In her 23may07 column, Outsourcing Outrage, Kathleen Parker explains why it’s OK for Americans to be rude to people who work for outsourced call-centers:
Don’t get me wrong. I love all peoples great and small, but I do not want to talk about my bad Internet connection with someone in Bombay named Kapil pretending to be Karen.
Well how devious of that person to land a coveted job with a call center, listening to you in the middle of her night, complaining about the awful fact that she wasn’t lucky enough to be born American.
Anglicizing names is one of the tricks of the trade these days as more and more customer services are outsourced to other countries where call-center operators are grateful for $200 a month and an air-conditioned workspace. Invariably polite, and no doubt qualified, they are, nonetheless, not here.
Well that’s the whole point of a telephone; it lets you talk to people who are somewhere else. And You know why they bring in voice trainers and anglicize their employee’s names, Kathleen? Because Americans like you freak out if their tech-support dollar provides five jobs in India instead of one job in America.
But if you pay five times as much for tech support, you’ll freak out even more. You can’t have it both ways.
Most people probably assume they’re talking to a recent immigrant, only to realize that the person telling them that their charging privileges have been suspended is in Manila. Once this realization sets in, apparently, Americans can become unpleasant.
That is putting it mildly.
In India, a television sitcom—“The Call Center’’—was created around calling centers and their rude Western customers. Note to world: We weren’t always so rude. We weren’t always on the verge. Corporate America has made us this way.
That human being on the other end of the line did not create your situation, Kathleen. If you are rude to a pleasant, qualified person who is just trying to make a living, you’re being a jerk. It’s no use blaming “corporate America” for your bad manners.
Deep in our star-spangled hearts, we know that Arjun—good fellow though he may be—doesn’t really care about us. It’s a safe bet he may not even like us.
Thus, the corporate insult of hiring foreigners is compounded by the pandering of passive-aggressive non-Americans. Between robots and foreign operators—and the powerlessness most consumers feel—American business has robbed its citizen-customers of their dignity.
If an unsatisfactory conversation with a polite, qualified person is all it takes for you to act without dignity, you didn’t have any to rob. Maybe Arjun doesn’t like you or really care about you as a person, but it has obviously been too long since you worked in the service industry. If you ever did.
…[My tipping point] came a few days ago while in the North Carolina mountains trying to get Internet service. After two days on the phone with Charter Communications operators in three countries (U.S., Canada and the Philippines), trying to solve a local Internet-access problem, I wondered why homicide rates aren’t higher.
Finally, the “customer service’’ operator who said she was in the Philippines determined that I needed an on-site technician—what a concept!—but I’d have to wait 36 hours. I noted humorously (I thought) that a Charter tech was probably within a few miles of me, yet someone in the Philippines is saying he can’t get to me for a day and a half.
Yeah, I bet that was real funny.
At that precise moment, no kidding, a burly mountain man rapped at the door: “Are you Ms. Parker? I’m from Charter Communications and I’m here to fix your modem.’’ Well, hallelujah and hit delete. I wanted to hug the guy. Love the accent. Love the all-American, gung-ho, can-do attitude.
“Philippines, we’re done.’’ I said to the nice lady on the other end.
You’re a constant flag-waver, Kathleen Parker, so you wanna do something good for your country? Treat people in other countries like human beings. Yes, you know you’re talking to someone in Manilla, but don’t forget they know they’re talking to someone in America.