Call centers are the spawn of Satan I’m sure of it. I hate calling them. It’s bad enough when it’s a toll free number, but when you have to call a call centre on a high cost phone number it becomes all the more annoying.

A lot of companies now outsource call centers to far flung places like India where they can pay staff a pittance compared to what they have to pay locally based staff. The benefit, they tell us, is passed on to you the customer, however as true as that might be one should not forget that there are of course shareholders in that little love triangle. Plus, they are assuming that having some person speaking Indaglish or Frenglish to you is actually a benefit, when in practice it is often anything but.

I recently had a call from British Telecoms billing assistance team (debt collections). The operator announced his name was Darren which seemed questionable to say the least. he then went on to ask me if I had gotten my telephone bill okay. The problem was I had to ask him over and over what it was he was saying.

“Iwurz watering iv yooovbin abling to reviwing your telecom beal thank you please.”

Ah yes, now I understood him. “Ah yes, sorry, I meant to pay that. Can you take my details now?”

“Thank you please emble tuak your cowabanger et hisyme thank you please.”

I pause for a moment. Wondering what it may have been that ‘Darren’ had just said. Rather than try to actually decipher the Indaglish I thought more about what ‘Darren’ would have actually said given the context of the conversation and who he actually was.

“You want my card number right?”
“Yezum thank you please thank you.”

I look for my wallet and find my debit card then begin to tell Darren it’s a Smile bank account that i will be paying from.

“Ezyit a weezayelta?”

I’m quite fluent in Indaglish these days, and I know this translates to “Is it a Visa Delta?” To which the answer is yes. I read the card number to ‘Darren’ and he then confirm it back to me. However I can’t make any sense of what he is actually saying at this point so I just say that the number is correct. A few moment later he can “cunferming yet dyapaymenting has yumyoo, thank you please.” Yumyoo is presumably a good thing as he wishes me a “fond day” and hangs up.

Now I don’t want my annoyance or frustration with such call centers to be mistaken for racism in any degree. I just think that companies should at least expect their call centre staff to pass some kind of understandability test. How can it be customer service if the very communication itself is almost too much hard work?

In the past I have had to actually hang up on Apple and SBC Yahoo because the telephone help-desk operator was speaking in an accent that made communication impossible. And both times these were support staff trying to tell me settings and the such.

I’ve decided to enact a new policy which while it might seem overly grumpy, may help in illustrating the problems many of us face when dealing with ‘phone drones.’ I’ve decided that from now on I will simply record all calls I have to make to companies where communication with their staff is difficult. This way when mistakes are made (as they so often are) I can at least bring up actual evidence of the conversation.

Having said that of course actually talking to someone in a managerial position is often times simply impossible because of the layers of drones one has to go through to get to a decision maker.

And here’s a little challenge for you. Listen to this excerpt from a call I made to 1and1 internet. And see if you can decipher what the guy is actually saying. It’s worth pointing out that this guy is speaking to me from a call centre based just outside London UK!

What did he say? Indian call centers may not be worth the trouble
Indian call centers suffer a storm of four letter words