When others have fun, too, I'm extra happy.
Barry: Aw, dammit! Thanks for letting me know, though. A friend of mine is going to a wedding in Gujarat in December. I'll make sure she knows to cram the Gujarati lessons and not the Hindi. (And I'll make sure not to cram Spanish lessons before I travel in north-central Spain.)
Posted by: Phil | Oct 9, 2007 10:44:56 PM
Back in 2003, I went to Chennai, India, to train the outsourced tech support people who were to begin supporting my employer's software products. (Interestingly, many of these same folks have now moved to the USA and become employees.) Anyway, it was a wonderful trip: everyone was incredibly friendly and kind to me, and my students took me to a different restaurant every evening, each featuring the cuisine of a different Indian state.
A few years later, I called tech support for a different company's products and got to talk to someone in the same building in Chennai. It's a pretty big world out there, but it's folded over lots of times.
Posted by: Brian Rice | Oct 10, 2007 2:39:07 AM
I'm with Lisa.
Posted by: Doc | Oct 13, 2007 8:42:46 PM