It seems to be the trend these days to move your technical support call centre from the US or Europe to India.Â While the staff are no doubt cheaper there can be problems, as Dell found out and I personally experienced when they shifted their previously award-winning centre from Ireland to India.Â While hardly a scientific analysis, let me offer you the following real-life example of how such a move can go wrong.Â I would like to preface this by saying that I love India and go there most years on my holiday.Â Let meÂ now beginÂ the saga.Â
Last Thursday my BT broadband internet access stopped working.Â I called the technical support number and was put through to a call centre in Mumbai. I explained what I thought might be the problem but the support engineer insisted this was irrelevant and that I work though the scripted set of things in front of him.Â This included deleting a surprising number of files (some utterly unrelated to BT broadband) and existing connections.Â When I asked whether it would not be wise to take a backup of these first the engineer said “no, no, we’ll restore them from the original CD later.Â You do have that – right?”.Â Well, squirrel that I am, I did indeed have the original CD from four years ago, but maybe checking before instructing the customer to go on a delete spree would have been prudent?Â Anyway, we get to the stage of reloading drivers from the BT CD, and guess what – the necessaryÂ drivers seem not to be there.Â “Oh” he said.Â Oh indeed.Â “I will despatch a CD to you – it will take up to 5 days”.Â 5 days.Â Have BT discoveredÂ the UK postal service yet?Â Apparently not.
“But surely it may be a line fault?” I protested.Â “After all the status icon of the broadband software showed the drivers were all clear until you insisted that I deleted them?”.Â
“I cannot test for a line fault until I eliminate all other possibilities”.
“Well, the last four times that the broadband stopped working it turned out to be a line fault; does that not indicate it might be worth at least a look?”.
“No.Â We have to follow the procedure.”
After going round in circles for someÂ time I gave up and decided to call backÂ and maybe get someone more useful.Â I was awayÂ until Sunday (no CD yet) and so the next conversation began.Â After going through much the same process this engineer was at least able to find some drivers on the original CD that I had (in an entirely different directory to the one the previous guy had told me to look for).Â Any temporary illusions of hope were shattered when, after nearly an hour of software configuration, unplugging cables, trying alternative filters etc, he said “Well, everything is correctly installed now”.Â
“Er, but the status indicator says “modem not responding”.Â
“Nonetheless, it is fine.Â It must be a line problem.Â I will now authorise a line test; someone will call you back within 5 days”.Â After a long debate he promised to “escalate” this andÂ would call back shortly.Â A couple of hours later he did and said “Ah – it is indeed a line problem; someone from another team will call you tomorrow”.
So Monday, comes and no call from BT.Â I do get a peculiar message while I popped out for a sandwich saying “we noticed that you have no BT email account with us; we recommend that you set one up.Â To do so call…..”
I thought this was a bit cheeky, to put it mildly, but decided to ignore the provocation.Â Finally I called back and gave the problem number.Â
“Ah, the case has been closed”.
“The notes show that someone spoke to you, asked you to set up a BT email account and closed down theÂ problem as fixed”.
I will skip the precise words I used at this point but suffice itÂ to say that the engineer did acknowledge that it was perhaps a tad premature for theÂ problem to be closed by his colleague.Â “indeed, we have a zero tolerance policy of bad customer behaviour”.Â Uh huh.Â So, what was the result of the line test?
“Well, we haven’t run one.”Â Where was the CD with the drives supposedly originally requested on Thursday?Â
“We have no such request”.Â
A lengthy conversation ensued.Â The engineer actually said “You are very calm.Â If I was you I would be screaming at me by now”.Â I guess this was a compliment, at least; no internet access, but at least I had avoided an insane rant.Â So, we did the usual dance: deleted some more files, reinstalled some files, unplugged some cables, plugged them back in again etc.Â Â At the end of it the status light wasÂ still showing no connection to the modem.Â “That must be the problem; it must be the drivers”.
“But your colleagueÂ reckoned the drivers were fine”.Â Â
“He was wrong.Â It might be the line, but I can’t run a line test until we have tried some more things.”Â
Autumn turned to winter and finally we reached the stage where the advice was “I need you to find where the BT main line enters your house, take a screwdriver, remove the face plate and see what the wiring looks like”.Â I suggested that this seemed a pointless and generally bad idea, as well as possibly unsafe.
“There aren’t that many volts running through it – you’ll be fine”Â was the priceless response, but by now my faith in the technical savvy of the Mumbai BT helpdesk was a tad lower than at the beginning, so I declined to start poking around with a screwdriver into some wiring somewhere in the dark outside the house, however few volts were running through it.
“Ah, then I cannot escalate the problem.”
“I just want you to send someone round andÂ fix this”.
“We cannot do that.Â You are not prepared to check the wiring so I cannot do anything more; I can pass a message on, but they won’t look at it.”Â
At this point I decided to give up and drink a lot of alcohol.Â By Tuesday it had been six days with no internet access and I decided on a fresh approach.Â I called BT sales and asked if I could buy broadband.Â “Certainly – what is your phone number?” which was followed by “Oh, but you already haveÂ broadband”.Â I explained that I may well be paying for broadband, but certainly did not actually have use of it, nor was I ever likely to in the future at this rate. Â At this point the salesÂ girl took pity andÂ passed me on to a UK technical guy.Â A very nice man from Newcastle called Jaz talked me through the situation, got me to reconfigure some files and in 15 minutesÂ I had broadband up and running again.
So, Newcastle helpdesk 15 minutes; sorted (mostly fixing the problems caused by the previous “support”).Â Mumbai helpdesk over 3 hours on the phone, five days elapsed and something close to a nervous breakdown for theÂ caller.Â It was so comforting when I switched on the news and saw that BT’s profits were up and were “investing in 6,000 new jobs in India”.Â At the productivity rate of 12:1 that I had found that would be equivalent to 500 people in Newcastle.Â I hope they are really, really cheap in that Mumbai call centre, Mr Verwaayen.Â I do know a man called Jaz who could perhaps usefully do some training over there….