A Response to Foreign Call Center Backlash

I received a new Discover Card in the mail this week, and when I called tonight to activate it, something unusual happened. After entering the card code I was told "you will now be transferred to our customer care center in Utah." It took me by surprise because I have never been told, as part of a customer service call, where the call center is located. On top of that, when "Amber" answered my call, she said something again about being in Salt Lake City.

In all honesty, I don't care where a call center is located – put it on the moon if you have to, as long as I get good service. But my suspicion is that Discover Card is playing up the location of the call center in response to the backlash against call centers in many foreign places. I wouldn't be surprised if research showed that callers were nicer when they know the location of the person with whom they are dealing. Just found it interesting and thought I would share.

  • CCH

    IBM has done the same thing for a couple of years…”Please hold while we connect you to IBM support in Atlanta, Georgia”. I am with you that I just want a good support experience, no matter where it comes from, but I do have more confidence that I will get it onshore.

  • Rob,

    I experienced the same thing this week while on hold with Bluehost. I had the same thought, they are making sure I know that when my call finally does get answered, it will be someone from the US.


  • Gene Brandon

    I’m with you Rob. I’m tired of having to listen to those people with their weird accents and their incompetent ‘help’. Much better to have real Americans answering my call.

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  • Hilarious! I wonder if the call center is physically located in Utah, and the sole contents of the call center is a telephony routing manual for inbound calls . . .
    Accents can be taught, and call center support systems can supply most of the idiomatic responses required of your typical support service. My own experience is that it takes several escalations to actually get a question answered, and the first couple of tiers is really an endurance and patience test to see if you are serious about getting support.
    Prove your commitment, and we will open the magic kingdom of support!
    There is a backlash – no question. Here’s the thing …
    Inflation has been kept under control in large measure because the net beneficiaries of outsourcing and off-shoring is the consumer in the originating country. So if your job is lost, you are the loser, but the benefit of the transfer is not so much the employee in India or wherever, it is your neighbour!

  • My wife and I both experienced the call center routing to India from Macy’s the other day and ended up closing our account because they were harrassing us for paying 4 days late!! Even after talking with corporate, they didnt update their info and kept calling. After that whole debacle, I really think stating where the call is going can be a competitive differentiator (if in the US in this case).

  • Erick Gonzalez

    REAL AMERICANS? and what is that supposed to mean, that we are fake americans? sorry but we are not trying to be like/become americans (wich is a really misuse term since AMERICA IS NOT USA ONLY)… i work for an outsourcing company, that works for a well known hotel booking agency, and i can tell that i myself have a strong accent and many of my coworkers do, but i also can tell that this is not the main source of disatisfaction. The policies for cancellations or changes are always depicted on the site before booking hotel reservations, but even though, people still insists in calling to cancel reservations after deadline… the typical “american” does the same all the time: calls the “800 number”, says that wants to cancel reservation assuming that there is no cancellation fee, plays the fool when you tell about penalty involved, then asks for a supervisor, and at the end, blames it on the accent… it is really ammusing to see all the “horrot tales” posted. To be fair, there are some cases in wich is evident that the error was made by the customer service agent, and it resulted in huge inconveniences for the guest, but this does not have to do anything with nationality, there is stupid people everywhere (USA is not an exception), and many of this errors are made by sales agents, who are actually in the USA, but still, the majority of complaints come from people that just decided to ignore the “NON-REFUNDABLE” policy and thought “maybe they are just kidding”… the company also has policies regarding changes that we are not able to override, for example promotional rates lost if changed, but all of this is on the terms and conditions of use, now, if you don’t want to read it… sorry

  • Joe the Plumber

    Listen man, I work in IT, and I have dealt with call centres in the US and out. I couldn’t give a rat’s toches where the call centre is located. However, so many times you cannot understand a word they say. Being rude is truly your only recourse, as many companies do not care whatsoever. But, lets face it, if we are rude to them maybe they will quit, if they quite, perhaps the turnover will make the companies raise the prices of having the call centres, if that happens, maybe it will become economically feasible to have them back in the US. But, if none of that is true, I want them to be more frustrated than me.

    If you want to “trick me” and tell me I am calling Texas when I am really speaking to someone is India, and he has been trained to sound like a Texan, so be it. I can understand Texans, so it makes no difference where he is. Go right ahead and “trick me”. But, when I get some high speed speaker that I cannot understand, I just say the words, “Say again, Say again” as quickly as I can, each and every time he speaks and I don’t understand even just a single word out of his sentence. I have practiced and gotten good at saying it very quickly, and they seem to catch on after a few times.

    I figure if I am going to be frustrated dealing some non-english speaking english speaker as a friend calls them, then heck, let them be frustrated and see how frustrated I am too.

    I blame everyone, the companies that outsource to India and these other countries (as I am aware it is not “just India” although they are the worst offender), the SOBs that take these jobs knowing they cannot communicate effectively with Americans, and the companies that do no one any good by not training people to speak in a manner that is understandable to Americans.

    I do telephone technical support, and I try very hard to speak with perfected pronunciation and I am a native American (grew up and lived here my entire life), and my speech is clear when I don’t try.

    Bottom line, if people are still taking these jobs with these outsourced overseas call centres, then we are not being rude enough. For if we were, people would not take the jobs, the cost would get driven up, and it would be economically infeasible.

    Joe the Plumber
    “The plumber that is always up for a pipe cleaning and is always willing to lay some pipe”

  • Pigbitin Mad

    You should care where the call center is located because once those jobs are allowed to stay overseas, it creates a domino effect where all wages will decline in this country. The only reason these jobs are going overseas is because CEOs are paying themselves too much….AND THEY WANT MORE.

    Any job that is not nailed down (like foot massage therapist) is going to India, China or somewhere else. Yours could be next. There should be a law against moving companies offshore, taking advantage of a very low cost of living, and then selling the product back to us.

    If we were allowed to literally pick up and move to work those call center jobs in India, American workers would be plenty damn competitive. Just not buying into this notion that the poor companies cannot find qualified workers here.