Customer Service: Steves Better at It

By John Taschek  |  Posted 2001-08-06 Print this article Print

It's not the best time to promote outsourcing labor to foreign countries, but all cost-cutting, efficiency-inducing measures are looking awfully good right now, I bet.

Its not the best time to promote outsourcing labor to foreign countries, but all cost-cutting, efficiency-inducing measures are looking awfully good right now, I bet.

Of course, to those Americans who are out of work and to those who think H1-B visas have robbed Americans of jobs, the idea stinks. They shouldnt worry, though, because Im not talking about outsourcing the good kind of labor thats enjoyable and pays the bills. Im talking about customer service, which Americans are lousy at anyway.

C-Cubed Solutions is one company that specializes in enabling businesses to outsource their customer service and call centers. The result is that companies can have a 24-by-7 support staff familiar with their products at a lower cost than they could if they tried to do it themselves.

How C-Cubed does this is not amazing. Its not even innovative, really. Its as basic as you can get. Companies feed C-Cubed their catalog SKUs, FAQs and other info. C-Cubed puts this info into a database and trains its specialists based in Mumbai, India, how to provide support and to side-sell, upsell and cross-sell any way they can.

C-Cubeds big wins are with Sony and—two vastly different entities that just begged to be tested. Because I own a couple of Sonys products, I tried Sonys site. The person I talked with was named "Steve," which Im sure was an alias for something like Sanjiv because hes most likely never left Mumbai in his entire life. But Steve knows more about computers than any of the untrained, usually unavailable CompUSA workers.

He was bright and cheerful. In other words, he was as un-American as you can get in the customer service field. He did make a couple of sales pitches but nothing too aggressive. He refused to admit where he was based or how C-Cubeds software worked (its a Java application based on eShare Communications platform).

From what Ive seen at Sonys site and heard through conversations with the execs at Allpets, C-Cubed does the job. Its the sad truth that customer service representatives in the United States are either not all that friendly or are not knowledgeable. But at least there are options.

As the director of eWEEK Labs, John manages a staff that tests and analyzes a wide range of corporate technology products. He has been instrumental in expanding eWEEK Labs' analyses into actual user environments, and has continually engineered the Labs for accurate portrayal of true enterprise infrastructures. John also writes eWEEK's 'Wide Angle' column, which challenges readers interested in enterprise products and strategies to reconsider old assumptions and think about existing IT problems in new ways. Prior to his tenure at eWEEK, which started in 1994, Taschek headed up the performance testing lab at PC/Computing magazine (now called Smart Business). Taschek got his start in IT in Washington D.C., holding various technical positions at the National Alliance of Business and the Department of Housing and Urban Development. There, he and his colleagues assisted the government office with integrating the Windows desktop operating system with HUD's legacy mainframe and mid-range servers.

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