With Outsourcing, Squeaky Wheels Get No Grease

Ann All

I long ago figured out a way to abruptly end many heated political discussions. Before the person on the other end of the conversation escalates his criticism of a public official into full-on offensiveness, I ask him if he cast a vote in the election that resulted in this official getting into office. It's amazing how many times the answer is "no."


"Then I'm afraid I'm not interested in your opinion. You haven't earned the right to complain," I explain as nicely as I can.


Consumers earn the right to complain -- and more importantly, the chance that a problem will be rectified -- when they purchase something.


Yet the increasingly common practice of outsourcing takes those rights away from consumers, contends New Zealand Herald columnist Deborah Hill Cone. She uses her own experience of a move riddled with screw-ups from a broadband provider, an appliance store and a moving firm -- several of whom attempted to foist the blame onto contractors.


There is "little point" in complaining, she writes, "because most likely I am not talking to an employee of the company anyway and the service I am complaining about is not provided by the company either."


I had a similar experience recently when canceling a credit card I've had for more than a decade. The card issuer, a bank, outsourced its card operations to a large corporation in 1998. That corporation in turn sold out to a big bank in 2005. I assume it took this big bank a while to move the original system to its platform, because it's only been in the last six months or so that I've experienced service blips with the card.


Despite my best efforts, I was unable to get electronic statements. While I am not the most tech-savvy person around, I've been able to successfully do this for other accounts. The paper statements kept arriving and often ended up getting misplaced. After paying several late fees, I decided to simply cancel the card.


When I called the customer service line, there was no option for a human being. After several minutes -- and finally just defying the automated voice system by hitting "0" -- I got a human being. That agent forwarded me to two other people. When asked why I wanted to cancel the card, I explained my problems with customer service -- up to and including our very discussion. The agent didn't try to keep my business. Her reply was so scripted, it set my teeth on edge.


It feels very similar to Cone's experience. I know it makes good financial sense to outsource non-core aspects of a business. But I would like to think that companies doing so invest enough pride in their brand that they care about the quality of the services offered by outside parties in their name. Too often, that just doesn't seem to be the case.


As Cone writes:

... There is no point wasting time talking to people who don't have the responsibility to close the deal. That's the beauty of this outsourcing malarkey - no one is responsible.

Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
Oct 17, 2007 9:23 AM OffshoreIndiaNews OffshoreIndiaNews  says:
Ann Interesting reading. I am specially intrigued by the last statement. It got me really thinking. I am going to get this link on my blog." There is no point wasting time talking to people who dont have the responsibility to close the deal. Thats the beauty of this outsourcing malarkey - no one is responsible "Is is really true that when outsourcing a process/role companies are outsourcing responsibility too and vendors are not taking on the responsibility so it becomes no one's problem. If that is how a company is using outsourcing I believe there is a bigger issue with the company then just outsourcing their responsibility. Has customer care really become a non-core function for companies ? It reminds me of the airline mileage clubs - every year the bar gets raised on entry and if you are a 'preferred platinum status' I get to skip the line and if I am an occasional flier - well good luck and 'please hold for the next available agent to answer your call in 20 minutes' Why are companies outsourcing and offshoring their customer service both domestically and international if customer satisfaction is an issue ? I don't believe it is outsourcing which is adding to the problem but how organizations view what is customer satisfaction and how consumers view is changing what takes to get us satisfied. In the Internet, broadband, fast moving , globally connected world - a wait for 10 seconds to load a website makes it 'too slow' . Do we as 'customers' have unrealistic expectations on what is 'good customer service ?' Reply
Oct 22, 2007 11:54 AM Clark Newton Clark Newton  says:
I think the obvious point is that outsourcing and automated systems have given companies a way to control costs at the expense of customer service. Many of us have a very good memory of feeling like a valued customer; and if a person can't see the difference-- I can't explain it to them. Reply
Oct 22, 2007 12:04 PM Ted Baar Ted Baar  says:
"unrealistic expectations" says the boyo from OffShoreIndiaNews. So we've heard from the dead top down imperials.Let me explain what is meant. As a customer I, That's I, define expectations. I define them by handing up and never buying again from the hacks who outsource their support to someone who says their name is Britney Spears in a think accent and tells me where I'm in error.Should you think this attitude on my part doesn't work; I saw and ad from Dell 10 minutes before I saw this letter. The big competitive edge for this particular laptop was "North American Support". Gee, what a novel idea. Let me give India a hint. Learn to speak English without an accent. As an American who speaks French such that Europeans know exactly where I come from (Canton Vaud) I don't have to listen to any "your a racist" or "Americans can't speak foreign languages" claptrap.Moving on, having dispensed with the reverse jingoism I will give everyone a clue for free: "The Customer is Always Right".To be perfectly nasty; if dell can figure this out, anyone can. Reply
Oct 22, 2007 12:23 PM Chris Ree Chris Ree  says:
Good article. Good comments. Reply

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