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Apple, don’t move Tech Support to India

Rarely am I bothered by a story on Apple’s international plans, but I came across one today that really, truly has me concerned. MacDailyNews picked up, but did not opine on a report that Apple is planning to open a tech support center in India.

I could write a lot on this subject, but I won’t. I’m simply going to say the following.

Dell permanently lost me as a customer because of its Indian tech support - in fact, Apple could directly attribute my purchase of three Macintosh computers in the last two years directly to the awful experiences I had with Dell. It wouldn’t take much work for Apple to recognize that Dell’s previously stellar customer service ratings fell off dramatically - and with much bad publicity - immediately after it switched to Indian tech support. Many of the readers of MacDailyNews have expressed similar concerns, albeit mixed in with regrettable, immature tinges of racism and jingoism.

Putting aside the racist and jingoistic comments, which really have nothing to do with this story, I know the standard arguments on this point: Apple’s not as stupid as Dell. Indian tech support isn’t necessarily a bad thing. And of course, cheaper labor means cheaper computers. Or cheaper iPods.

Simply put, as far as computers are concerned, I don’t care about any of these arguments. Switching call centers over to India - or any other country with less than complete language fluency to fully handle customers’ concerns - is penny-wise, pound-foolish. And in the end, more likely than not, doing so would serve as a major sign that the Apple experience is no different than Dell’s, except in the external aesthetics of its products. With Intel inside both companies’ computers, that’s the last message Apple needs to be encouraging these days.

Please, Apple, and you know I don’t say this often: keep charging reasonable premiums for your computers and giving me the support I expect, and I’ll keep buying them. I’m an Apple computer customer now because I eventually got tired of the third-rate experiences I was having at third-rate prices, and I’m not looking to go back to that. If I wanted a Dell, I’d buy a Dell. But I don’t, and because of these sorts of experiences, I now actively go out of my way to discourage others from doing so.

For iPods? They might be a different story - you don’t need quite the same level of technical support for an iPod as for a computer, and perhaps many of the most common iPod problems could be handled adequately by quasi-fluent technicians. Readers, what do you think?

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Comments

1

What Apple Tech Support? I’ve been unable to use my iTunes account for over 2 weeks and have received nothing but the automated ‘Acknowledgment of your email/submission’ which told me they would respond to my email within 72 hours. More like 72 days. The nice part is they happily took my money but I’m unable to get my purchased songs. Nice Apple, thanks.

Posted by nosedive51 on February 17, 2006 at 10:04 PM (CST)

2

J.,

I couldn’t agree more with your article. There’s really not much more to say about it, save that Apple’s phone support needs to be better.

Apple loves to tout how everyone rates its customer service as excellent.

As the old saying goes, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

Posted by Eric Gruber on February 17, 2006 at 10:13 PM (CST)

3

As someone who is looking into getting a new computer within the next 2 years, something like this will definately influence my choice. I have had horrible experiences dealing with customer service centers in other countries, and if Apple is considering going that direction with their customer service I’ll simply choose another manufacturer for my next computer. That would really hurt as part of my wanting an iMac was to help me get more out of my iPod.

Posted by Rockbox on February 17, 2006 at 11:35 PM (CST)

4

I’m getting REAL sick of outsourced call centers.  I literally cannot understand most of the people to whom I get connected.  How does that help me?

It doesn’t.  And this will influence future purchases, not just from Apple but from every company.  I’m fed up with it.

Posted by stark23x on February 18, 2006 at 12:12 AM (CST)

5

Tech Support for Apple Australia is already done from India - they try pretty hard at understanding you, though you end up repeating things a fair bit, and if your answers don’t follow their predetermined script, it gets a bit annoying…! there are ways to get past the 1st level support so that you can get local 2nd level and above.

Posted by yinyang on February 18, 2006 at 12:37 AM (CST)

6

It is a sad, but true fact that most americans (yup, myself included) have problems understanding english spoken by anybody aside from other americans. Cripes, sometimes we have a hard time understanding dialects within our own country. Let’s face it, where language is concerned, we suck.
I must confess, I once had to call tech support for configuring a wireless router (it was being gosh-durn, persnickity) and the tech was Indian. He definitely knew what he was doing, but I had a hell of a time understanding him. I’m sure if I had been able to speak an Indian dialect he could have recited Shakespeare to me more elloquently than Gielgud.
Knowledge is power, and power is expesive, baby. But, not quite as expensive as ignorance. I’ll shrug my shoulders and take my come-upance if tech support I can understand costs a bit more. Silly me for not being a wise fox and learning what I need to economize.
Is’nt that the customer base that Apple is known to have, wise foxes and the computer savy? Code is just another language in the global view, with it’s own dialects and protocals.
Maybe it’s just me, but I find talk of tech-elite, disturbed over language barriers nothing more than some ....very…funny…babble.

