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August 04, 2003

Foreign customer support SUCKS!
  • I purchase a DELL INSPIRON in May of 2003
  • In July of 2003 it tweaks out
  • July 23rd, call tech agent, decide we have to send it in
  • July 25th, send it in
  • July 30th, talk to American, 5 minute call explaining that it is in depot, anticipates it will ship out in 1-2 days
  • August 4th (2 AMish), talk to 5 non-English speakers, get 5 incoherent responses, 5 run-around calls, and FALSE tracking information (they keep telling that my computer shipped out to me on July 23rd, obviously mis-reading what's on their screen OVER & OVER!)
  • August 4th (morning), call another non-English speaker, again, get run-around
  • August 4th, finally hit the jack-pot, an English speaker, albeit with a STRONG southern accent, resolve problem in 5 minutes
One thing I know, I will NEVER buy a DELL again, I will ALWAYS ask around to figure out the probability that I will encounter a non-English speaking person as "support." It was quite clear in the 4 hours that I spent on the phone that the non-English speaking support individuals could barely comprehend the information on their screens. I had called so many times that I quickly realized how they were making mistakes over & over again, simplifying & reinterpreting, when the answers seemed straightforward from the hints & clues that they gave me. Of course, even if I had conjectured what the situation was, I wanted confirmation that my hunch about my computer was correct.

Once I got someone who spoke English natively, they quickly looked at the information and confirmed all my guesses, taking no more than 5 minutes. I literally spent no more than 10 minutes with the two Americans, but well north of 3 hours with the non-English speakers. There will over the years be more & more customers like me who demand that the person on the other end of the line speak fluent English-that will cost money, either in First World wages, or intense training or higher levels of education than no acceptable for customer service in off-shore call centers [1].

Please note I am prone to being irritated by this problem-that's the thing I HATE about big cities, service employees who I can barely understand! My friends who live in such locales seem resigned & accepting of the fact that those who do such work will always speak with accents-if they can communicate in English at all-but if you experience the alternative, you have a much harder time adjusting.

[1] I too have read the charming tales of Indian lads & lasses speaking American English and familiarizing themselves with the culture-but cultural literacy does not technical literacy make, much of the information they have to relay is already opaque and confusing, a lack of English fluency is a deal-breaker. Of course, it could be asserted that the two "English speakers" that I spoke too were also foreigners, but both spoke with rather strong southern accents, stronger accents in fact than the Indians or Costa Ricans I talked to, though they could read English at a far higher level. If they were foreigners, my understanding is that they tend to speak general American, not a dialect from the backwoods of Louisana or west Texas (probably the closest aproximations of the two individuals in question)

Godless comments:

Personally, I think that this is the market in action. Razib will vote with his wallet for native-English speaking technical support. Others may or may not choose the discount line for a lower price. And still others, like myself, will build and maintain our own computers rather than buy from Dell :)

Posted by razib at 10:20 AM

I can't even find an Econ tutor who speaks fluent, low-accent English. The tutors I've talked to at the UW are all foreigner grad students who can barely carry on a phone conversation about their availability and rates -- I can't imagine what trying to understand them explaining complicated concepts would be like!

Why do people think they (or others) are "fluent" in English when they are only fluent in their understanding, but incomprehensible in their speaking?

I got called a racist once for saying I wouldn't take a class from a professor who spoke with a thick accent. I don't care what their skin color is or where they are from, I just want someone who speaks fluent, low accent English. I can't learn from someone I can't understand!

Posted by: Jacqueline at August 4, 2003 12:52 PM

At CMU they have an ESL program for the grad student teaching assistants, many of whom are foreign-born. I trained for a while to teach ESL and do accent remediation but never really did anything with it. Anyway, there is a test of spoken fluency that the TAs have to pass before they're allowed to take up teaching positions - but various stories I've heard told suggest that this measure is not wholly effective -

Posted by: bbartlog at August 4, 2003 12:57 PM

you build your own laptops???

