I spent 90 minutes on the phone with United’s overseas call center in the Philippines yesterday…to make an award ticket change that should have taken two minutes. It underscores the importance of airline call center agents joining forces in a “Pickup Tour” to keep jobs in the USA.
I am not necessarily opposed to overseas call centers. But I vehemently oppose dumping poorly trained agents with poor communication skills in a customer-facing position. Unfortunately, both Delta and United use agents from the Philippines that are so inept that simple changes turn into marathon phone calls. Every time. Every single time.
I could go on and on with horror stories, but I’ll instead offer this question: how much money is saved when it takes an agent 10x as long to make a change than it takes a call center agent in the USA?
A Bill to Protect Consumers and U.S. Workers?
That’s why I am watching with keen interest if the Communication Workers of America (CWA) will be able to push its controversial new bill through Congress. The CWA is not limited to airline call agents, but includes thousands of them. Currently, the CWA is in the midst of Midwest tour to promote its cause.
Speakers at every stop are calling on Congress to enact the U.S. Call Center Worker and Consumer Protection Act, H.R. 1300 and S. 515, which requires that U.S. callers be told the location of the call center to which they are speaking and offers callers the opportunity to be connected to a U.S.-based center if preferred, and makes U.S. companies that off-shore call center jobs from the U.S. ineligible for certain federal grants and taxpayer-funded loans.
I don’t think this bill has much of a chance of passing in a Republican-controlled Congress. Furthermore, I don’t even know if the bill will help more than harm. But I suspect the populist President Trump would support it and I absolutely think the federal government can and should condition corporate tax benefits upon keeping jobs in the USA.
This is a timely protest — even before hearing about this action and proposed bill, I was about rip into United and Delta for forcing such poorly trained agents upon consumers. Even if this bill is not successful, perhaps it will cause some positive voluntary changes at major airlines and hotels while economic times are good.
I detest United’s Philippines call center. Total incompetence reins if you ask anything other than the most basic request. Ask something mildly complicated and prepare to want to bash your head against the wall.
United’s Board of Directors should be required to book their next 5 flights and see first hand how outrageously bad their Phillipines call center truly is. Penny pinching madness that ends up costing a fortune.
I agree. My company is based in Australia and we have moved 98% of our support staff to call centers in the Philippines. Now these are support even for our own employees, much of our IT support, etc. It isn’t always bad as many are highly skilled staff but language can be a barrier. Now when you take this model and apply lower skilled workers you get the 90 minute simple task situations that are isolated to off shore CSR’s unfortunately. I guess what I’m saying is that I fully support giving American’s jobs first where possible as I’m an American but if they aren’t good either then it matters little. A company is only as good as it’s weakest link.
Amen! If I hear a pause, then a slight hiss and then “Fred” pick up….HUCA immediately until I get an agent with no accent.
Yes, I know many are trained to sound “midwestern” but it takes about two seconds to figure out whether real or not. Maybe one second.
Delta is quite good even as a lowly Gold Medallion. I imagine Platinum and Diamond are even better.
United, as you mentioned, is simply awful
But I challenge anyone to find worse agents than IHG/Priority Club(Intercontinental, Holiday Inn etc…). Most barely speak English.
And AMEX should be ashamed when they route premium card members to India or The Philippines.
Your basic premise makes a lot of sense. Give me an American(or Canadian) agent that can CONFIDENTLY fix my issue in 3 or 4 minutes vs 25 or 30 while I wrestle with a basic language barrier.
It’s not a call center more a support function, but Starwood has outsourced part of their BRG team to India and its just terrible. It’s almost impossible to get a claim approved. Just results in more calls to US desk.
And Sprint !
OMG this infuriates me to no end! United and Sprint are the absolute worst. I spent two days with those monkeys last month trying to setup service with Sprint. It took hours and hours of being re-routed to the SAME department over and over again (in the US I might add, who were just as annoyed), only to be told I had to deal with the original outsourced agent to finish the setup. This, after I begged and pleaded the US agent not to leave the call!!! What I don’t get is that as a company you are trying to sell something, and if I was paying, why would you want that being your first interaction with your company? It astounds me.
