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Friday, April 14

How may I help you?

When you have to speak to a customer service person on the phone, do you ask them where they are?

I have always done that... mostly because I am kind of chatty and I ask about the weather or something. Nowadays, I mostly speak to people in India. They are very polite people and they love to tell me about life in India, but usually they don't have a clue what I am talking about if it pertains to something in this country and I can also hear them paging through their manuals looking for answers. Sometimes, I think they should just put the damn manual on line.

Gee, I never get to the point, do I?

From USA Today Blog:

Full disclosure? Airlines may have to fess up on overseas call centers

The Senate Commerce Committee is now considering a bill that would require call-center employees to disclose their location when they talk to customers, Travel Weekly (free registration) reports. The bill, S.2553, would make it mandatory for workers who either initiate or receive telephone calls at overseas centers to tell customers where they are located.


I've read around the internets that the bill seems mean spirited. It is proposed by Senators Kerry and Kennedy I believe. Maybe their point is to point out to the American people that their potential jobs are being sent overseas? I don't know. But the politically correct right wing doesn't think that disclosure is a good idea.

That’s become an increasingly hot topic in the airline industry as several U.S. carriers have outsourced reservations agents to overseas locations. That’s angered many travelers who say the foreign-based agents often struggle with English and can have a limited knowledge of U.S. geography –- a key concern when making travel plans for flights within the USA. Even without the bill, however, some airlines and travel companies are already reconsidering international outsourcing as customer discontent grows on outsourcing. US Airways, for example, followed its merger with America West by halting its program that sent call center duties to locations in Mexico, Central America and the Philippines. Travel site Expedia has also decided to bring some of its call center functions back to the USA from the Philippines.

Yes it is a huge problem when you are speaking to someone about flight plans and they don't know their US geography. It's bad enough that most Americans don't know geography. It's the blind leading the blind. Literally.

This is a good time to rant. The other day I took my son to American Airlines at JFK for his flight to Dallas and then to Arizona. It was the MOST exasperating experience. I won't get into all of it.. but this irked me-- none of the employees in the building had a full grasp of the English language-- the AA employees and the TSA alike. What little English they did utter was almost unintelligible except for when they were barking orders. It is interesting that the TSA employees who are federal employees acted and sounded like they just arrived in America that very day. (Don't get me wrong. I love foreigners (literally), but don't put me in touch with newbies when time is of the essence).

We entered the building from a sort of side entrance and we got stuck on a long line and could have missed the plane. I walked over to a woman wearing an AA uniform to ask where the self service check in machines were (as my family always travels with carry on bags only). She told me to write to AA to complain about the lack of check-in clerks at the counter causing hundreds of people on line to panic as they missed their planes. Where the hell were those little machines where you swipe your credit card? She didn't know.

Well the husband finally parked his car and took the shuttle back to the terminal in time to run around for us and find the self check in while I waited with my son who was on the verge of losing his cool. We then scooted the 200 yards or so around the bend to find them. It was completely empty there. EMPTY I tell you. I guess no one knew where they were. They worked amazingly well. Much better than people.

The search and seizure line was long too. The first class line was empty. I asked the TSA clerk at the first class line if my son could scoot through there cause his plane was leaving in 10 minutes and the gate was a half mile away. The only words she knew in English were: "This line is for First Class only. Show me your ticket." She pointed to the entry point of the common people's line which was a quarter mile away. Fortunately my boy is 20 and energetic. I saw older people having heart attacks and strokes.

I don't know how I go off on these tangents...

Anyway... what do you think about the bill that would require telephone support people to divulge where they are?

Maybe it's a good thing (even though it's a waste that our senate is wasting time on this stuff when the country is going straight to hell) because you can then tailor your questions accordingly knowing full well that the person on the other end has no clue about American idioms, slang, pop trivia, what the company's commercials say, etc ... and be further pissed enough to write to your congress critters about jobs being sent overseas which Americans would gladly take even at minimum wage.

PS: While Southwest Airlines has the squishiest, most uncomfortable planes with no leg room whatsoever, the terminal they use is in British Airways at JFK. The service there is impeccable. Self service machines abound in well marked areas and are overseen by polite employees who want to help. The parking is right outside the door. If you're running late, they whisk you through the First Class search and siezure line with a smile. feh.

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