Should Foreign Call Center Workers Disclose their Location?

If freshman Congressman Jason Altmire of Pennsylvania has his way, foreign call center employees would be required to disclose their physical location when U.S. consumers call them. The congressman, a Democrat, has filed legislation called the Call Center Consumer's Right to Know Act that would require call center employees to state their physical location when called by consumers. Senator John Kerry, D-Mass., sponsored a similar bill in 2003 and last year.

Altmire's supporters believe location disclosure would inform consumers that many of their calls have been redirected to foreign countries and will focus attention on the degree to which U.S. call center jobs have moved overseas. The issue is an important one in Altmire's region; according to the Pittsburgh Regional Alliance, more than 20,000 persons are currently employed in call center work in southwestern Pennsylvania. It isn't a major thing to ask for, but are the benefits worth the hassle of making it necessary? What does Neowin think?

News source: InformationWeek

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This problem is IMHO a direct result of government programs like the Do Not Call lists.

Like it or not, a lot of call centres also do telemarketing i.e. outbound calling as opposed to inbound, since research clearly shows that it's drastically more effective than mail campaigns or the like.

People demand these DNC registries because they hate telemarketing. That creates an environment extremely unfriendly to call centres in general, reducing their profitability. Those centres then pull out of Canada and the US to fo to foreign markets where they can pay employees far less, taking those jobs away from Canadian and American workers in the process (and a LOT of them BTW). Then the same people who demanded the DNC lists bemoan the move of call centres to foreign countries, something they in fact precipitated.

I'd say you have to take the good with the bad if you want call centres to stay in North America.


1. If you can't figure out they are in a different country when you talk to them, get out of your house a little more. 90% of foreing people, that move to Canada or the US need to be highly educated; it's hard to get in without B.A. I promise 99% of those immigrant do not work in a call center to activate Windows XP.

2. Let's stop giving a tons of money to developing countries and keep about 50% of that money and give it to local company in form of grants so we can pay Bobby, who has a G.E.D and is in the union, 27$ an hour to activate Windows or read of a screen to troubleshoot a bad video card.

I think that makes a lot more sense then spending, again, tons of money to pass a bill to have people say....I'm not from North America.

I deal with a lot of technical support and just like any place some are good and some are not so good. Ask for another's in the procedure.

Have fun!!!

Just ask for someone that can speak better. If they get ****ed off, so what? It's not your fault they don't speak the language fluently enough.

Besides, anyone wanting a job like that needs to know that you don't go in there barely knowing the language. I mean, I know quite a bit of Spanish, but I'm not about to explain to Mexicans what's wrong with their computer in half-assed gibberish. I think customers deserve better. It's just that these big name companies want to cut costs. Who can blame them though? They can pay them a fraction of the cost with the same knowledge level as there is here.

I've worked for 4 international companies and trained people from all over the world in computer electronics and never had a big problem communicating. Just a few weeks ago I called HP about getting some parts for my laptop. I had one heck of a time getting the barely understandable call center tech to stop trying to fix my laptop. I didn't need him to fix or analyze anything. I needed to order a fan (it became very noisy and slow a month after the warranty was over) and the memory is flaky in some of the HP's, you have to get the same brand they use or you get memory errors. Paying a little more via HP was cheaper than replacing all the memory with a matching brand name for each piece to ward off the memory errors. I was upgrading the memory to the maximum as long as I was replacing the fan.

Not only did the tech barely speak English, he mumbled and as he talked he'd get quieter. After I got him to shut-up and listen to what I needed, that I just wanted to order parts, I had to keep reminding him to speak at a level where I could hear him.

I've done phone support too, high level, taking calls from our company techs from all over the world, often the same people I trained. I'd always remember to not use slang terms and as long as we spoke clearly we'd get the job done.

I think the law is a good idea. The companies using these call centers should be proactive and need to demand minimum language capabilities for those taking calls. Make random calls to test to see if they are getting what they pay for. If they did that the law would not be needed.

tao wrote : I want to know how they'd enforce it.

Let me expand on this a little. Even if the company is American, any offshore /foreign offices are subject to local laws. So if a foreign government passed a law making it illegal to tell where you were located (far fetched I know) then the American law requiring discloser would be powerless.

