What to do when your ISP off-shores tech support

Joe Greco jgreco at ns.sol.net
Sat Dec 27 04:17:25 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. 

Jay, that's an interesting misstatement.  It implies that they're going to
be paying a lesser rate to do it right somewhere else, which typically does
not seem to be what happens.

> The same person diagnosing your IP routing 
> issues may indeed be asking, "Would you like fries with that?" thirty 
> seconds later. [1] 

Does Bronco actually do that?  :-)

> 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. 

Don't-realize.  The number of times I've been talked down to by people who
don't have any clue what the "4" in "IPv4" means is depressingly high.  I
do not need to reboot my Windows PC to know that the DHCP answer my UNIX
box is getting from the DHCP server, dumped in gory detail, is providing an 
IP address in a prefix that's not appearing in the global routing table now.

> 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.

That's definitely a problem.

> > 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 
> offshore.
> 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. 

Plausible interpretation, but not really accurate.  An upsell would
normally be convincing someone to buy something that they would not
otherwise have thought to be useful; is it really an "upsell" when
you fail to advertise your new service offerings on your web site, 
and so leave your potential business customers with the impression 
that the only offerings you have are the same in-excess-of-T1 prices
that you offered last time they talked to you?

Come to think of it, I just looked and I still can't find any solid
information about the plan we've got.  I *think* it's some variation
on the "teleworker" package.  There's a "home business solution" pkg
for $100/mo that includes 15M/2M broadband, but we're paying less
than that...

> 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?

... or in this case, cheap, scripted, clueless in-house support ...

The thing that is really unfortunate is that I had told the agent at the
time we went to Turbo that I was primarily interested in upstream speed.

> > 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.

I don't know, I've seen some relatively impressive "speech-guessing
machines."  It is clear that the technology still needs some work, but
Amtrak's "Julie" is fairly impressive and useful.

... JG
Joe Greco - sol.net Network Services - Milwaukee, WI - http://www.sol.net
"We call it the 'one bite at the apple' rule. Give me one chance [and] then I
won't contact you again." - Direct Marketing Ass'n position on e-mail spam(CNN)
With 24 million small businesses in the US alone, that's way too many apples.

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