(and yes, I understand that many Apple customers are average consumers with no extrordinary computer skills, but I’m sure they’re not reading this at the moment, they’re probably trying to understand some geek on the phone from Minnisota who’s telling them how to optimize the battery life of their PowerBook) [no offence to any geeks from Minnisota..] ;)
..g’night

Posted by Miranda Kali on February 18, 2006 at 1:15 AM (CST)

7

I was onto trch support yesterday from the UK and I was definately talking to someone from overseas and I guess India. What should have taken 15 minutes to resolve as it was a simple issue on my Powerbook resulted in a 59 minute phone conversation.

I have to say when its not a free call thats appaling. Apple really need to get this one right as it spoils the whole Apple aura

Posted by Deggy on February 18, 2006 at 3:23 AM (CST)

8

Im indian,and well it depends on who Apple hires,if they hire idiots thats theyre problem but Indians have a bad image abroad,as you have clearly shown in the article.Its kind of irritating reading it.I don’t like iLounge for targeting Indians as idiots indirectly.I agree even my cellular support is absolutely horrible,but it doesnt mean all Indaians are like that.

Posted by Anonymous from India on February 18, 2006 at 5:04 AM (CST)

9

I’ve had mixed experiences with Indian tech support. When I had a Dell, it was a nightmare. They were unfriendly and ignorant, and it took a lot of bullying and putting on my ‘I’m a barrister and the Prime Minister and another very important person’ voice to get anything done. That said, I’ve spoken to some v pleasant and knowledgable Indian techs too. Also, when dealing with mobile phone companies in Ireland, I’ve more often than not spoken to total idiots who were in a call centre three miles up the road…

Thing is, I don’t think outsourcing is necessary for Apple - the way they have it arranged at the moment, they have tech support in Cupertino, Cork and Singapore - each eight hours apart on the clocks. This way, they can operate 24 hr tech support without paying anyone overtime, and as a policy it’s worked for about 20 years… I wouldn’t go blowing that away for no reason.

Posted by tomo on February 18, 2006 at 6:19 AM (CST)

10

@Jeremy:

“Switching call centers over to India - or any other country with less than complete language fluency to fully handle customers’ concerns”

Would you be as upset if they were considering outsourcing to France or Germany? As long as the techs they employ can speak English properly, what does it matter where the call centre is? You seem to be implying that noone in India speaks fluent English, which is clearly rubbish. How good’s your Punjabi, by the way?

@Deggy:

“What should have taken 15 minutes to resolve as it was a simple issue on my Powerbook”

If it was that simple, why couldn’t you fix it yourself?

Posted by Al on February 18, 2006 at 10:24 AM (CST)

11

Al/Anonymous from India: My posting explicitly said, “Switching call centers over to India - or any other country with less than complete language fluency to fully handle customers’ concerns - is penny-wise, pound-foolish.” This isnt about Indians as Indians, and no one has said that “Indians are idiots.” This is simply an issue of communication.

As stated, I would be upset if they were going to outsource to any country in which language will likely be a barrier to proper customer service. Unless Apple screens and trains its techs better than any other company I’ve dealt with, going to India is a mistake.

Re: How good’s my Punjabi, if you need to ask that question, you either have an interesting sense of humor or don’t understand the problem here. Customers obviously shouldn’t need to speak a second language to get tech support.

Posted by Jeremy Horwitz on February 18, 2006 at 11:18 AM (CST)

12

In the UK call centres were moved to the north of the country for whatever reason (lower wages and cheaper commercial property) and the staff, be they Geordies or Jocks, were usually easily understood. Now they are going east, employing staff with degrees, for a fraction of the cost of “home” based call centres and staff.

