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Delta Air Ends Use of India Call Centers By Paulo Prada and Niraj Sheth. The Wall Street Journal, Vol. CCLIII, No. 90, Saturday/Sunday, 18-19 April 2009, p. B1.

Delta Airlines, which moved some of its call center work to India following 9/11 in an effort to cut costs, is now bringing some of that work home. According to the article, over first few months of the year Delta stopped routing calls to centers in India. The advantage of off-shoring this type of work is that "Call-center representatives in India earn roughly $500 a month, or about one-sixth the salary of their U.S.-based counterparts." However, the article points out that Delta is not pulling back its call centers in Jamaica and South Africa, countries where complaints have not been as high.

Is this the end of globalization? Hardly. This is merely a company recognizing that saving salary costs is not there is to running a good business. As Delta's chief executive, Richard Anderson said, "Our customers are not shy about letting us have that feedback [low tolerance of call centers in foreign countries]." Globalization is not about sending everything offshore but about sending things offshore that can be done more effectively offshore. Call centers are not always the best things to offshore.

It is unlikely that I will ever buy a Dell computer that is not in their XPS line simply because of the support I get from them. I am able to talk to intelligent people, in my native language, who understand what they are doing. Too often the foreign call centers are merely low-level representatives who do nothing but read scripts presented on a computer screen.

Part of the outrage is the language barrier. I'm not sure I agree that is the major problem. I have been able to understand most of the people in India I have spoken with but they do seem to miss some expressions. My complaint is that they are typically of very little help. It is only after being elevated several levels that I am able to get someone who can solve my problem.

This is a smart move by Delta and others will hopefully follow.

On Monday I noticed that my iPhone was getting unusually warm, even I wasn't using it. I also noticed that it was not holding charge anywhere near the amount of time it did on Sunday. I tried a reboot, did a restore, double checked the settings, and on Tuesday it was still not working like it should. I asked around and no one else was having the same problem so I called Apple Support.

I first get to talk to a computer as my call is directed to the appropriate people. As long as the voice is not annoying and process is quick, I don't mind talking to a computer at all. Once I get directed to the appropriate place I get a message telling me that my estimated wait time is 5 minutes. With AT&T I always get the "we are experiencing an unusually high call volume" which makes me questions, how does it take for an unusually high call volume to become normal call volume?

While I am waiting I am asked by the computer if I would like to be directed to a web site that may could help me solve my problem. I replied "no" and was simply placed on hold. With AT&T you are not given a choice, you are forced to listen to trouble shooting that you have already been through. Those of us with half a brain know that if the problem is simple, looking it up on the web is usually faster than calling tech support. Thank you Apple for not assuming I'm too freaking stupid to try to solve the problem on my own.

Way less that 5 minutes later, a real person answers the phone and I give him the vitals--product, serial number, email address, name, etc. I then describe the problem and he says it does indeed sound like a battery problem. None of the usual AT&T garbage about powering it down, let's walk through fifty steps that you have already been through and then we get somewhere. Nope, it was a simple "you've got a battery problem."

The tech rep then presented me with three repair options. I could send the phone in, have it repaired or replaced, and returned in a few days. I could pay a $30 fee and have Apple ship me a new phone and I could return the broken one. Or, I could go to an Apple Store and have it looked at and replaced. Given my travel schedule and the possibility of not having a replacement arrive in time, I opted for the Apple Store.

He tech rep set up an appointment with the Genius Bar at the Apple Store in Ridgeland, Mississippi. It was a two hour drive away but worth it to get the phone ASAP. I drove to the Apple Store later in the day and arrived at the Genius Bar about ten minutes before my appointment. I was warmly greeted at the store and logged in as having arrived for my appointment.

I went to the Genius Bar and they asked me to wait a few minutes and someone would be with me shortly. Right on time, someone called me up. Imagine that, actually being called at the time of your appointment. (Medical doctors--take note!) It took very little time for the Genius to agree that my phone needed to be replaced and he set about getting a new one and activating it.

My new phone did not have enough juice to activate so it had to be plugged in and charged for a few minutes. During those few minutes I wandered around the store and the assistant manager, who I met about ten minutes prior, walked up, called me by name, and asked if there was a problem. He was actually concerned that I was not getting the service I needed. He and I talked for a few more minutes, I looked around a few more minutes, and then my phone was ready. No hassles, no arguments, no problems. I actually left feeling good about the experience.

Compare that to my experiences with AT&T. I am always in a worse mood after talking to them than I was in before I talked to them. They always assume I am an idiot and we start each and every session at square one. Seldom is the issue resolved after one call.

Now I have to admit that Apple is not the only company with good service. I have been impressed with the service given by Dell's XPS technical support. The biggest problem I have had with Dell was the actual ordering of a computer last year. I also have not had much luck in working with their customer service, but their XPS technical support is great.

AT&T, take a lesson from Dell and Apple. With a little effort you too can have satisfied customers.

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