After recently going through an eerily similar experience as this most infuriating "customer service" experiences with Dell that I could find imaginable, I gave some deeper thought into the concept of using outsourced customer service. For those of you that do not have the time to read the above linked blog post detailing the horrible Dell experience; a quick recap is that a dead-on-arrival laptop has now cost the blog author another 7 hours of time and $35 bucks out of pocket trying to get it returned, and he still does not have a proper resolution from Dell.  ...Even worse,  Dell now considers the matter closed.

Now, I am not going to knock call centers in general. As a matter of fact, I have had some positive tech support experiences from both domestic and international based call centers, including some pretty good support from even Dell in the past. However, when you call into to "Customer Care", Dell's department for customer service, you get caught in a nightmare of individuals that can do little more than read passages from an electronic manual and recite "this is our procedure" and "we apologize that you are upset". Furthermore, I have found that you are unable to escalate an issue outside of the call center - and more importantly, there is absolutely no way to speak with an actual Dell employee, only "representatives" (i.e. a call center supervisor) who all work for the call center company. Update:  Dell reached out to me and informed me that their call center employees are in fact Dell employees, not outsourced employees.

In the case of that blog entry, the author had such a terrible experience that they are likely to stop purchasing from Dell in the future, even for the rest of their high-dollar enterprise needs. Worse yet, with Dell's exisiting outsourced structure, and the inability to report the mistake to someone other than an outsourced call center, Dell themselves may not ever even know that they have an angry customer.

So, if your company does choose to outsource its customer service; (or move its operations to a low-cost country) at a minimum do a few things:
  • Make sure you provide an easy method for your customers to report poor performance of the call center itself
  • Periodically do suprise audits (set up a situtation and see if the call center properly reports it back to you)
  • Keep one of your own managers on staff and provide a way for customers to talk to them.
  • Hop in and monitor calls that are longer than usual. For instance, if a typical call lasts 10 minutes, and you have someone that has been talking to one of your reps for 22 minutes, it is time for a supervisor to get involved.

Any other recommendations?
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William Dorn

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  1. I've heard that many good call centers have analytics software so they can monitor level of service based on daily statistics and they can do staff scheduling properly.