Nothing to do with language barrier, do you think the agent here in the US can help you any better, they don’t even understand it themselves unless you provide them guidance if you are familiar with it yourself or else it would be just a frustrating call. Company don’t want to spend on training!
I remember when I stared working at US Airways in 2005 and they had an overseas call center. You could hardly ever understand them, they knew nothing about US geography and most employees just wound up going to the airport to get things done. How can you have a call center when people don’t even understand English? Doug Parker made it his mission to move all call centers to the USA because he couldn’t understand their English and the airline’s elite customers complained about the overseas call centers way too much. I am surprised that DL and UA would have overseas call centers to help US customers.
Always enjoy when filipinos pick up.. Make communicating more easier for me.. Called united weeks ago, and agent very friendly and helped in 5 minutes
Are you Filipino?
5/3 Bank and Barclays use Phillipine Call Centers to handle American banking customers….I am sure there are others.
I find Filipinos to be warm and charming, but my frustration is that overseas call center agents never seem very empowered to take action on anything. They seem to exist to answer questions, but not actually do anything.
Add AT&T and Hotels.com to that Philippines list. It’s just downright frustrating dealing with these inept offshore resources. Last year my AT&T internet was down for a week. There was no sense of urgency or care on their part to get my internet working again. Grrrrr. I guess I am lucky in that for the most part Americans seem to answer my UA and DL phone calls, and I hope it stays that way.
Matthew, I am sure that you never have to suffer these foreign CSRs as a 1K. I never do as a Silver and even occasionally get the “1K desk.” Regardless, I agree it cheapens these American brands. I absolutely hate Amex and one of the reasons is outsourcing everything from credit analysts to account managers! I don’t require that everyone I speak to be American but I do expect them to speak English. Anything else is an insult.
I actually suffer through them often. I don’t abuse my status when I call on behalf of clients, which means I get overseas call centers more often than I’d like. Much more often…
Comcast also uses the Philippines, they don’t speak very good English and you spend hours from them transferring you to agent to agent. Ridiculous
Oh but they do “speak” English, they just don’t use the American vernacular or have the ability to reason and think out of the box when someone presents a problem. Sorry to say I have literally been driven to tears with Priceline (for a relative) just trying to date change an airline ticket (fully ready to pay the penalty) yet we got at least five different answers of if and how we could or could not do it at all. Even escalating to “supervisors” was futile, with yet a different twist on the problem…….Literally had to BEG for an “exception” and they finally made the change with a $300 penalty per person. This took two days of calling !!!! Exhausting…….and I’ve been an airline employee for 35+ years so could cut right to the chase and they still don’t get it. Exhausting.
What compounds the frustration is that these call center employees are not working for or actually being paid by the companies they answer phones for. They work for third party vendors who pay them and offer no benefits, certainly not by American or Western society standards. Ergo, they have no dedication or desire to really help people with their problems – and isn’t that why anyone would call them, because they need a problem fixed or something changed that they cannot do themselves ?
I have no idea why some people feel the Philippine call centers are “so great”(never mind India). They are friendly people but if they can’t do something for me in a timely manner, the repetitive “thank you for being a customer” and meaningless apologies and inability to think out of the box is literally like banging one’s head against a wall.
The companies that use these overseas call centers are nothing but greedy money makers who benefit only those at the top and push down or push out AMERICAN WORKERS at the bottom. G.R.E.E.D. and you’ve got us by the short hairs.
Mumbai and Philipines is hard to deal with…When i hear the accent i say what part of India are you in??? vs where are you located??they do not want to tell ..One nite with AMEX i spoke to 7 agents in varied countries..i tried to get an american supervisor…not happening!!! The banks are bad to deal with also!!!