Pet Peeves

"Calcutta, We Have Another Problem!"

In an earlier entry, “Calcutta, We Have a Problem,” I wrote about a published report on the outsourcing of American jobs overseas. The piece has been featured this week on AOL’s Personal Finance main page.

In that essay, I expressed little to no sympathy about American companies who are having trouble keeping reliable workers in India, because the job market there is so hot, no one wants to stay in the same job for more than about six months. “You get what you pay for,” was my reply to the whining businesses.

As of this writing, 68% of those responding to a poll say that American companies who cut American jobs in favor of cheaper overseas labor should be penalized for doing so.

In addition to the problems of finding workers who are willing to stay put, American companies are also logging complaints from frustrated customers who claim that the cheaper workers are not sufficiently trained in English or customer service, that they cannot be understood, and that they are slow to solve problems.

These complaints prompted one major airline to survey its frequent fliers about the value of speaking to American operators. According to an article published in the St. Petersburg Times, Delta Airlines recently asked its customers in an online survey whether they would be willing to pay an additional fee to speak with an American operator located within this country instead of a lower-paid, less-experienced Indian worker stationed in India.

It is important to note that at this point, the airline is not seriously considering implementation of the policy. According to their spokesperson, they haven’t even tabulated the results, yet.

It is quite interesting, however, that anyone would even consider asking the question to begin with.

In the old days — which weren’t that long ago — quality customer service was free. It wasn’t unusual, it was the norm. It wasn’t asked for, it was expected. It wasn’t optional, it was required.

Now, it seems, those days are long gone.

Would I pay money to speak to an American operator? No. In fact, any business that required me to pay more money to speak to someone who was capable of actually answering a question, solving a problem, or processing an order would likely lose my business completely.

Should I have to expect to pay more money for the level of customer service company executives would expect to receive themselves? Certainly not. I should be treated as well as the president of the company. As one of his customers, I’m helping keep him in his corner office.

Should I feel sorry for a business that is forced to consider such a possibility? In Delta’s case, the article indicates that they are saving somewhere in the neighborhood of $25 million per year — that’s $25,000,000 — by outsourcing the calls to about 1,000 Indian workers. It’s quite likely that I’ll never earn $25 million in my life time, much less in a single year. As I said in the earlier essay, “cry me a river.”

On Wednesday, Delta announced that it was “shuttering” one of its three call centers in India. Officials refused to discuss whether the move was related in any way to the results of the survey.

Delta still maintains that the idea was simply their way of exploring possibilities, and that there is no plan in place to implement such a change. They’re my preferred airline in the very rare instances I fly anywhere, so I hope it stays that way.

How about you? Would you pay more money to be able to reach an American operator? Would you do business with a company that required such a fee?

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Patrick is a Christian with more than 28 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.