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Rattling the cage

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16th Feb 2005
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Well now... last week's column seems to have rattled a few cages - and led a few of you to grab hold of the wrong end of the stick. When I complained about the rudeness of the BT woman from India, I was not in any way annoyed because she was coming at me from offshore; I was annoyed because she was aggressive, rude and patronising. Now, whether someone else had been racist or rude to her before she got to me is rather beside the point. If she's representing a company in its interactions with customers then she shouldn't take her anger with her onto her dealings with another.

Incidentally, I notice with some amusement that the national media have picked up on the fact that BT is now ordering its call centre staff in India to hassle people to pay their phone bills rather than send out final reminders. This is what happened to me. According to BT, this is not intended to be an intimidating process or an alarming one. Well, let me tell you BT, if I was a little old lady somewhere who got a call like I received from Mrs Rude of downtown New Dehli, then I'd have been fairly freaked out. If it's not your intention to intimidate customers (duck, flying pig squadron overhead!) than you need to go back and re-examine your training procedures!

My point last week was rather that if CEOs and CFOs at UK companies are so convinced that going offshore is such a good corporate business decision, then have the conviction to stand up and justify it in public rather than acting as though it's some grubby secret. Otherwise we're all going to assume that it is indeed some grubby little act to cut costs.

The point was reinforced this week when I set out to write a feature on call centres. After a rash of interest from various PRs keen to push their clients into the publication in question, there was a mass pouring away of interest from them when they realised their clients would have to talk about the Indian aspect of their call centre operations. So I say again: put up or shut up! Is it something to boast about to your peers and your shareholders? Then it's something to boast about to your customers! Surely?

As it happens, Mrs Rude of New Delhi has lost her top slot in the Worst Call Centre Experience league this week to a bunch of moronic individuals at some cowboy tele-sales outfit in Crawley who have had four different people call me at 7.30pm each night this week. I've no idea what they're selling. When I told the second caller to take my name off their list, she sneered at me and said I'd have to get a form from them and put a request in writing to have that done.

I asked Tuesday night's caller where they had sourced my number from. He told me I'd agreed to be called. Now, I never tick the 'please call/send me more info' box and do tick the 'leave me alone I've better things to do than listen to your shabby sales pitch' box, so unless this "agreement" was in microscopic writing on the back of some form, he's lying. And, I still wanted to know where they got my number, so I asked for his supervisor. He put the phone down on me. I tried 1471 to call back and speak to someone senior but the number was blocked.

I put the phone down on last night's call as soon as he began to talk. He phoned me back at once telling me I was rude for not listening. I put the phone down again. He rang back and asked me what was wrong with cold calling and didn't I realise he had a family to feed! Shabby, grubby and probably illegal in their conduct - I'd love to hear from anyone else who's had any similar experience. It's time we put a stop to this sort of thing once and for all.

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Stuart Lauchlan
News & Analysis Editor
[email protected]

Replies (6)

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By liz.helyer
17th Feb 2005 12:55

I have also received a not particularly friendly call from BT after my bill was a few days overdue. Payment was demanded there and then and I refused. I have to ask BT how long to you think it is going to take before someone starts pretending to be you and demanding money? What kind of security is in place to stop this happening?

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By AnonymousUser
16th Feb 2005 10:54

Stuart

I share your anger. But there is a solution. Of sorts.

As a UK citizen living in Germany, I don't have this problem. Cold calling without explicit permission is absolutely taboo in Germany. And punishable with heavy fines if the authorities are alerted to transgressions.

A recent case of probably illegal cold-calling by telemarketing companies trying to flog lottery tickets for two state lottery companies was greeted with national news headlines, threats of court proceedings by the German Data Commissioner and calls for the management of said companies to be publically hung, drawn and quartered.

In the 10 years I have lived in Germany, I cannot remember a single instance of receiving a cold call, or a 'market research' call, or anything.

So there's your answer. Move to Germany.

Graham Hill
Independent CRM Consultant

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By tplimmer
17th Feb 2005 14:54

To support the main driver of call centre operations, which is cost reduction. Customer service comes second to cost, this is both a stated objective and a reality of what we experience and observe. If we hear anything else then we should doubt the integrity of the person making the claim.

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By Stuart Lauchlan
23rd Feb 2005 14:16

"There's the other side of this story where a radio presenter from Power 99 FMin the US made a call to a call center in India and called the rep a b**ch and a filthy rat eater. To add insult to injury, this was aired on air and you could hear people laughing and applausing the act. Now, all those self styled prophets of anti-outsourcing, don't you think you got to get your house in order before slinging muck at people who are thousands of miles away from you and perform your job much better than you and probably do that in just a sixth of what you cost? Think about it."

Which is truly appalling and tell us all we need to know about US Shock Jock radio, but I'm at a loss as to see what wider point such an incident makes. Again there seems to be a knee-jerk assumption of some form of incipient racism in objecting to being badly treated by an offshore call centre operative. I say again - I don't care if they're in Bangalore or Bognor, I just want to be treated with customer care, respect and attention. If that' best done in India, fine. If it's best done in Eastern Europe, really don't care. But if you've gone for a cheap option and the end result is bad service, then as a customer I have every right to complain regardless of the accent at the other end of the phone. Think about that.

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By DominicW
17th Feb 2005 22:54

Quote:>>And, I still wanted to know where they got my number, so I asked for his supervisor. He put the phone down on me. I tried 1471 to call back and speak to someone senior but the number was blocked.

I put the phone down on last night's call as soon as he began to talk. He phoned me back at once telling me I was rude for not listening. I put the phone down again. He rang back and asked me what was wrong with cold calling and didn't I realise he had a family to feed!<<

I get calls like this at least once a month. I get the less extreme version that don't bother to ring back after the first put-down about five times a DAY!!

I've recently tried a suggestion my friend made to me. I simply tell them, "I don't have time to talk to you right now. If you leave me your HOME phone number, I'll ring you back when it's convenient."

At best it flusters them. At worst they just hang up!

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By AnonymousUser
10th Jan 2006 11:17

I too have been bombarded with calls from Call Centres (including those in India).

I noticed the calls started after I entered a question and answer compition on television, which requests all my contact details but does not give me an option not to have my details passed to others without concent. The call times were usually at evening tea time causing interruption.

Suddenly, the calls have stopped. Is it because I placed the caller on hold & let them listen to Eastenders? Try it. It may work.

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