Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Service Center to the World

I had read a lot about the flourishing outsourcing industry in India; but the other day I heard someone from the industry describe this whole new BPO world within the Indian cities & it was an eye-opener.

Large western companies outsource their servicing requirements to India, but do not necessarily want their clients to know that their calls are being answered by Indians. Not only are the tele-executives trained to speak with western accents; they’re trained in western culture & key telephone phrases from the west. They’re also encouraged to adopt western ‘call center names’ when speaking to clients, rather than their regular Indian names. But here is what was disturbing: hate-calls from customers are not uncommon at all. There will ever so often be this freak American who will call up & scream about the bloody terrorist race taking over his job!

These are after all 18 to 20-year-old university students answering the calls & I cant help but wonder how they feel at the end of the day. Do they still feel connected to their country & culture?

18 comments:

Optimistic Guard said...

quite disturbing, I have read a lot about call centeres, even wondered at times if the friendly customer service agent at the end on the line is "Pat" or patel. Its horrific how some people treat customer service reps who are just doing their job.

Radha said...

I'm one of those guilty of losing it when a persistent credit-cards-salesperson refuses to take no for an answer! :)

Prometheus said...

18-20 yr olds and culture and country? Nyet Radha, kids in India these days are 'cool dawgz'. They wouldn't know the capital of India, leave alone the history and culture. Those phone jockey morons think they've made it in life when they make 20-30K INR a month. By age 30 they will most probably end up looking for janitorial positions.

Radha said...

Hi Prometheus,
I know a lot of cases where graduate students get these call-center jobs & dont want to study any further.
On the other hand, I hear there are also the youth from smaller towns in India who are not your urban-upper-class-youth types who get an opportunity to work in a proper corporate environment; which wasnt there earlier.
So i guess there are pros & cons to this new scenario.

clickable said...

Absolutely agree with your last comment there. For some of these people, it's the first "real" job in the family after generations of being household maids.

Radha said...

Clickable,
I'm not just talking about the relatively poorer people, even the middle class people in places like Coimbatore & Pune are getting a shot at life thanks to the BPOs mushrooming in every corner.

Sharmi said...

Hi Radha, What is the building to the right with the name AL Ain. Though it is sad to know about this call center ppl. who is superior brain wise. We have more grey matter then them. We have to always be proud of that.

cheers
sharmi

Radha said...

Hey Sharmi,
The pic on the right is the palace in Al-Ain, a city not far from Dubai.
About grey matter, well I dont consider myself all that grey :)

Moi said...

nor do i ..am referring to the grey part :)
it's not all that complicated, radha...it's all abt economies at the end of the day.....even wars waged today are abt economies ...I wish u'd read "the world is flat" by thomas friedman......U r gonna love the way how he makes sense of all this globalization and he does it very objectively....as far as cultures and societies getting affected is the question....that's bound to happen....we are moving to a service economy and we r servicing more than half the developed world right now.....we 'll have to assimilate the newer influences....for good or bad!!! :)

Radha said...

Hi Moi,
Yes, I have read the book. Moi, I am neither a socialist nor a nationalist; I really do believe that globalisation is a wonderful thing. But globalisation does not mean that the entire human race needs to be homogenous. Let me ask you this: How would a black American feel about a job that requires him to pretend he is a white guy; or how would a muslim man feel if his job required him to adopt a chirstian name because the clients do not like muslims? This is not really a 'globalisation issue', just an old world prejudice issue.

Moi said...

Awlright, let me explain this..I have worked in a Dell call center for 3 months before moving to a serious career path....and u are no longer required to pretend that U are not an Indian..U are open to say U are serving them from B'lore or wherever...U can't bluff ur customers with ur acquired accent. The companies and HR guys there should have known better to start the trend when call centers had just started to move to India.....They were being protective abt their reps and scared of the backlash from customers, i guess!!! You are not supposed to act like an American if u r serving American customers....just that u r expected to know the region u are serving to be able to serve ur customers better..thats the first funda of getting customer-service right. Regarding names, its again done for precisely the same reason........There are always some nasty customers....racial prejudices too.....reminds me of times in US when they coined a term called "white flight" coz the rigidly whites could not continue to live in growingly diverse neighborhoods and wud move en masse to the whiter, supposedly safer neighborhoods....But i digress. Even Americans in US serving the customers in US change their names to simpler names (If they have complicated ones, to begin with) for the ease of customers and hence u'll find being served more often than not by an American Rob/John/Nancy.....
And there's another pshycic advantage to having these stage names. When u get abused over the phone as say Nancy and not Priya..(and by the ways u can always cut the call if the customers misbehaves..u have every right to)...somehow u feel the insult was directed at Nancy and not Priya.....However far-fetched that sounds, it works most often than not!!!!
Homogenity.....we'll be as diverse as ever for as long as we live....:)

Moi said...

and most of the younger crowd manages to straddle both the worlds pretty well, radha....there are all kinda fake ppl out there...but then u r as likely to meet them coming from a call center as from ur neighbor's house ....:)

diyadear said...

thats a question worth pondering over.. if u have read the book "one night at the call center" by chetan bhagat, u will get a fair idea..

Radha said...

Moi,
Hmm, interesting. Well, I heard abt it from a classmate of mine from b-school who now manages a service-center. And I guess because I had heard only good things abt call-centers before I was more taken aback by her account than impressed.

Diya,
Hey, i've heard abt the book, but never wanted to pick it up. Guess because I wasn't too impressed by his first book (the one abt IITians). Is the one about call centers good?

Yuva said...

would recommend
one night @ call center
...

btw: thx for stopping by, for your thoughts and do so whenever time permits. appreciate that.

/Yuva

Radha said...

Yuva,
Hmm...will pick up the book soon!

Lotus Reads said...

Oh yeah, 'tis true..the other day we called Dell to buy a PC and the guy we spoke to had an unmistakable Hyderabadi accent, but when we asked him his name he said he was Gordon...after identifying ourselves as Indians living in Toronto, he told us his name was actually Govindraj but he was encouraged to change it to Gordon because Govindraj would be a difficult name for Americans to pronounce or remember.

BTW, my sister is an accent trainer and she teaches classes full of young Indians to speak with an American twang...I've attended one of her classes, it was quite an eye-opener and also very entertaining.

Radha said...

Lotus,
Hi! I heard it from a manager and I was not impressed. There of course is a strong economic case for it; but somehow I felt very disturbed by it!