The question of language is the main issue to me. I don’t care if the person at the other end of the phone is purple and based on Mars - as long as they understand my problem within the first few minutes of the call, I’d be happy.
But from experience it is not the case. From my ISP, to my utilities companies and even banks, the call centres are abroad. The person at the other end has usually been given a western name like “Alan” or “Bob” (why? to disguise the fact I am not ringing a UK based call centre?) and they may well have a degree or two more than me, but the issue of just making my self understood is likely to end up with me being the purple one.

Luckily the UK call centre for Apple is presently based in Ireland, so I usually get my problem solved fairly easily.

Posted by Bob Levens in UK on February 18, 2006 at 12:00 PM (CST)

13

Apple has a call center in Austin.

You would think if their jobs were jeopardized, they would be making more noise down there.

Posted by wco81 on February 18, 2006 at 1:56 PM (CST)

14

The better call centers in India are completely transparent, meaning that you wouldn’t know that you were talking to someone overseas. If Apple outsources to one of the the better call centers, it could improve the quality of the response. In India, working for a call center is a prestigious occupation,and employees display an esprit de corps not present in American call centers. Also, Indian call center employees are college educated. Outsourcing calls will at least make them free. The average in-country phone query costs Apple $6.22 to answer. Taking the calls to India cuts the cost per call to under $2.00.

I hope Apple chooses a good cal center

Posted by LukeA on February 18, 2006 at 8:20 PM (CST)

15

Sorry, I didn’t proofread very well.

Posted by LukeA on February 18, 2006 at 8:23 PM (CST)

16

How about transferring it to the Philippines?

Posted by JAGA on February 18, 2006 at 10:20 PM (CST)

17

The way all tech support should work, just like it does on most online sites, is that they should allow people to comment on the quality of service after the call. A mini survey to ask if your problem was resolved, AND IN A TIMELY MANNER.  That way only compitent and succesful people will stay on.  In all honesty, I would rather have a compitent Indian, than an incompitent anyone. And by compitent I mean more than just with technical stuff, but being able to convey it correctly. Not only to well educated english speakers, but to anyone who purchases an apple. I just got off the phone with a linksys tech support guy that was obviously indian. I had to repeat myself MANY times, and ended up hanging up in frustration because he kept thinking i had a microsoft wireless router instead of an apple airport express. (not like apple and microsoft sound similar)

Posted by Ali on February 19, 2006 at 12:04 AM (CST)

18

I don’t agree with what you’re saying at all…i have 2 dell computers, and i have trouble on them quite often. However, i find the support to be very good at what they do. They have helped me fix my computers a lot of times, and I honestly do not see a big difference between Indian tech support and American tech support other than the fact that the latter costs less and also helps in the building of the company due to the amount of money saved.

Posted by Heinshtoff on February 19, 2006 at 12:44 AM (CST)

19

To agree with Jeremy, this would be a bad move. I’ve dealt with Dell support several times and the experience is always the same. I get a tech who has poor english skills, and poorer problem solving skills. If my problem isn’t one of the clearly spelled out problems in the manual the tech is of no help at all.

It’s not an India thing, India just happens to be the popular target. As Jeremy said it’s a language skill. Al, if I got a job as a call center tech for an Indian company I’d make sure my Punjabi was fluent. But that’s neither here nor there, as that’s not the case is it?

I just bought my first Apple computer since the powerbook 520. Please apple don’t make me regret the purchase.

Posted by John on February 19, 2006 at 12:53 AM (CST)

20

Let me take the opportunity to break it to all of you as to the real essence of this story. The above stated story did not imply that support centres were being moved to india. Infact all it stated was that a support centre was being opened in india to cater to the approximately 3 million IPOD users in India (Surprised Yet!). Looking at the reaction displayed above, I really start wondering at the level of “COMPETENCY” people have at understanding the all important language of “ENGLISH”. What it said was Totally different to what so called “FIRST CLASS ENGLISH SPEAKING” citizens came to understand a simple statement of english of.
This is the actual “VIEW” from My side of the Fence.

Posted by indianipoduser on February 19, 2006 at 4:52 AM (CST)

21

This really shouldn’t be about language problem.  Dell’s support sucked because the techs just didn’t have the knowledge.  My experience with sony was horrible because no one knew the proper place to direct my call, all the while I was bounced between call centers in the US and Canada.  I believe that first and foremost, knowledgable phone operators are needed.  Unfortunately, people here are associating “India” with “English incompetency”.

