Where Did Your Tech-Support Call Go?
I want to stay on the subject of tech support today. Everybody likes to complain about it, and with good reason. You call for help--with your computer, your cell-phone service, your plane ticket--and you get into the same-old-same-old of hold music, useless suggestions from a script and an unwillingness to do anything out of the ordinary to solve your problem.
Many of these complaints now also involve the word "outsourcing." It's not just that you're talking to somebody who's uninformed and unhelpful, it's also that American English might not be their native language.
I've had readers tell me that they'll pay more to do business with a company that hasn't farmed out its tech support to some other country--although there can be a whiff of xenophobia to some of these gripes about talking to a foreigner. Conversely, the companies doing this outsourcing invite suspicion when they tell their phone reps to make up new names and fib about their location. (On a Labor Day weekend, let's not forget that life is not a picnic for the overseas rep who has to go to work in the middle of the night.)
In general, I am a fan of regional distinctiveness--anytime I'm in a new city, I'll order a beer brewed there instead of whatever mass-market product they have on tap. So I enjoy hearing a local dialect that matches a company's location; it was a pleasure to call L.L. Bean the other week and hear a flinty Downeaster accent.
But it's just as important to speak to somebody who can help in the first place. The last time I called American Express, the rep spoke with an obvious South Asian accent--but understood every word I said, provided the assistance I needed and did so with unfailing politeness. (If anything, he was a tad too obsequious.) But when I phoned Apple to test out its tech support for this week's laptop review, the rep's all-American speech did not make up for her failure to get the correct answer to my question.
Either way, companies need to remember that the people answering their support lines speak for them. If you're greeted by a Tier One rep who struggles to understand your speech and has no authority to do anything helpful, you're completely justified in thinking the company doesn't care about your problem.
Who in the computing industry is doing this well right now?
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