I’ve never been a fan of outsourcing.
Let me clarify: I’ve never been a fan of outsourcing anything that comes in direct (or at least very close) contact with the client. It seems you want the people closest to your customers to have a vested interest in the overall well-being of the organization.
I’m on this rant because I am having a problem with my Palm Tungsten E. One of the buttons stopped working, and I figured I would follow the rules and go about getting it fixed under the 90-day warranty.
(I should add here that, if I were lighter in the “integrity” category, I could deal with this problem by going to the store, buying a new one, then returning the old one on the new receipt, saying it was defective. Not that I know anyone would have actually tried to pull that off… Besides, I have a concern about what my karma account looks like. :-)
When I first ran into this problem, I emailed Palm Tech Support with my problem and I heard back a few days later with instructions to completely reset the unit (backing everything up first, of course) and see if that solved the problem. It didn’t.
So, the other day I called Palm Support. Three voice-mail-Hell menus later, I was connected with “David” who has a pronounced middle-eastern accent and we are talking on a line with a lot of noise on it. Welcome to India.
“David” proceeded to walk me through his script, making sure that the unit is turned on, etc. Through this entire process, he grew increasingly impatient because he couldn’t understand me, and the answers I gave him don’t match what’s written in his script. He asked me four or five times when I bought the unit, and that he was going to need a credit card to charge me for the call. I explained that I bought the unit in the beginning of March, and he said he has to charge because we’re more than 90 days out. I explained that 90 days out would be the beginning of June. He conceded that he didn’t need my Visa number.
In order to make things go a little smoother, I offered the trouble ticket number I received from email support. He explained that phone support doesn’t have access to email support’s records. High-tech– way to go, Palm! Rather than making things better, now “David” is even more cheesed off.
We got to the point where his script says for me to back everything up and do a hard reset. Now we’re getting somewhere. He’s trying to rush me off the phone, telling me to call back after I’ve completed the task. When I explained that I already did that, and it didn’t solve the problem, “David” hit yet another new level of frustration. “Hold on, please.” *click* I still heard the line noise, so I knew my call was still connected to something overseas.
He came back and read from his script that Palm is happytoreplaceyourdefectiveunitandpleaselistencarefullytothenumberIamabout-
togiveyoubecausethisisyourRMAanditneedstobeclearlywrittenontheboxThe-
numberisS1dash77723876andwewillsendanemailconfirmationtoyouatyour-
emailaddressisthereanythingelseIcanhelpyouwithtoday?
“Yeah, there is. Can you read me the RMA number again? And can you verify the email address you have for me?”
Silence.
“Hello?”
Big Sigh on the other end. “Yes, Mr. Lynn, your confirmation number is…” and he slowly reads the number and my e-mail address. The e-mail address is, of course, wrong. I corrected it for him. Twice.
My confidence level of this actually being fixed is lower than ever, but I figured I’d be a sport.
Four days later, no e-mail confirmation.
I called Palm Support this morning. Three voice-mail-Hell menus later, I am connected with “John” who has a pronounced middle-eastern accent and we are talking on a line with a lot of noise on it. Welcome to India.
To his credit, “John” has a much better attitude. I gave him the number “David” gave me, and I am told that that service order number was cancelled. [Insert interrobang here.]
I guess “David” got the last laugh on me.
“John’s” guess is that they had the wrong email address for me, and since the email bounced, they cancelled the order. Big surprise there. We walked through the whole thing again, and I was assured that this would be addressed appropriately.
Now, back to what I was trying to get at in the beginning:
I am certain that some goofball exec at Palm is driving a nice car because he came up with the idea of outsourcing Technical Support to some company (or a Palm division) in India. “Think of all the money we can save by contracting with another company to do this for us!” “Good work, Phil– here’s that bonus and 10,000 shares of 3Com stock (oops)!”
Yeah, at what price? If your Customer Service people upset your clients and your clients go away, is that a good thing? If your Customer Service people treat your customers badly, wouldn’t you rather try and build the CSR’s allegiance to your company so they feel a part of the organization rather than just another body working for a mercenary?
I worked at a place where they outsourced everyone in IT to another company. And what we in IT expected to happen happened: people who were very good at their jobs were suddenly told to stick to the letter of the contract and not go the extra mile anymore, at least not without charging for it. A lot of people got frustrated and left, and they were replaced with people who may have been technically sharp but knew nothing about the business, and went no further than what their job descriptions said. All that did was frustrate the business users, because they were used to people who understood the business and were willing to slip in an extra hour or two to get the job done right. I don’t believe for a moment that you can instill that mindset in contractors.
That company ended its outsourcing agreement a few years into the contract, declaring it mostly a failure. But it hasn’t stopped other companies from doing it.
I’m interested to see where all this will be five years from now.

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