When you call a large company for help, your call may be routed anywhere in the world.
A new study, released this month, said offshore call centres have improved significantly, but still score far below their domestic counterparts – even if the customer’s issues were resolved.
Because of Toronto’s ethnic diversity, many people don’t know whether they’re speaking to someone here or overseas.
Take Terry, who was disappointed that her call to CIBC Visa was handled in India.
The representative used a scripted message and wouldn’t let her interrupt with questions. He failed to tell her about a $60 refund owed on her late husband’s Aerogold card.
There’s one thing wrong with this story. CIBC has never had a call centre in India for Visa cardholders, said spokesperson Rob McLeod.
Terry assumed she was speaking to someone in India. She had called CIBC again to ask about her refund, mentioning the Indian connection on the first call – and no one had disputed it.
Bruce Bennett was also confused after receiving a telemarketing call from a Bell representative.
"The person who called had a heavy accent, was difficult to understand and was following a script that didn’t allow for questions or input from me.
"I was placed on hold several times and was treated to Indian music during the interludes."
Bennett asked his caller if she was in India. No, she said. She was Indian, but located in Montreal.
Barb Thompson in Listowel used to hate calling Bell Sympatico for technical support and dealing with foreign call centres.
"We spent many frustrating hours (sometimes in tears) trying to get problems corrected.
"So, very often, we struggled trying to understand what the person was saying," she told me.
"We would just hang up in frustration and try again later, only to go through it all again."
Thompson now has a new Internet service provider and couldn’t be happier.
"The employees, located here in Ontario, are helpful, friendly, knowledgeable and, best of all, speak English clearly."
Bell maintains that it’s committed to cutting costs and outsourcing.
"At Bell, as with many companies, we have been working with external partners for some time. We have begun to work with partners located outside of Canada for a small percentage of our call volume," Kevin Crull, president of residential services, wrote on my blog.
"I can assure you that we put the same rigour and energy into our hiring, training and ongoing management of our customer service delivery team, regardless of whether they answer calls in-house at Bell Canada or at one of our partner companies."
Bell may be determined to fix customer service problems, but it still has a long way to go.
Rogers is not much better, in my view, though it uses only Canadian call centre partners for customer service.
These telecoms are bundling services onto one bill, using legacy computer systems that don’t speak the same language.
If they can’t communicate internally, how can they do a decent job of talking to customers?
Let’s stop blaming large companies for outsourcing. Let’s push them to invest big bucks in customer service and make it a priority.
If they were truly responsive, they would retain their existing customers and wouldn’t blow their budgets on advertising to attract new ones.