What to do when your ISP off-shores tech support

Jay Hennigan jay at west.net
Sat Dec 27 03:41:58 UTC 2008

Joe Greco wrote:

> Sure.  Blaming off-shore tech support is pretty easy stuff, but the
> reality is that the trouble is more along the line of appropriate
> training.

But, the reason that US-based $TELCO and $CABLECO use off-shore tech 
support is that they don't want to pay for the training and supervision 
to do it right in-house.  The same person diagnosing your IP routing 
issues may indeed be asking, "Would you like fries with that?" thirty 
seconds later. [1] And, for purposes of, "Would you like fries with 
that?", off-shore is good enough that most customers can't tell, nor do 
they care.  It may often be better than a newbie local ten feet from 
you.  It's the ultimate scripted application, a literal menu.  People 
expect half-duplex-low-fi audio when talking to a tin speaker buried 
inside of a plastic clown.  ;-)

> Some discussion suggested that the RR people were highly script-oriented
> and not necessarily capable of complicated problem solving. 

And they are afraid to admit (or don't realize) that they are not 
capable of complicated problem solving.  They're following a script, 
just like the fast food order-takers.  Or maybe they don't have the 
authority to escalate it to someone with clue, even if/when they do 
realize they're over their heads.

> It appears
> that the TWC Business tier 1 people actually have a fair amount of
> technical training and clue, and resources to tap if that's not good
> enough.  Further, he was bright enough to let me know that they had a
> "better than turbo" package available with a higher upstream speed, for
> only a little more, that'd make me a business customer, so I'd never have
> to deal with Road Runner again.  Based on this one experience, we were
> more than happy to sign an annual contract and pay just $10/mo more, and
> have direct access to people who know what words like "DHCP" and "route"
> actually mean.
> I did ask, and all the local people are, in fact, local.  It's a matter 
> of training and technical knowledge.  None of them was really putting 
> together the fact that the modem was sketchy for the service class we
> had.

So, regardless of geographic location, using scripted clueless 
order-takers without the ability to escalate for customer support is a 
bad thing.  And, scripted clueless order-takers exist solely because 
they're cheap, not because they provide anything remotely resembling 
good service.  Cheap, from a US-centric perspective, generally means 

The interesting thing about your experience is that your service 
problems resulted in an up-sell, but only because you were persistent 
enough to fight through the system.  Furthermore, it took a person with 
clue to do the up-sell.  How many customers and up-sell opportunities 
does RR lose because of their decision to go with cheap, scripted, 
clueless off-shore support?

> My point is that you not only need the language skills and a good phone
> connection, but also a reasonable process to deal with knowledgeable 
> people.  I understand the need to provide scripted support, but there 
> should also be a reasonable path to determine that someone has an 
> exceptional problem and isn't being well-served by the script.

Precisely.  Or for better service have reasonably clueful people at 
level 1 so that they can quickly and expeditiously deal with the easy 
problems that could be scripted.

The scripted part could (and often is) being done with IVR, no humans at 
all.  But, please, if you do this, use DTMF menus and not that God-awful 
worthless "Tell-me" speech-guessing machine.  And make sure that every 
menu has a "0-to-human-being" option.

[1] http://broncocommunications.com/
Jay Hennigan - CCIE #7880 - Network Engineering - jay at impulse.net
Impulse Internet Service  -  http://www.impulse.net/
Your local telephone and internet company - 805 884-6323 - WB6RDV

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