Reducing the Customer’s Hassle Factor??

I’ve done it. I’m sure you have as well. In fact, virtually everyone has done it at one time or another. What is the “it”? You call for customer assistance or information and you get…India or the Philippines. Both India and the Philippines are fine countries. They both have much to admire. But their ability to speak English clearly to an American listener is, by most accounts, limited. They do speak English, though, and they ask for little in compensation in return. So, many companies have shifted their customer service, especially consumer customer service, offshore to these countries.

All has not gone swimmingly, though. Dell Computer, for one, had to bring back its business (that is, the larger customers in the market) customer service to the U.S. because of many complaints. The consumer service remains offshore. I wonder if there is a connection with Dell’s weakness in the consumer market?

Perhaps the tide is turning. Recently, United Airlines announced that it was dropping an Indian customer call center that handled customer observations or complaints. Instead, phone reservation agents in Chicago and Honolulu will be cross-trained to respond to written customer feedback. Yes, I’m sure you caught that. The customer now has to write. (See the Perspective, “Failure Shifts More Share than Success” on

United Airlines has stopped publishing its customer relations phone number. That is the number that used to go to India. Instead, customers now have to send an email or a letter to complain. Of course, the United Reservation Center in Detroit, which covers United’s largest customers, will continue to take phone calls of complaining customers. (See the Symptom and Implication, “Competitors are emphasizing reliability in product quality” on

Maybe the tide has not turned after all.

Posted 2/19/09