The call centre question

April 15, 2007

Oh dear, I do feel bad saying this, but I’ve had this problem several times now and I know I’m not the first: the accents of some call centre staff are becoming impenetrable to me.

Obviously when you’re on the phone to a call centre you don’t know whether it’s in Bradford or Bombay so I can’t say that it’s to do with the relocation of call centres, perhaps it is just a multi-culturalism issue within the UK. Yesterday, for example I rang Virgin Media’s customer services line. A gentleman with a very strong accent, from somewhere in Asia I would judge, answered, and I had a very painful time trying to understand what he was asking me to verify my identity. He then had a painful time trying to comprehend what I was asking him, and in the end I confess that in the end I gave up and politely said goodbye. I haven’t rung back yet.

Now it doesn’t take much brain to see that that isn’t good customer service, yet it’s a very sensitive difficulty to address. What should I do? Would it be acceptable to say that I’m having difficulty understanding and could I be passed to another operator? The elephant in the room of course is racism, but let me say plainly that this is not a race issue: I don’t care what race the operator is, only that I can understand them and vice versa.

Nor is this limited to Virgin Media, I had a similar experience with theTrainLine.com when I had to request a refund from them, and there have been other instances. I notice that Nationwide Building Society are running TV ads boasting of their “UK only” call centres, so I know I’m not alone, but in the meantime how do you deal with this problem where you find it?

Or is it just me getting old again? Sigh.

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