Sunday, July 24, 2011

Indian call centres teach racism

Indian call centre workers are being trained to speak slowly and appreciate the fact that Australians are ill-educated racist drunks who are touchy about their pets.
They are being trained to have a superior, racist attitude towards their customers.

This revelation comes from an astonishing report doing the rounds of the Australian papers via Andrew Marantz, a Mother Jones reporter who infiltrated the ranks on an Indian call centre training course.

Well, it just happens that I have been having a lot to do with Indian call centre workers lately - and I am not too impressed with their training. Perhaps the sort of crass cultural misinformation they are receiving is why communications with these workers has been so frustrating.

I started out feeling sympathetic towards the call centre workers, even those who cold call with a sales pitch when I am really busy.
I know that most of the interactions they experience are negative. People don't want telemarketing calls and, if the call centres are for help lines, the calls they get are from people who have problems and are not happy with something.

It is not exactly a dream job. Then again, it is a paying job which has been expediently outsourced and someone in Australia is without that job. So my feelings are mixed.

Even now, after many utterly exhausting calls to and from Indian cell centres.

I've been having a Vodafone crisis, you see.
I joined Vodafone more than a decade ago because it was the Telco which offered me good roaming services in the US at a time when it was hard to come by. Voda was wonderful. The moment I reached the US or changed states in my travels, a new provider would pop up and welcome me to the region and I was able to stay in touch with my invalid mother in Australia. For this, I loved Vodafone and was a loudly loyal customer.

This year, Vodafone plummeted from grace.

This has been the year of dead air. I was for months unpredictably in and out of connectivity - unable to make or receive calls, to SMS or Tweetl. I was not in the US. I was at my desk in a metropolitan newspaper office.
Or else, I was out in the city (right) moving around. I was down on the coast. Dead phone. Deadphone.
No mobile reception. Zip. Dead.
Important calls did not get to me. I could not report in. My working life was hobbled. When I most needed it, I did not have it. I could not liaise with a photographer on a job. I could not return call a contact. My aged mother could not reach me with her needs. You name it. For months. On and off, off and on.

I looked up the website to see where the phone tower issues were.
I Twittered about it from my computer.

I called Voda.
And into call centre hell I fell.

Ringing call centres is the most insulting waste of time.

Of course this is part of the Telco strategy. It is as efficient a deterrent as spraying a cat with a water pistol.

Firstly, one has to go through an extended horror of pressing keys on the phone to get to the help line. One has to do it from a land line, of course, because the mobile is not working.
When one finally gets through, one has to give a distant stranger information which allows them into one's private data.
And then the waiting begins, the wait and wait and wait.

The day stops.

The classic line is "just bear with me a minute".
And the line goes dead. And one waits.

The call centre workers have to do a lot of checking. Or is it that they just have to make you wait?

Every simply inquiry is met with some sort of unctuous incredulity.
A smarmy facade of politeness.
And a request to "wait a moment please".
And wait some more.

What are they doing?
Why are these calls endlessly stop-start?
With whom are they checking?

They have the information in front of them once they have keyed in all your personal details.
Where are they going in those silences?

They have access to a disturbing amount of information. All our phone and bill paying activity. Our home addresses and credit card details. They are all there. And they can tell us when we have called them or they us. They have everything logged and they can quote it all. Which is really not at all helpful. I already know that this is my fifth call.

I can get apologies for lack of service but no recompense. That is what I finally learned. It did me no good to vent frustration.

I have tried and tried to speak to someone who works for Voda in Australia.
I sent a number of emails through the website.
A day or two later, I would get an email acknowledgement.

Then, when I expected it least, usually at the hectic tail end of the working day, I'd get a call from some hapless call centre person.
And it would be the same thing all over again. Getting my details and then asking me to wait. The line going dead. "Please wait a minute", "bear with me"...
And I'd be stuck on the phone.
Oftentimes, I could not understand the caller. Their accents were sometimes quite strong. But, mainly, it was the lousy link.

How come a professional phone services specialises in really bad connections?

So the calls stop and start. The Voda call centre person is on line and off line. They are checking something with someone in that mysterious obfuscatory otherworld.

I have tried befriending them. Kevin, Najib, Mary... I am sympathetic towards them. But how they exasperate me.

I am paying for this service.
It is insulting.

And throughout my Vodafone blackouts, the months of incessant lack of connectivity, the mystery of it, the rebooting of my iPhone to see if it was somehow something to do with me or my appliance.
It wasn't.
It was Vodafone. It was service failure.

Vodafone's did not suggest any compensation for its lack of service. Just insincere apologies from Indians service representatives who, now I learn, had been told that I belong to some lower incarnation of boorish, boozy, unschooled, techno retard peasants...

Funnily enough, my opinion of them is no higher than theirs of mine.
I am not with them any more.


maddy said...

agree to what you have said. In every call center company, that's the thing an agent needs to do to give their customers..

Call Center Job Responsibilities

badumna said...

One of the many indignities of our time - the call centre. Loved your piece.