Outsourcing issues

Everybody is familiar with the trend to outsource customer service.  John Timmer wrote an article on ars technica called "Study: outsourcing can lead to plummeting customer loyalty" which details some of the results from this trend.
From my own experience with United Airlines and a number of other companies, I have found it very frustrating that clearing up problems that used to be so easy to solve before has now become so difficult.  But I don’t think it is necessarily the fault of the folks in India taking the calls.  It appears that before the switch to the Indian customer service call center that United Airlines had people answering the phones in the USA had a fully connected computer terminal with the authority to fix problems.  Now, the outsoucing companies appear to have a semi-connected terminal that has limited capabilities and very little authority to solve problems.  So all they can do is say, I’m sorry but I don’t have the ability to do that…
It appears the cost cutting is two-fold.  First of all, use low cost people to answer the phones. Second of all, give them limited abiltity to make the customer happy saving cost by reducing solutions that cost the company money.  The poor folks in India have become wipping boys for frustrated customers (no fault of their own). 
We recently spent 100,000 mileage points on 4 tickets from Boston to Redding, California (with a layover in San Francisco).  When confirming the flight, it appears that they didn’t reserve a spot for our small dog (which goes under the seat) and there was no alloted "pet" space on the leg from San Francisco to Redding.  So we asked if we could change the flight to Boston to San Francisco (keeping part of the flight), so we could drive the rest of the way 5 hours and still reach our destination.  From United Airlines point of view, that is the same points spent plus 8 free seats which is less fuel cost to them plus more seats available for them to sell (4 seats from San Francisco to Redding and 4 seats back from Redding to SFO).  Well they want to charge $400 to make the change which will save them money!  There is nothing they can do to help us.  We are not asking for anything for free, just something fair.  It appears that either their systems are either so locked down, or their process is so rigid, that they have completely lost the sence of what customer service is.  The outsorcing company appears to have their hands tied, but there is no way to speak to someone at United Airlines that can help.  The airline business is in such a nightmare state that they can do whatever they want, but wow we are loosing customer loyalty fast!
Have you had any bad experiences with outsourcing?

One thought on “Outsourcing issues

  1. Both on a personal and professional level the answer is emphatically yes. What I dont think they understand is that for every dollar they save in outsourcing such things as customer service they lose twice that in customer loyalty. For instance, I used to buy nothing but HP computers both for work and personally. That is no longer the case. I tire of the runaround I get, the pre printed scripts they read from and the fact that it is obvious they do not think for themselves. Of course, one support organization that is home grown called Geek Squad draws my most angry comments but that is a topic for another day.
    On airlines, your experience is similar to mine except mine usually involves getting bumped because some ticket agent double booked my seat. But as usual I as the consumer am powerless to do anything about it except write letters which no one seems to care about anymore. So what’s a traveling consultant (in my former occupation) to do? I do what many of us do which is to drive as much as I possibly can (see Louis Davidson log entry today http://drsql.spaces.live.com/blog/cns!80677FB08B3162E4!2140.entry ) but that may not be as attractive anymore either as he points out.

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