To the writer who wrote ” get a tech who has poor english skills, and poorer problem solving skills. If my problem isn’t one of the clearly spelled out problems in the manual the tech is of no help at all.”  Well, that’s not really English related, is it.  It COULD be solved with proper training.

Someone above wrote ” must confess, I once had to call tech support for configuring a wireless router (it was being gosh-durn, persnickity) and the tech was Indian. He definitely knew what he was doing, but I had a hell of a time understanding him.”  Well, the problem was solved, which is the most important, right?  So you had to do a little thinking to adjust to a type of english you are not used to, but is that so bad?

To anyone who is complaining, suppose for a second you have a heck of a time deciphering English with a Scotish accent - how would you feel about a tech center being opened in Scotland.  Or suppose that you speak with a heavy southern accent and a tech from northern US couldn’t understand you and you have to repeat yourself to be understood, how would you feel about such a situation?

What I’m saying is give these people a chance.  I live in Japan were my Japanese is perfectly understandable, but as soon many people see that I’m “foreigner”, they decided that they obviously won’t be unable to understand my Japanese and stop listening.  My point is that if you truly listen, you’ll probably be able to understand language spoken by a non-native speaker.

I understand that some people are concerned that the Indian techs would have a hard time understanding naturally spoken English.  It’s a valid concern.  I guess if that happens maybe try rephrasing.

Of course, if it all turns out to be like Dell’s experience, then it’s hopeless.  But let’s not make any assumptions yet.

Posted by anon on February 19, 2006 at 7:06 AM (CST)

22

Wow! another bomb from Jeremy!

Whatever said and done, your mind speaks.

Few months back you declared that all iPod accessories manufactured by Asian companies are crap.

Now you are worried about the next thing happening in Asia.

I am not an Indian, but Jeremy please try to come out of your cocoon and see that there are many more people living in this world. World is not revolving around only the United States.

As much as you hate to speak to an Indian tech support person, there are millions and billlions of poeple out there who would find difficult to speak to an American Tech. Support and comminicating because most of the people in US thinks that the world ends at the American borders.

I will give an example that happened years back before this outsourcing thing became so popular. I was working in a small country in Asia, but quite known in most part of the world. I called my own employer’s call centre in the US to obtain emergency tech support for one of our customers in this country. I really had trouble making this person understand where this country is. I told that the country is in Asia and then this person wanted to know where Asia is. One country she knew was Italy and was asking whether Asia is in Italy. I felt like saying “Just walk out in to your back yard and check whether Asia is located there”.

So in my opion, Apple would be doing a wise thing to open a call centre in India. You seem to think that Apple’s market is only in the US. There is a much bigger piece of pie waiting on the table. If Apple wants to grow more, they have grow in these other markets also. As much as people in US are not happy talking to tech support outside US, what about Apple’s customers in this part of the world. Would they like to be able to be served by a US Tech support who again would not understand the customer.

So think about the brighter side !!!!

We love Apple for sure.

jk

Posted by jk on February 19, 2006 at 10:28 AM (CST)

23

I don’t think this is as bad as it may seem to some people. I think that if anyone does their research on outsourcing to places like India, you’ll find that it actually gives many companies the ability to hire MORE employees, and give raises. Outsourcing support is usually cheaper, reducing said company’s overhead, freeing up alot of money for other ventures.

Wether Apple is moving it’s existing support to India, or merely expanding it to cover India’s growing Mac market I think that it’ll be a good move.

I’m occasionally dissatisfied with Apple’s support, and most times I feel as if I’m more educated on Mac use than some of their support reps. Whatever this situation shapes up to be, I think Apple needs to work harder to make sure that support knows Macs/iPods inside and out.

Posted by Dan Almasy on February 19, 2006 at 11:04 AM (CST)

24

I don’t understand the comments on here, I really don’t - Apple is a company on the stock market in the United States.  As a company, its sole motivation is increased profits.  Of course, customer support is important in order to achieve a customer base that will buy the products manufactured by Apple - however they will balance off keeping a relatively small clique of Apple-lovers happy or reaching a far greater market by reducing prices.

I know which I’d choose.  The economic advisors at Apple probably are more aware of the benefits and disadvantages to outsourcing - as evidenced by the fact that while they look at trends, everyone here is focussed on whether they or their friends will like the new service.

Posted by Jasper Story on February 19, 2006 at 1:29 PM (CST)

25

jk: “Few months back you declared that all iPod accessories manufactured by Asian companies are crap.”

