Offshoring Support

by Bob Seidel

I don't know about you, but I am getting pretty disgusted with offshore customer or technical support. It's just not working, and getting consumers pretty upset - including me!

For those not familiar with the term, "offshoring" refers to the practice of using overseas call centers to handle customer support, technical support, or other phone calls that you would make to a vendor. You call what you think is a native US company, only to get someone with a terrible accent and with little cultural understanding of your problem. Now, before we go any further, I want to put in a disclaimer: I am trying not to be too nationalistic here, but this is a problem that needs to be discussed.

In the course of my business, I have many dealing with offshore call centers. The people staffing these centers are usually bright and hard working. The good news is that now you get your phone call answered fairly quickly - the long waits of the past seem to have been resolved. This is really a good thing, if you can then get the answers or results that you need.

But negative issues abound. Most of these people do not speak colloquial English very well. It is difficult to understand their accents, and they certainly have difficulty understanding us. But the primary problem is that they are given very little latitude in the responses they can give you - they work to pre-programmed scripts, and you can in some cases hear them reading the script word-for-word. If you can ask the question and get the answer you need, that is great - but often you can't. If your problem exceeds their predefined scripts, there is little to no personal initiative to solve problems beyond what the script tells them.

A prominent PC manufacturer recently began using offshore call centers for technical support., but eventually returned support for business clients to the States. But the company has now started using offshore call centers for sales. I think this is to their determent, as a good salesperson is an asset and can bring in a lot of carry-along business - after all, that is really their job - to sell you more or better than you wanted when you started. I had a client recently who was almost in tears because she could not get a simple PC order through due to the language barrier.

I am writing this column because I just came off a really bad incident with the vendor that I buy most of my parts and supplies from. An order went astray, and I had almost no support from them, either by email or phone. I was unable to determine the status of the order, or to cancel it. I had excellent dealings with that company in the past, but it has turned horribly bad. To make matters worse, I was unable to reach anyone in authority to lodge my complaint. I intend to keep trying until I do, and have now switched to another vendor.

If you are not getting the proper level of support, complain loudly. If there is a language barrier, politely ask to speak to someone else. If this doesn't work, attempt to have your call directed back to the States. If all else fails, and this is new or recurring business, take your business elsewhere and let them know why.

If we don't speak up, the situation will only worsen.

(Bob Seidel is a local computer consultant in the Southport / Oak Island area. You can visit his website at or e-mail him at