It is the height of arrogance to think that ANY law passed in America will automatically be honored by a foreign government. Personally, I have no thoughts one way or the other about whether a call center employee should reveal his/her location. It's the whole mentality behind this kind of law that upsets me so.

It has nothing to do with a foreign government. This is a law stating that the American company hiring the call center overseas must demand that they disclose their location according to American law. It would not be the call cetner that would be fined, but the company using them. If the other country should happen to have a law forbidding disclosure, the U.S. company would have to get a call center in a different country.

There are three major issues with out sourcing call centers.

1) It has taken jobs away from Americans. I've worked in 2 different call centers in collage years ago and it fed me and paid my bills until I could get a better job after collage. A bunch of people I know going to collage are having a really hard time finding small jobs so they can work and go to school because these call centers are shut down do to the out sourcing. There used to be tons of call centers around ASU and now they are almost non existant.

2) It is hard to understand most of them. Not all, but most.

3) They always seem to be reading a script, line for line, and they don't understand what I'm saying. I run a I.T. company and I need to call in for a warranty to get a part replaced for a client and I'll ask a question they don't have a clue how to answer and it's a simple tech support question. It makes it really frustrating when I can't even communicate with them and I end up telling the client to just pay for the part if it's cheap.

I think they should say where they are from so at least I can tell the level of support I'm getting. Mainly being a business owner, Americans should have first dibs on these jobs. There are a lot of poor families out there and they can't find work because these kinds of jobs are not availible anymore.

I like how Google is opening a data center in N Carolina and they are out sourcing all the work to local companies to increase the amount of jobs and work for that area. Good job Google!

After the foul experience in talking to Dell centers in the past. (who clearly had no training in the English language) I see no problem with this legislation, but can't see how it would change anything.

One experience I witnessed was quite the fun item though. One fellow student back in late 2003 was so fed up with his Latitude c840 (as he was like the 9-10th student to have a defective C840) he managed to get out of the call center where they were located (Panama) and toyed with the Dell service person on the other end of the line. Like "Do you feel safe swimming out in the Canal? " Needless to say the call last a good hour and he didn't really get anywhere with them.

After I'd had 15 service calls to the house to fix my C840, I complained to the BBB and received a replacement D800. Then back in January , almost a year passed my warranty expiration, they replaced it again because I raised concerns about the heat and the battery. They got me a D820. Which as powerful as the thing is, probably was done to shut me up. I'm still waiting to see if they send the Vista program or not. All done w/o talking to the stupid call center. I refuse to talk to the call center. Unless it's located in the states, I won't use Dell's call center.

if the accent is too strong I ask for someone else or a supervisor. If that doesn't work I hang up and call back over and over till it does. Got to talk to a VP of HP that way once.

How you define foreign though? You could have illegal-immigrants working in the call center but it wouldn't be foreign. There are a number of call-centers run in Canada that service exclusively to U.S. customers. I know, I worked in one.

Call-centers are careers for some and for others a means to another end. There are some stupid people that work in call centers. Many of these places have bad management, bad compensation, poor retention and high turnover. Can you really believe that you'll get a lot of smart people sticking around?

Lare2 said,
Like if we don't guess their location by their accent :P

Exactly, a Pakistani accent is different from an Indian accent, but then again the average American needs subtitles to understand anything but American English.

I think it's an excellent idea, some of these spport people can't even speak english properly, I called Microsoft support (support center location :Bangalore, India) once because I had a problem trying to activate XP, I could barely understand what the support guy was saying, I asked if he could pass me onto to somebody I could understand better, he hung up on me ! , I called back and the next guy accuses me of trying to activate a pirated or already activated XP, after complaining to Microsoft in Redmond,Wa I was able to activate XP.

I personally think all North American software companies should have support centers in North America and not overseas.

Microsoft's support center in India have voice coaches that teach the people how to talk like an "American" and use slang ... Nice one Bill & Steve !

But I think people have a right to know that they are calling a support center that is located overseas, I ordered a Pizza once from a pizza chain in Vancouver, B.C. called Panago Pizza, the pizza place is aproximately 2 blocks from where I was ordering from, the call center for Panago pizza place was in Calgary, Alberta. Well least it was still in the same country.

I am 100% behind this bill because I have worked in the call center industry for 17 years and I have watch all opportunities quickly erode in the USA for this kind of work. So you now have work force was trained in the call center industry and now what do they do? Who going to pay to re-educate them? How will they feed their familiies? Many call centers are already in economically surpressed areas and they provide a decent employment opportunity when there is no work available in the area. Is it glamorous, NO but it does give them a source of income and benefits.