I said no such thing. Here’s the article; feel free to show me otherwise. But what was actually said in the prelude to our policy change was that “the iPod accessory market is currently being flooded with crap.”

Asia was not singled out for this. The vast majority of - virtually all - iPod accessories, and iPods for that matter, are manufactured by Asian companies. To believe otherwise would be foolish.

I hate to break it to you, but as iLounge’s editors can attest, I’m probably the most “out of cocoon” person you’d ever meet. For half of my life, I’ve spent what little free time I have traveling in Asia - Southeast Asia specifically, including China, Japan, Korea, Thailand, and so on. If I had to live anywhere other than the U.S., I’d almost certainly pick someplace in Asia.

But this has nothing to do with my personal tastes, language skills, or background. The simple fact is that quasi-foreign language tech support has earned a terrible reputation for customer satisfaction in the US, as evidenced by the scores of complaints from people you’ll see above and elsewhere online. You can try to frame keeping tech support in the US as isolationist, economically disadvantageous, or whatever else you’d like to suggest, but at the end of the day, people pay a premium for Apple’s products, and this is one step that (as widely agreed) will detract from the value of that premium for US customers.

The title of this article was “don’t move Tech Support to India,” a reference to closing down existing US-based Support facilities in favor of cheaper ones in India. If Apple’s going to open a new center for non-US customers, that’s a separate matter.

Posted by Jeremy Horwitz in East Amherst, NY, USA on February 19, 2006 at 2:09 PM (CST)

26

Dell lost me because of the scripted tech support from India. Apple should promote this advantage, not fritter it away.

Posted by C. Lee Smith on February 19, 2006 at 10:13 PM (CST)

27

For gods sake,Punjabi is not India’s language!Its Hindi!And by the way Apple would not hire anyone who cannot speak English,we all know English as well as you other countries you just have never met any Indians have you people?

Posted by Anonymous from India on February 19, 2006 at 11:52 PM (CST)

28

Has everyone realized how many Indians browse iLounge?

Posted by Anonymous from India on February 19, 2006 at 11:54 PM (CST)

29

I live in Italy where Apple customer support sucks. When you call customer support you do not get a toll free number, you have to pay €.14 per minute. You are almost always left on hold for at least 10- 20 minutes before anyone resonds. This behavior is horrendous. To get customer service you have to pay. So for us here in Italy if they moved to India it would not make a difference. We would still be screwed. Shame on you Apple!!!

Posted by DENISE JEFFREY on February 20, 2006 at 6:38 PM (CST)

30

“people pay a premium for Apple’s products, and this is one step that (as widely agreed) will detract from the value of that premium for US customers.”

damn right. i paid a pretty penny for my computer and i feel like the support i have gotten as of late is definitely lacking in comparison to the support i received before this move. to cite an example, the tech support i spoke to last night told me to turn my screen saver to never to avoid it coming on during movies i watch… this is a solution!? i had the same problem before and spoke to another tech support guy (one before the move) and though i don’t recall the solution exactly, i remember it was better than that and at least better considered.

i have nothing against indians. i’m a designer and for the past few years now have grown used to working with offshore teams and can understand the accent just fine (it did take a little time since indians tend to speak a little faster than most americans, it’s true, c’mon) but i think the indian population should understand that there is a difference between indian english and american english. I myself am an ESL so I’m not trying to sound like i’m bashing secondary english speakers, i am not, but i think it should be recognized that there are some things which are “lost in translation” if you will, and i think that is what the bulk of the complaints are about, if i may be so bold as to speak for everone (heh…). i think companies would do well to consider that there are cultural tones and mannerisms at play and not just the simple arrangement of words on a screen prompt.

anyways, that’s my opinion… i think companies need to realize that customer service is NOT the area to save a penny because these people that you pay a meager pittance to are the ones who are the face and voice of your company, and if they deliver a poor experience, it doesn’t matter how pretty your product is.

Posted by m. smith on February 20, 2006 at 7:29 PM (CST)

31

Ok I begin with an admission: I am Indian. I work in a call centre.

A lot of stuff writen here in this article (including the comments) is inacurate, and sometimes outdated. For instance, it was at the insistance of our US clients that employees here had to change their names: from Jay to John and Shyam to Sam. This largely due to this preconcieved notion in the minds of Americans that all things not American are awful.

This has, luckily changed. So expect to meet more Shyams than Sams.

