Re: A data point on offshoring

Subject: Re: A data point on offshoring
From: "Chuck Martin" <cm -at- writeforyou -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Mon, 24 Nov 2003 11:31:18 -0800

"Mike O." <obie1121 -at- yahoo -dot- com> wrote in message news:220883 -at- techwr-l -dot- -dot- -dot-
> Rick Bishop wrote:
> > No doubt there are many such. I just bought a $3k Dell
> > and the monitor appeared to be DOA. 1st call was to
> > helpdesk with strange accent.
> This is nothing new, and has nothing to do with offshoring, accents, or
> nationalities. I've had the same experience with US-based help desks.
> Customer service for all consumer products has been engaged in a a race to
> the bottom for years, and I think they are finally nearing the finish
> Even in person, it's equally useless. Ever try to get customer service at
> superstore? The best defense is to adapt. Accept the fact that customer
> service has essentially disappeared, and learn to shop wisely and fix
> yourself when it breaks.
This may stray a bit, strictly, from the topic, but I wated to offer a bit
of my experience from the other end. I snagged a job the summer of 1990 at a
Really Big software company outside a major Pacific Northwest city. They
were hiring technical support people left and right because they had just
release a major new piece of operating system software that was both heavily
marketed and selling like gangbusters.

I was in an off-campus office, apparently a main local tech support site. We
got 2 1/2 weeks of training crammed into one week, and then converted a
conference room into rows of carrels big enough for a computer, a [hone, and
a few books and papers.

It was a crazy, heady time, with no downtime. Before this software was
released, most tech support representatives usually had an hour ro two
during their shift with no calls in queue, where they could learn new things
and research unresolved issues. We had a system where if we couldn't
diagnose a problem, we had a group of internal experts who we could contact
and try and get a resolution, and if that didn't work, we would take the
customer's contact information for a callback, do research offline, and get
back to the customer within a day.

One of my own goals was to minimize those callbacks. Even early in my
computer career (I had purchased my first computer just months before this
gig began), I knew the frustrations of being a user. Whenever anyone called
with a problem, my overriding goal was to get the problem solved.

But like I said, those turned into heady days. Gone were the chunks of
no-call time. It was common for callers to have to wait, 5, 10, 15 minutes
or more, and tech support people were being hired by the barrel.

Late in the summer, in a meeting with our manager, our group was told by the
manager that the company goal was to get tech suppport to do X number of
calls per hour and to not go over Y minutes per call. That would mean a lot
more customers would be faced with callbacks, as some callers had complex
problems, and many more were not computer savvy, so it took time to walk
them through step-by-step the solution. (I was also averse to the
all-too-common "reinstall" as a "solution."

I balked, but not publicly. I stuck to my guns, believing that customer
satisfaction was a Number One goal. I knew that unhappy customers squawk a
lot louder than happy ones. I'm pretty sure I didn't turn in the most
efficient numbers, but neither was I at the bottom. I knew what I was doing
and talking about, so I was able to get to the root of a lot of problems
reasonably quickly. I wanted every person I talked to to be back to work (or
play) when they hung up after talking with me.

I guess that's one reason why I'm so passsionate about usability issues. I
want users of the product of wherever I'm working to be happy about easily
reaching their goals when using the product, not frustrated, as so many
users typically are. I don't believe that stellar documentation is a
"solution" for bad design.

Chuck Martin

P.S. A few weeks before I went back to school, I got a call from a gentleman
who had some wort of problem, not a terribly easy one, as I recall, and I
made sure he was up and running before I ended the call. In the small talk
as we were getting his problem fixed, we exchanged names, and it tured out
his name was the same as the city's largest commercial real estate
developer, who had built, among other things, the tallest building in the
city. If it *was* that person, then making him wait for a solution may have
had much larger averse consequences.



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