Archive for January, 2010

A few points on contact centres

Firstly, don’t get me started on Indian Call Centres. I find them to be less helpful than the automated voice recognition programs you encounter after being on hold for half an hour to companies which claim to hold their “customers service” as their number 1 priority. Bull-shit!

Furthermore, these are companies which, in many cases, manage telecommunications as their primary form of business – talk about the irony!

However, this post is not simply just a rant of mine.
Please, do read on.

I’m no stranger to call centres. I worked in one for about 2 and a half years. Albeit, I was involved in outbound sales (you know, those annoying calls you get at dinner time wanting you to donate to charity), but the essence of the business and it’s systems remains the same. And I’ve got to say that the big companies in Australia are getting it all wrong.

A Few Points on Contact Centres:

  • Every product or service which you plan to sell needs some sort of support. Nothing is stand-alone perfect. Therefore, you’ll need some sort of support/help/question/customer service line set up for your customers to call. 
  • There is currently a big move towards online support to save costs (for example: F.A.Q. pages). Companies are trying to save employing hundreds of customer service representatives to answer basic questions from their clueless customers. This is a big mistake. Why? The way I see it, having a personal form of contact to the business is imperative. Without a personal contact, customers feel distanced, frustrated, confused and annoyed with your business and your brand. 
  • You also need to have your customer service number easy to find! I recently had great difficulty in finding a phone number to contact Microsoft, which resulted in me being considerably frustrated before even calling with my query. 
  • Encourage your customers to call! The quicker you attend to their problem, the less complaining they’ll do and the more positively they’ll regard your brand. Hell, you might even get some free word of mouth promotion (which is what we all vie for don’t we?)! 

Why Not to Outsource?
Outsourcing is a bad idea to begin with. You may be handing over the responsibility to gain the expertise and equipment of another company, but you’re also handing over control. The is exactly what you don’t want to lose.

When it comes down to it, in the complaints game you want to be quick, efficient and productive. Make the customer happy and lock them in as a loyal buyer.

Indian Contact Centres:
This brings me to the conclusion of my post. A note about Outsourcing.
Outsourcing to India is:

  • the best way to LOSE CONTROL of your contact centre… To ANOTHER COUNTRY! 
  • the best way to PISS OFF customers off because they can’t communicate with you! 
  • in NO WAY fooling Australians that they’re calling another country; even when you train your representatives to use an Aussie accent & use words like “mate”! 
  • NOT a great idea when there is a non-existent customer service culture in India! 

In Conclusion:
The way I see it. Outsourcing your contact centre to India not only irritates customers to the point of leaving you for a competitor (which I did with 3 Mobile, a division of Hutchison Whampoa Limited), but it costs you valuable time, patience and hurts your brand.

Outsourcing to India is a cheaper and more effective method to help your customers fix nothing.
Don’t do it!

Assistance for Windows customers is Micro-SOFT!

The issue I encountered recently got me less irate than my usual experiences with contact centres, but nonetheless it still prevails worthy of a blog post.

I had a query for Microsoft. You know that little company worth $273.2 billion USD?

For once, I wasn’t calling up to complain. I merely wanted to ask a question about the licensing agreement of Windows 7 as I had specific installation requirements (of which I won’t bore you with the details).

Firstly, it took me a while looking through Microsoft’s maze of a website to find any sort of help on the issue. When I did, I was screened by the F.A.Q. page which was of no use to me. It took some more probing before I could find any scrounge of a phone number to call in Australia. I would’ve thought it’d be much easier to contact Microsoft… Apparently not!

When I called, I was directed though another labyrinth of voice prompts before being redirected to “Kevin”, (of what was a terrible alias name for) a young Indian male with a heavy accent.

After failing to receive any sort of empathy, let alone “customer support” I was transferred to what seemed to be an American contact centre where I spoke to “Angel”. Again, another useless pleb who didn’t know what they were talking about. Angel suggested I search for my problem on the internet (which I had already done, hence the phone call) and directed me to (and I quote):

“w-w-w-dot-bing-dot-com… That’s b-i-n-g.”