I agree that people want to protest: but at the same time, think for a moment about the horrendous working conditions of people in call centres here, working odd shifts more in sync with the US than Indian time, in the most mindnumbingly boring conditions, and speaking mostly to the most stupid customers who have to be told,
“Sir, on the bottom left of your screen - that bright thing in front of you sir, that’s your screen- That’s the Start Button! Please click on it: No sir, move your pointer there by moving the tiny thing called a Mouse, and press the button under your Right Index Finger!

Posted by n.pandit on February 22, 2006 at 4:52 AM (CST)

32

n.pandit
Thank you for your comments. As I raised the name change point I feel that I should point out that until last year (when I saw a TV programme about this very topic) the name changing was still going on.  I live in the UK so speaking to someone not called Dave is not a problem for me…

And yes the requirement to work hours which are tied to your “customer country” must be unhelpful. But working any shift pattern which involves night work is. Admittedly you will have nothing but nights to work but again many jobs involve only night shifts.

And assuming that all callers are stupid? - I called my ISP when my service was transferred to another company. I spoke to someone called “Bob” who no matter what way I explained my situation seemed stumped by the fact my question didn’t conform to the script he had in front of him.  I then asked for a supervisor (“Alan”) who could not or did not want to help me. It took me several hours of phone calls to resolve my problem - phone calls which were costing me money and which were completely unnecessary.

Customers have more problems than just being able to turn their machines on….
Someone new to Apple computers who might not be fully up-to-speed on OS X might need help - in the UK we either get to speak to someone in Ireland or Holland
(I have met Dutch people who speak better English than many people I know.  And, I might add, I have also met Indians who speak far better English than many British do).
 
This will probably rage on, I just hope no-one misinterprets what I am trying to say….

Posted by Bob Levens in UK on February 22, 2006 at 7:56 AM (CST)

33

Those of you who are Indian out there: a modicum of magnanimousness, please. As an American with several extremely pleasant experiences with Apple’s tech service, I must say that switching would be a mistake. Yes, I understand that living conditions may not be optimal in certain parts of India. Yes, I realize that Apple’s market is not exclusively American. Yes, I realize that many Indian technicians are fluent in English. However, none of these arguments counters Jeremy’s, which is that for the customer’s best interest (and in the long run, Apple’s), fluently speaking technicians should be on the other line handling customers. Moreover, as a customer, I enjoy sharing an occasional joke and keeping the mood light and friendly. With my experience with Indian technicians, the scripted “how are yous” and “is there anything else I can help you with, sirs” just detract and cause unease. I want a technician whose tone makes me feel like I’m speaking to a friend or neighbor—heck, even a geek among friends.

Here’s the tricky part, though. Economically, if Apple can do this and still maintain a profit, then by all means they should. Large companies have no incentive to be “nice,” other than the acquisition of money. That’s why we don’t get fancy cube boxes with iPods anymore. That’s why we don’t get docks and wall chargers. The question boils down to whether Apple will lose money by making this switch. I am of the opinion that they WILL in the long run, but once they get a nice slice of the pie, don’t be surprised if they go ahead and outsource. It’s the capitalist way, and we can’t argue against it.

Again, those who are native to India, don’t take this personally, and try to refrain from ad hominum replies that ask for our fluency in other languages. These arguments are invalid and don’t address the topic at hand: outsourced technical support (from what we can tell from Dell) = a poor experience, which may lose Apple business in the long run.

Posted by Sam on February 23, 2006 at 6:07 PM (CST)

34

While most people here seem to be making a distinction between poor Dell tech support and poor language skills some people here seem to assume the two are one and the same thing.

Having bought a Dell in the US around 5 years back and then talking to Dell support, I know personally how much their support sucks.  This was the lack of technical knowledge from the techs. 
The point I’m trying to make this that Dell support was pretty bad prior to the outsourcing too - but for another reason.

Posted by Yet Another Indian on February 24, 2006 at 5:12 AM (CST)

35

I agree that Dell support had declined long before the move to offshore call centers. If the scripts are bad, no amount of English proficiency will make up for it. Dell never put an escalation process in place, nor did they train their call center folks to forward the most volatile customers to Dell staff in the US. To my mind, the worst issue was not having a way to handle folks who had already spent many hours doing all the obvious things to fix the problem.

