Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Xenophobic Customer Support

New York Senator Charles Schumer may be experiencing a bit of xenophobic tendencies in his newly submitted bill, S. 1536. This proposed legislation, sponsored by only two other accomplices (Sen. Casey and Sen. McCaskill) seeks to require all U.S. businesses that outsources "customer service communication," via phone or wire, to (1) require that the physical location of the customer service assistance must be disclosed at the commencement of the communication, (2) require U.S. businesses to certify compliance annually to the FTC, and (3) authorize the FTC to penalize businesses that fail to comply.

My goodness. Everyone knows that call centers are located all over the place, both inside and outside of the U.S. Does anyone really care where the call center is located? Is it not more important for consumer purposes that the call center employee communicate effectively so as to properly assist the consumer's inquiry? Frankly, I have communicated with call center employees whom I suspect are located within the U.S. yet speak poor English and are difficult to understand. I have communicated with call center employees whom I suspect are located outside of the U.S. who speak English very plainly.

I'm wondering if this type of legislation is really needed. Does this sort of bill speak more to the fear of foreign workers? The location of a call center is not important. Most people would be surprised that when they place a call to a Miami-based cruise line that they are likely speaking to a call center off a land-locked freeway interchange in Springfield, Oregon. This is but one example of how modern communication technology allows the placement of call centers anywhere in the world. The issue should not be where the call center is located. The issue, rather, should be whether the person on the other end of the line knows how to schedule a cruise, answer a question responsibly, and communicate well.

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