Posted by: razib at August 4, 2003 01:02 PM

You get what you pay for. Econ tutors are non-native English speakers because non-immigrants sharp in econ are making tons of money elsewhere. And so on. You can present this is an immigration problem, an ethnic problem, or whatever, but it's all because of the labor market. None of you would be happy to get a Bubba native speaker who just fell off the turnip truck either. What you want is good tech support, etc., but nobody's paying for that. Dell's specialty is cost-cutting, as I understand, and their prices are probably the lowest.

Posted by: zizka at August 4, 2003 01:58 PM

I think Dell is totally overated. I've heard one bad Dell story after another, both with customer support and with their computers, including my own. I'm not sure what computer to buy now.

Posted by: Inventor at August 4, 2003 02:02 PM

well-i think companies should start advertising a warranty that says "english-speaking customer service only" that you pay for more, it's worth in terms of the time. the thing with laptops is that they fry a lot more easily than desktops, the latter are commodities, and if you break a part, you can find a cheap replacement. a lot of parts in notebooks are custom-made-ergo, dell et al. love them because they are higher profit margins than the commoditized desktop business-you really are dependent on the maker of the product in that sort of situation.

Posted by: razib at August 4, 2003 02:07 PM

"you build your own laptops???"

I was wondering the same thing. Clearly, godless is quite the skilled technician!

Posted by: Johnny Rotten at August 4, 2003 03:59 PM

you know hindi? some of the people were costa rican & filipino-not just indians. i badgered them into telling me, and i guessed the accent on the costa ricans-they are the main outsourcing center for latin america....

Posted by: razib at August 4, 2003 04:59 PM

please-I saw some other thread where Godless was planning to grow soldiers from vats-building a laptop is child's play

Posted by: martin at August 4, 2003 06:16 PM

Don't think it's Hindi. Perhaps Godless knows another five-letter Indian language? Hint: Look south. ;-)

Posted by: Sen at August 4, 2003 08:35 PM

sen, i assumed you were bengali from the name, are you tamil? you are at least an honorary 'proud-southern-brutha' ;)

Posted by: razib at August 4, 2003 09:28 PM

Does premature outsourcing explain why rtf codes are sometimes found in what should be html?

Posted by: Joseph Hertzlinger at August 4, 2003 10:59 PM

Buy an Apple. I don't know if their support lines are outsourced, because I've never had to call them... ;-)

Posted by: jimbo at August 5, 2003 06:58 AM

Hehe. I came here to post "build your own like I do". But as far as I know you can't build a laptop. I don't know where I'd go to buy a laptop but it wouldn't be Dell. I wouldn't buy a Dell product for the simple reason that I hate their commercials. The Dell interns? I hate them. Hate, revile, abhor, detest. }:D

Posted by: Katy at August 5, 2003 09:09 AM

My wife had a bunch of problems with Dell tech support over her new laptop too. I guess the consensus on Dells is: decent product, totally sucky customer service.

Posted by: Suman Palit at August 7, 2003 11:39 PM

I bought a Dell laptop right before Win2k came out and paid extra to get the Win2k upgrade when it became available. I called back a year later (about 10 months after Win2k came out) and they told me it was too late to redeem my upgrade coupon and that it had a time limit on it. Their web site didn't mention a time limit. I didn't look at the coupon when I received the laptop. I think they were jerks.

Posted by: Randall Parker at August 8, 2003 01:02 AM

dell cust support totally sucks. im having the same non english speaking problem and i have been on the phone for literally three hours and i just got this laptop three days ago. suck.

Posted by: mars at September 4, 2003 10:21 AM

I ordered a laptop two months ago. They still havent shipped it yet and everytime I call I end up speaking to Osoma Bin Ladens relatives. What in the hell is going on here.

Posted by: angry man at October 1, 2003 12:22 PM

I will never buy another Dell computer. Why should i support a company that gives away American jobs to foreigners in other countries? I've spent many hours trying to get through to customer support and then having the aggravation of someone who can't be understood. Of course, they don't understand ME either. I'm getting a Gateway next time.

Posted by: MizLiz at October 13, 2003 11:37 AM

These aren't immigrants.. Majority of Dell support centres are located in India.

They outsource tech support to India to save costs. You get what u pay for (maybe a little less)

Posted by: dude at October 14, 2003 12:49 PM