Two warning signs in the same week. TCS lost a significant contract from
Indiana, due to US job loss concerns. And Dell pulled back tech support for
business buyers (85% of its sales), after complaints of "thick Indian
accents and scripted responses". Their calls would now be answered back
home, in the US Midwest.
Though this would "not impact jobs in India", it’s got everyone
worked up. With good reason. People in both countries see it as a sign of things
to come, with possible impact far more than that of a lost government contract.
And Dell was an early outsourcing believer.
I was amazed at the extent of feeling vented out in US online forums:
"It’s about friggin’ time… hope they all switch back… [the Indians
take] ten times longer to resolve a problem… I have never had a good
experience calling India for support. They are always courteous and
professional, but they can never solve the problem…" And from a Dell
field engineer: "There is a god. I’m soooo glad, as I have to deal with
the communication problems on a daily basis."
Maybe it’s a passing wave. But not the real problems, like the customer who
got billed for an extra computer, and four months down still faces late charges
and "sponge listening" from Dell CSRs: "They just soak it in and
say politely ‘I can understand why you’re angry’ but nothing
happens." Sound familiar? I’ve faced it now and then on support lines
from Airtel to ICICI to others.
I doubt if the problem has to do with the Indian CSR. The head of British
Rail has praised her, and our work culture. Accent is a smaller irritant if
problems get resolved quickly. If they don’t–fix the systems around the CSR.
How can Dell allow a customer problem to continue for months? Don’t they have
managers? Daily reports? Escalation? How will it help to move the problem from
India to USA?
Dell will find and fix the systemic gaps, improving service for corporate
customers. Chances are, surveys will then show that customers are five times
happier talking to Texas.
But it’s in the interest of the other Dells in India to look hard and fill
the gaps fast. As one online comment put it: "Great. Our next target should
be HP/Compaq." In today’s high-strung, job-starved global village, many
in the West will be looking for reasons to not outsource. Here’s hoping Dell
gets other MNC captives as well as BPO companies to look a lot harder at their
performance, measures, and customer satisfaction.