Are you serious! What’s wrong with this picture people?!?

This was about the point where I asked Angel:

“Could I could speak to someone with a little more knowledge on the issue who can actually help me?”


That’s when I met Paul. I had been transferred around the world, all the way back to one of Microsoft’s Australian call centres! Why couldn’t I have begun my journey here!?!

Paul was VERY helpful and responded to my query almost immediately.

It just makes me wonder, why do companies make it so difficult for the customer to get help? It’s almost as if they make it as difficult as possible to deter customers from even trying.
Additionally, if you’re simply not committed to “customer service”, don’t make out as if you are. Poor effort from Microsoft who lists “commitment to customers” as one of their company values.

In the future, if you need to contact Microsoft, call 13 20 58 and press 2 then 1. That’ll get you someone who speaks Australian.


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Start your complaints at the top

Disclaimer: The following may be a fairly lengthy explanation of the (somewhat) interesting point I’d like to make, but I’ll bore you with the details anyway to help demonstrate my claim effectively.

The situation:

A couple of weeks ago I bought a pair of jeans from yd, a division of the Retail Apparel Group. (I’d like to mention straight up that I used to work for Connor [who’s website seems to be currently down]; another division of the RAG, along with Tarocash.) So anyway, I bought these jeans on 20th December 2009 as a Christmas present for myself. For various reasons, I didn’t get around to trying them on until into the New Year, only to realise that they didn’t fit.
Now I’m the kind of guy that wants his clothes to fit perfectly, or I simply won’t wear them. So on 7th January 2010 (a little over 2 weeks later) I attempt to return the jeans in exchange for a refund.

Step 1 – Refund attempt #1:

The problem I faced was that I originally bought the jeans without the tags on them. Having worked within RAG previously, this kind of thing is common practice and not at issue in any way. However, when I tried to return the jeans, the manager at the Forest Hill store of yd was less than helpful, claiming that I could not get a refund for the jeans because I did not have the tags.

To the letter of the law, yd’s refund policy states that for a refund, one must return garments:
  • within 30 days (check);
  • with proof of purchase (check); and
  • with the barcode (which I never recieved).

yd has no other disclaimers on their refund policy leaving a grey area, however whilst I worked at Connor it was fairly common practice to allow returns of items without the barcode, provided it was clear that the garment had not been worn.


Regardless to say, I was unhappy with the outcome. Those who know me will know that I don’t like being ripped off as the customer, and this case was no exception.

Step 2 – I take it to the next level:

Well, I lie. I didn’t quite take it to the next level. I took it many levels higher. A quick phone call to the RAG head office explaining the ridiculous situation to one of yd’s chief of staff resulted in a phone call to Forest Hill’s area manager and then to the Forest Hill store.

Within 5 minutes of wandering the shopping centre I received a phone call back from yd head office with the green light to head back to the store and claim my refund. All in the time it took to get my brother’s birthday present.

Why is this an interesting story?

Well the point that I make is that maybe it’s best to start your complaints at the very top. The big guns in companies don’t have the time or patience to deal with the day-to-day problems which really should be easily fixed by their bottom tier. I honestly believe I spent more time arguing with the store manager at the yd store than I did on the phone getting my issue resolved! All you need is a little bit of heavyweight authority coming down the chain of command to get what you want. I’ve found this same technique to be effective in may different scenarios where the pleb you’re forced to deal with can’t seem to (or simply doesn’t want to) help you.

So next time you find yourself wanting to throttle the person on the other side of the counter (or over the phone), ask for their brochure or look up their website and find their head office phone number. You’ll be surprised at how quickly you get some action when the big boss is involved!

Side note: Those who know me will be pleased to know that I enjoyed the power trip of getting what I wanted when I walked back into the store. Needless to say, the store manager was much more helpful second time around.

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