Chocolate and Gold Coins

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Indian Call Center Employees Get an Earfull

Trin! Trin! The phone rings, and Stephanie (an alias used by the call center employee taking the call) has 20 seconds to get ready with her headphones and chant her opening script.

"Thank you for choosing *** (the name of the company). My name is Stephanie. How may I help you?"

Guess what she hears in response? "Oh my God! My call has been routed to India. Hey poor girl, do you understand English?"

Stephanie replies, " Yes ma'am, I understand English, how may I help you?"

To this, she gets a rejoinder: "I can't access my Internet. Do you know what 'access' means? I am sure you don't! 'Access' means to approach, to enter or exit something. Like access to the Internet. Did you get that?"

Exasperated Stephanie still maintains her cordiality and says: "Yes ma'am, I understand and I am here to help you out with this."

To which she gets the answer: "You Indians are so cheap. You people are taking away our jobs. You work for less money. How much do you get? 10 dollars per day? Just tell them to pay you as much they pay to somebody working in the US and see how all outsourcing will end."

Unfortunately, the caller's problem was very unusual and Stephanie had to consult someone. She politely asked the caller to hold on until she could fetch some help from her supervisor.

The caller was in a bad mood and started all over again. She said, "Oh! I had forgotten that you are an Indian. You guys are not only cheap but also dumb. Go seek help. Go learn something. What can I do, my call has been connected to an Indian. I cannot degrade myself anymore. I will call again and pray that I get a sophisticated American call center executive online next time."

With these lines the caller hung up.

This account comes from a rediff article written by Anubhav Arora and Vivek Kaul. Read the whole article.

Abuse of this sort is unacceptable. Unfortunately, many workers in Indian call centers are reporting similar abuse. Here is a recent Washington Post (free registration required) article by Rama Lakshmi (link via Sepia Mutiny) that gives another account of an Indian call center employee, Rohail Manzoor (who is shown standing in front of a rather impressive building):

" 'You Indians suck!' an American screamed on the phone," recalled a soft-spoken Manzoor, 25. "He was using a lot of four-letter words, too. He called me names left, right and center."

Call center executives and industry experts say abusive hate calls are commonplace, as resentment swells over the loss of American jobs to India. According to a survey in November 2004 by an Indian information technology magazine called Dataquest, about 25 percent of call center agents identified such calls as the main reason for workplace stress. The survey said the calls often were "psychologically disturbing" for workers.

"When some callers are unhappy with the service, their frustration often turns racist," said Amit Narula, 25, a call center agent. "They would say, 'This is why you should not handle our work. Indians are not good enough.' "

As a result, the call center workers are feeling stressed. Manzoor said he developed high blood pressure and chest pain in November, and quit his job. But in two months, he was back in another call center processing credit card applications for an American company.

Americans should realize that outsourcing such jobs is inevitable and actually very beneficial to Americans. Indian call centers do not take away American jobs, they provide us with a service we could not have otherwise. Without the opportunity to use the inexpensive labor from India, we would either have to rely on written instructions exclusively or we would have to talk to the computer voice activated system. I really hate talking to the computer voice activated system. Computers voice activated systems are so frustrating: if you punch one number incorrectly, you have to start all over again.

Perhaps this is the way these call centers can deal with the obnoxious Americans (who I would hope are a small minority). They could say, “Would you like to talk to our service center in America?” If the caller says “Yes”, he or she would be routed to America — to a computer voice activated system. After 15 minutes of going in circles, the caller will be glad to talk to a human being.

There is a humorous side to the Washington Post article. One of the call center workers, Ankur Jaiswal, 22, pretends to be American, (which is standard practice and maybe a mistake). He says that some suspicious Americans will start quizzing him.

Let’s see, how might that quiz go:

“I want to talk to an American!”

“I am from America, ma’am.”

“Oh, yeah? Then tell me who was the first President of the United States?”

“George Washington, ma’am.”

“Who wrote the Declaration of Independence?”

“Thomas Jefferson, ma’am.”

“Who’s buried in Grant’s Tomb?”

“Ulysses S. Grant, ma’am.”

“You knew all that? You big phony, I knew you weren’t American!”

However, there is no need for an American to quiz the Indian call center employee. If the American shouts abuse at the call center employ and he or she is still polite, the American knows that the employee is not another American. This is incredible thing about this verbal abuse: the caller is acting like she wants to protect the job of some person she has never met, but she is treating another human being that she is talking to like a dog.

The sad thing about the abuse that Americans are giving these Indian call center workers is that these jobs are a way for Indians to enjoy the economic freedom and independence that Americans take for granted. Here is the summary quote from the Washington Post (free registration required)article by Rama Lakshmi (link via Sepia Mutiny):

"I would be mad too if somebody took away my job," said Vidya Ramathas, 24, who works in a Bangalore call center servicing an American Internet company. "I love my job. It has brought me freedom. I moved out of my parents' home. I don't ask them for money anymore. I do what I want to. I don't ask for their permission."

Ramathas, whose uses "Amanda" as her phone name, added: "In that sense, I am like an American."


  • Very true!

    Even a mere 10$ a day will get you around 15k rupees a month, which is considered great salary for a starter here in India...

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:57 AM  

  • We provides a comprehensive and best-in-class suite of value-based outsourcing solutions that are built upon its strong process, domain and people management expertise. To effectively deliver excellent quality of support service we strongly believe in having the right processes in place.

    By Anonymous Call Center, at 9:22 AM  

  • With the US in a prolonged economicic depression with high uncertainty of the future, it is understandable that there be a level of resentment with offshore call-centers. The perception being that the loss of US jobs is related to the offshore outsourcing trend. This attitude is likely to increase in the future.

    By Anonymous Nexus Teleservices, at 4:25 PM  

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