I just hung up on the 3rd non-native English speaker — am I a racist?
I just hung up on the third probably off shore Philippine or Indian customer support agent talking a mile a minute in what may have been English. I’m not sure because I simply couldn’t understand either one of them.
Does that make me a racist? I sure felt like one today, except…
I don’t think so. I think it makes me a customer who is being thwarted by the insistence of corporate America to cut corners in the name of profit. And I’m angry.
Look, I mostly write for a living and that means dealing with computers and websites. I’ve been online since 300 baud. I know how difficult a customer support gig can be because back in the day I’ve done some.
My once favorite web host sold itself to a much bigger company and customer service, which got transferred at least in part to the Philippines. Those poor folks weren’t given enough training to actually solve anything but the most basic of problems. No server jockeys around, I’d go in a queue and wait up to 48 hours for an email written by a hardware geek who undoubtedly knew what he was talking about but I couldn’t understand him either and he was writing in English.
Once I got one of the Filipinos to talk with me about how much he was paid, practically nothing, and what he knew about computers — a lot. He solved my tech problem with a whisper because he was going so far beyond the canned answers he had been given to use; he could have been fired for helping me they way he did. I ended up apologizing to him for the way we American’s were treating him. I think it was tears I heard in his voice.
It seems to me, as a customer I should be able to speak with a customer service agent I understand. I’m sure there are Irish brogues I wouldn’t under stand either even though I have plenty of Irish in my very white lineage.
Oh, and today as I continue to unwind my life with the web host I’m trying to leave, when it asked me what I needed help with, I said ‘name servers.’ “I can help with that,” said the not quite human voice. “I can tell you what to do or send you an email.”
I gambled and said ‘tell me’ and it listed umteen steps so fast I would have been lucky to write down every third one. There was no way to stop it, so I hung up. This time in answer to it’s query I said ‘send an email.’ It promptly put me through in record time to a live customer service agent. It would be funny if it wasn’t so pathetic.
After that, I tried something different. I asked the next guy with an accent I couldn’t understand it he could find me a native speaking American. I felt guilty as H, as if I was supposed to be able to understand his thick accent. I think he was relieved because he found me someone who grew up speaking American English. That guy also talked rapid fire but when I asked him to slow down he laughed and was able to. We got through my problem pretty quickly.
I guess that will be my approach from now on if it that means some customer support folks want to call me racist I’ll just have to live with it. Or perhaps they’ll rejoice. It must be awful trying to communicate computer stuff to someone who truly can’t understand you.
Maybe in some future time our planet as melting pot will mean it’s much easier for all of us to understand each other.
Write well and often,
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