Fast Company

Lost in Translation

I know there's been plenty of reportage about the hilarity of dealing with offshore customer relations centers. But until you are actually trying to wring an answer out of a woefully ill-prepared live-chat support somebody, it's hard to fathom how embarrassingly bad the problem is. Witness this chat transcript from my wife's attempt to ask about an apparently critical part of our swank new HP Photosmart printer that our 11-month-old son ripped out. It's like one of those 10-minute conversations you have while travelling in a country where you don't speak the language just to ask where the bathroom is.

George Welcome to HP Total Care for Photosmart Products. My name is George. How may I assist you today?

Meg Hey george

Meg my son got to my printer

Meg and disconnected the guide for the print cartridges

Meg it is as plastic guide?

George May I have the Model number of your product please?

Meg oh sure - photosmart 7550

George How may I assist you today?

Meg The plastic guide wire for the print cartridge cradle was disconnected

Meg can i reconnect it - if so how?

George May I have Serial number and Product number of the product ? Serial number is a 10 digit alpha numeric number & Product number is a 6 digit number. You will find the Serial number and Product number on the rear side of the Product (Bottom portion) i.e., on the Bar code.

Meg serial number is XXXXXXXXXX


Meg product number is XXXXXX

George May I know the Purchase date of the product ?

Meg i don't have the exact date - but it was in november of 2004

George Meg, As it this wire is not the user replaceable part

George We don't recommend to attach the wire in the printer

Meg i don't understand

George I am sorry to inform you that , As we are experiencing the technical difficulties with our internal tools in checking out the Product (Printer) information in our database

Meg huh?

George If you are not comfortable , You can call our Phone support technicians at 1-800-474-6836. They will replace the whole unit for you with a new one

George I realize how trying the situation is, and I certainly would like to assure you of our best services as your satisfaction is our primary goal.

George Also, The whole chat transcript will be mailed to your EMail address shortly for your further reference.

George Are you with me (Just for Confirmation) ?

Meg i am here

George I am sorry, If I sound unhelpful anywhere during our chat session.

Meg no problem - i just don't understand what you are saying

George I apologize for the inconvenience caused.

George Meg, I request you to call our phone support technicians

Meg i am on the phone with them right now

George I appreciate all your efforts in resolving the issue.

George May I disconnect the chat session with your permission now ?

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6 Comments

  • Tim

    The real question here should be, How many times have you found a better experience using a fansites Forums, Bulletin Board, ect., than actually calling the companies tech support?

    It's always amazed how much more informative these fansites are as opposed to the companies own FAQ or knowledge bases. Funny that I can never find a company who has knowledge of the problems I have with their products, but I can find hundreds of their customers who do! Don't they use their own products? Why should I?

    BTW, this type of support is cheaper than overseas labor.

  • M. Russell Stewart

    An interesting thought came to me as I read the other posts here - Maybe the "scourge" of off-shoring will actually help revive the job market in the U.S. I can see this problem with ill-informed and poorly-trained CS reps overseas getting so bad that hundreds of U.S.-based companies will begin to offer CS from the states, creating many new jobs and drawing millions of customers simply because of the way they are treated when they have a question or problem.

    Now, this will most likely require that the customers pay more for the goods in order to have such an experience, but that is nothing new (Starbucks comes to mind). Maybe the lack of "personal" attention to our needs will be the catalyst that allows America to retrieve what it is currently losing.

    Maybe it won't happen, but I can't see how things can continue this way without revolution from the American consumer.

    MAS

  • jaded

    I had a similar experience on the phone with AOL. I kept asking "is the problem my password or that I don't have access to the account info?" The response was something along the lines of "I am unable to verify the information you responded with an unable to continue with this conversation. If you would like additional help please contact account services.

    Or some other robot like response.

  • Steve

    Just had s similar chat session with a Comcast Cable Internet rep yesterday. His English was fine, but for the first couple minutes I was sure I was talking to a 'bot' -- a computer pretending to be a human. Once the rep decided he couldn't help me, he just ended the session -- the chat equivalent of hanging up on the customer. Why is it so hard for companies to get something so simple right?