Customer Support In India: Economic Genius or Customer Nightmare?

Posted on 07. Jun, 2006 by in News

I was relieved this week to learn that Apple had decided to close down it’s India-based customer service center. Apparently, Apple told workers in a meeting on May 29 that “the company is revaluating its operations and has thought of pulling back its Indian operations.” I’m all for globalization and international operations, but I’m also a firm believer that customer service is not the area of your business that you want to skimp on. I’ve been on the phone with too many people that didn’t understand me or who I didn’t understand that made my experience with that particular company a nightmare. I can also honestly say that it has affected my purchasing decisions regarding that company as well.

However, after reading about Apple’s decision to pull out of India, I saw this story on how IBM is planning to triple its investment in India to $6 billion US over the next three years to take advantage of the country’s lower-cost labour and diverse engineering skills for technology services customers around the world. Granted, IBM has more than a customer service operation in India, but in 2003 IBM began making India a key base to support services for clients around the globe. To be fair I’ve never had to call IBM support services so I can’t objectively judge the service; however, based on my experiences with a half-dozen other companies I can only imagine.

At first I thought that these two moves were going to prove one thing: someone was right about India. Either IBM made the good decision to dump money into operations there, or Apple was smart to get out. However, after considering Apple’s user base I’ve started to change my mind. Now I believe that there is no black and white way of looking at this issue. IBM is a far more globalized company than Apple and perhaps their customers don’t really care about their support being outsorced to India. Apple users on the other hand, who are monstly American, are zealous about the Apple brand and probably shudder at the fact that Apple operations might move out of Cupertino (yes, I know that Macs are made in Asia).

Perhaps you’d like to chime in and leave your 2 cents regarding customer support being outsourced to India. Do you think the cheap labor and costs are worth the possibility of losing customer satisfaction?

One Response to “Customer Support In India: Economic Genius or Customer Nightmare?”

  1. Jordan T. Cox

    07. Jun, 2006

    I’ve personally delt with both Dell and IBM’s Indian support and can say that without a doubt they’re terrible. I have a number of Indian friends, so don’t get me wrong in that regard – but I want a speaker of my native toungue and culture on the other end of the phone.

    I got chewed out by a Dell representative because I had called simply for confirmation that a specific part (from them) functioned with a server we’ve got. There’s too much tension and need for efficiency. Granted that instance could be due to Dell corporate policy, but I tend to chalk it up to culture.

    I’ve also dealt with AT&T support before and was wholly dis-satisfied. It took too much effort to jump through the hoops while neither of us understood each other. At one point I even asked, “So where are you located today?” – in a thick Indian accent the person on the other end responded (very curtly) “I am unable to divulge that information”. Oi. I also managed to “reset” the worker on her script. At some point I said something that she didn’t understand, and she began the whole thing over again. I laughed for weeks.

    I just hate not being able to convey my point. Especially in terms of support calls, where you’re not exactly sure how to word it to keep with the script. I basically assume that there is no support anymore. If something breaks, I fix it. I don’t even consider the option of calling a support line. If a company has a habit of selling things that break (or require special maintenance) I don’t buy their product.

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