This works on both sides of the Pacific. Next time your online with an offshore resource, spend one minute of chit-chat to get a sense of how well you understand the person on the other end of the line. If you have trouble, ask him/her to speak more slowly. Don’t use slang or buzzwords and don’t rant (they won’t understand you and it will just make them more nervous), just speak slowly and clearly. Remember, you catch more flies with honey!

Posted by Aceon6 in New England, USA on February 27, 2006 at 9:19 AM (CST)

36

I don’t want to sound snobbish, and again, I mean no offense to anybody, but why should the paying customer have to adjust? This is basically giving in to the corperations who are saving money by making our tech support a matter of playing some language barrier game that I’d rather avoid.

Posted by Sam on February 27, 2006 at 4:26 PM (CST)

37

“Why should the paying customer have to adjust?”

They don’t have to. They can buy premium products at a local mac store and they’ll get the best mac support ever. If you’re too cheap and don’t want to support your local mac store, then, unless you don’t value your own time as well, pay attention to the low-cost service provider on the phone that you probably paid less than $100 for.

The days of generosity are over and reserved for the rich. If you’d like to change corporate behavior, Good Luck! Recognize that capitalism, and the low prices you enjoy, is a double-edged sword, and fairness does not have any role. The only thing that matters in this growing global capitalistic economy is YOUR VALUE. If you don’t have any, then get in a queue and wait for the scraps to fall on your plate. Even the US judicial system is geared for the wealthy. If you don’t know that, then you haven’t been involved in any litigation.

What is probably going to happen is that a separate fairly high-margin market will develop to support the few disgruntled, xenophobic people in the US that don’t want to business with a multi-national company. Hey, maybe racism/ethnocentrism does pay! :-)

BTW, Apple, like Dell, will lose slightly in the SHORT run, NOT the long run. In the long run, people will get used to it and the whining will become a whimper. I don’t think I’ll see Dell’s stock tanking anytime soon. Do yourself a favor and focus less on how the tech support is being given to you and more on the solution to your actual problem.

Posted by Xavier Malisse on February 27, 2006 at 6:56 PM (CST)

38

n.pandit: “speaking mostly to the most stupid customers”

There are absolutely NO customers that are stupid. Only ignorant egocentric people would make such a claim. Customers are an opportunity. Yeah, I know ... what do you care since you hardly get paid anything and you’re probably not on commission.

But this attitude only makes you a loser, since you do not know the first thing about customer relationships. Even if you’re not selling anything, if you’re intelligent, you will learn by observing/listening to other people (even if they’re obnoxious); you can always formulate your own thoughts and observe yourself. Anyway, this is what differentiates a moronic call center person with a degree and an entrepreneur. No intelligence/social skills means you better limit yourself to jobs where other people tell you what to do.

India can learn a lesson or two from America with regards to customer relationship management. It’s a big reason why consumerism is so prevalent here: good customer service (there are notable exceptions in the low-cost arena). Corporations take it for granted and are trying to find the thresholds of pain. At this point, their profits are so large, the value of consumer pain is dwarfed, so even mediocre tech support from degree-holding, socially-inept tech support is acceptable.

The standard for all tech support is becoming third-rate. This has nothing to do with the location, the ethnicity of people or their accent. Tech support in general has degenerated simply because there is a growing lack of mutual respect between the caller and callee. I wish it could be better ... hopefully, India will train more socially intelligent tech support: less guys more women.

Posted by Xavier Malisse on February 27, 2006 at 7:36 PM (CST)

39

The single most important refutation to Jeremy’s article was already stated by “LukeA” about two pages back.  The best call centers in India are transparent.  You can gripe about Dell hiring Indian call centers that are obviously Indian, but no one here really knows who they’re talking to when they call tech support.  Just because “Debbie” says she’s from Michigan, uit doesn’t mean she actually is.  Quality call centers do everything they can to effectively service the customers calling them.  If that requires Indian call center employees to mimic an American accent, they’ll do it—if the pay is right.  The best paying call center jobs in India still prefer their employees to anglicize their names when they answer the phone, and by and large many employees don’t mind because they are well compensated for their trouble.  Apparently, many employees base their mannerisms and accents off of American sitcom characters.  If Apple has consistently delivered a quality customer service experience to date, it is because they consciously hired competent call centers.  There is no reason to believe that Apple would fail to do this in India.

Posted by Tyler on March 5, 2006 at 11:35 PM (CST)

40

has anyone used the MS helpdesk which is located in India….

