Foreign Call Centers, Airlines, and Frustration

The debate over domestic vs. “foreign” or “overseas” call centers has been around for decades now, as they have become increasingly popular. In many ways, I feel that consumers take it as a given they will reach an overseas call center when calling tech support, their credit card company, or their wireless provider.

Operators located in countries outside the United States usually have something of an accent to varying degrees, but you can usually work through it and accomplish whatever you set out to do when you called. You recognize your phone call would probably be much easier with a domestic call center, but you also realize the call quality could be much worse.

foreign call center frustration

My Most Recent Experience with a Foreign Call Center

Every so often, I dial a toll free number and my call is answered by a call center agent with such a thick accent, I wonder if they are speaking English at all. Did I miss some prompt asking me to dial “1” for English?

Taken by surprise and too confused to say stop, I listen and try to make out something, anything, for a clue as to why I cannot switch to a different flight on the same day. Here and there, I am able to pick out a few English words; corporate-sounding airline lingo like “bumping”, “base fare”, and “segment”. Contrived phrases like “we apologize for…” stick out awkwardly in a mess of indecipherable, heavily accented words.

It is like the audio version of the spam emails that clog up my inbox, but with occasional periods of being on-hold, where I hum along to tinny, instrumental renditions of old pop songs. …oh Mandy, well you came and you gave without taking… Eventually the call center supervisor gets on the line and it is the exact same person, as far as I can tell. They deepen their voice slightly and expect me to believe they’re a different person. OK, well, maybe not, but this new voice is not helping me any more than before.

The accent is slightly better, and most of the elements are there, but the grammar and syntax are both so wrong that it doesn’t matter much. I do not even want to get into what suggestions I would give to improve phone call quality at this call center. By this point, minutes have gone by and I can tell that our conversation is going nowhere, even with the new operator on the phone.

After about a minute with the “manager” it seems I am being transferred again, but I get the impression that, it is to someone with the power to change my flight! I have no idea what this itinerary adjustment will end up costing me. …well you kissed me and stopped me from shaking, and I need you today… As I sat there on hold, I realize that I am just happy this whole ordeal is almost over. Besides, a few days from now, I will be in sunny San Diego. Well, provided that I get my flight sorted out.


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