I found that, on the whole, it was brilliant…the people spoke clearly and concisely (though with an accent) and i could understand everything they said.

In addition they were always polite and knowledgeable about the problems…

Also their ‘live’ online support was extremely good too….

everything i wouldn’t expect of MS!

but obviously the kudos of working for a company such as MS, plus the fact that the pay is higher must be attracting a higher quality of applicant to work there.

Lets just hope that Apple pays the rates to get that same quality of service…

(especially, as in my opinion the Apple Tech Support / Aftercare has been terrible - i remember ringing about my gen1 ipod complaining about the gap between tracks - utterly confusing the fella in belfast on the line, he had no idea what to say / what to do etc…but, to his credit, was very friendly!)

Posted by G on March 21, 2006 at 10:01 AM (CST)

41

Jeremy, your post was excellent…I agree with it word for word! Let’s hope Apple reads it, and takes heed.

Posted by Andipod on March 25, 2006 at 8:18 PM (CST)

42

ok i have a comment. i am Indian and i realize that it is hard for americans to understand Indians sometiems, but also realize that most of the soliotor calls you get are from India. they may say their name is (Jeffery) but it’s probly Jayant. and if you can understand them perfectly, then what’s the problem with understanding other people. i have gotten great help from people in India when it comes to computers.
(don’t mind my lack of punctuation, i’m 14)

Posted by Akshay on April 10, 2006 at 11:43 PM (CDT)

43

See the following article—it seems the plan is to continue to use third party service providers.


http://www.itwire.com.au/content/view/4515/945/

Posted by macmom on June 5, 2006 at 4:33 AM (CDT)

44

Oh, and English-speaking Sam, that’s ad hominem, not ad hominum or birdy num-num, although you might argue that Latin is not English,and therefore you have no need to get it right.

You said:

“Again, those who are native to India, don’t take this personally, and try to refrain from ad hominum replies that ask for our fluency in other languages.”

Posted by macmom on June 5, 2006 at 4:44 AM (CDT)

45

Amazed at the level of participation everytime the discussion of outsourcing comes up.

But I guess,at the crux of the matter, is the fundamental assumption that call center workers in the United States are somehow “better” than those in India - or other foreign countries.

Better could be quantified in 2 ways:

1. Easier to understand for an American audience ( I agree)

2. Are somehow more equipped with abilities to ratiocinate than their foreign counterparts (Sorry, nothing could be far from the truth).

Since there isnt any empirical data available, let this be based on a couple of things:

1. Call Center Workers in the US arent normally folks with college degrees. Even for a tech. company like Apple, they would be folks who either have a high school diploma or community college diplomas.

2. Call Center workers (atleast in India are ALL college educated). Big players like Wipro Spectramind - recruit from engineering schools - so a fair proportion of them are engineers and such.

So to suggest that tech service in America is somehow “better” is baloney. Self serving baloney. Ask GE. Or IBM. Or a vast majority of the Fortune 500 who are significantly on-ramping their support operations in India - it is slated to grow 65% this year in India.

Posted by neurojava on June 17, 2006 at 7:20 PM (CDT)

46

I have used Applecare support from an Indian call centre a few times and they do try hard to help in most cases, it depends on the person who is on the other end, as it would regardless of the location. They speak good English, but as with any language which is not your mother-tongue, it is hard to decifer some of the detail in what the customer is saying, and vice versa. Some of the operators have obviously never used an Apple machine, the first one asked me to use the start menu, and go into control panel! Another insisted a the PPC G4 was an Intel processor, and that OSX only runs on processors made by Intel. This is down purely to training, which both Apple and its cheap call center outsourcing company are responsible. If this is a move soley to add capacity, then I don’t totally disagree, however, if it will mean job losses in Europe then I do totally disagree with the decision.
I remember a document in 2002 which pointed to the future of the UK economy being Call centre based jobs…. and they are currently falling like flies in this country. Soon the only thing left here will be retail…. and they will outsource that if they find a way (in addition to online shopping)

Posted by Reuben on December 26, 2007 at 7:31 PM (CST)

47

who says shifting call centers would affect apple and simply if they pick the right ppl and teach them the right language i feel it will be ok for them to shift to india and any ways thes macs will get cheaper finally

Posted by annom on March 1, 2008 at 3:08 PM (CST)

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