As for the garmet industry comment, get a life! That comment is spoken like a true tech geek who lives in an affluent section of the country. The folks who were in the garment industry suffered because of it and if you ask the folks down in the Southern USA, they will tell you their local economies were devatsted by it. Drive through the South, you will be amazed at the poverty. It tooks years for them to recover and they are still looking for employers to move in to bring their economies back.

I am one of the lucky ones who did not suffer by the jobs being outsourced to India and the Phillipines but it will eventually hurt everyone in the USA. The call center industry was huge and it grew exponetially during the 80s and 90s to become one of the hottest job markets around. I wouldn't be where I am if I did not have the opportunities I was given by working for them. Yes, things are suppose change but call centers opportunities are evaporating so quickly you will have 500 people who lose their job in one week because their jobs are being outsourced.

Customers definitely have the right to know where their products are being supported from so they can make informed decisions about which products they use and who will support them when they have a problem. I know from personal experience that when these jobs are outsourced, the quality of the service is dreadful.

Do you need an exact location like 100 Main Steet in NY, no. Saying your call is being supported in India, yes. I don't want you to think that I am against globalization because I'm not becaus ethat is what the free market is about. But, I believe that if you are expecting support for a product, you should be able to speak to someone in your native language. The software company I worked for supported 10 different languages because that is where we sold our products. When you have an issue, the last thing you want to deal with is a language barrier. The unfortunated part of that situation is that both parties on the phone gets frustrated and nothing gets resolved.

This bill is a step in the right direction.

You can't be for globalization when in benefits you and against it when it doesn't because if your for it you have to accept all of it, which I don't and your not willing to do.
I've have more language issues here then I do when I call a help desk located somewhere else.
This bill does nothing for the issue but put the name of a place to channel resentment

I live in the UK. Everytime I call a call centre I ask where they are located and what their name is. I've always been told. Why shouldn't they tell you? That way, if someone messes up (and they do), I know who I talked to and where they were. I find it really helps to get a mistake corrected when you can be specific.

I have spoken to call centre staff from Scotland, E.I.R.E., India and South Africa.

I have only come across one clerk that was not helpful.

I also think these staff should get paid the same as if they were doing the same job in the country which sacked their staff to open the centres abroad.

In Britain the average salary for a call centre operative is £17,000. India it's about £3,000.

Now that to me is slave labor.

I know where they come from also as they tell me when asked.

I usually like to flirt with the women staff, their accents give it away when I ask where they are, like Jane from India, ha ha rather than Toral from India the men we usually chat about cricket and how well or bad the Indian team are doing.

It's not fully slave labor - you should remember that £3k in India is not the same as £3k in the UK due to different cost of living, food, etc.

I think if this bill passes it's just fueling a fire against offshore jobs such as those within call centers around the world. It should not matter where the tech is that is helping someone out on the phone as long as that tech has the same training as everyone else.

Something like this is just going to pin point the amount of work that has been shipped out, how companies in the US are shipping these jobs away to 'reduce costs' in order to have their profits seem larger with some shady number crunching happening in the background.

Honestly, it all depends on the time of day that one calls in. I know that in our center, when people have called in more than once, they quickly realize to call in the mornings so that they can speak to someone in North America as opposed to the other side of the world. Time Zones are amazing things!

A bill like this is going to spark more hatred towards certain cultures out there, which is just sad in this day and age.

Tbh, there's no need, as you can usually tell roughly where they are just by the accents

From a point of veiw from a Brit who often needs to use overseas call centres, no offence meant, but call centres in india for UK companies do not work.

Yes their english is usually very good, however, their accents mean they cannot pronounce some works properly, making it very hard to understand. Sometimes, you get very good reps, who try their best to solve your problem, however, often, its very hard to get much sense out of call centres in asia.

Please understand, I'm not being racist here, its just that call centres outsourced to asia do not work, and its clear that the customers do not like it (which is why some call centres are moving back to the UK from India).

You know, I'm actually all for this bill.

A few years ago I worked at a call center in Las Vegas... When asked where we were located, we were REQUIRED to say Colorado. Heck, a friend of mine that worked in the Dominican Republic for a Call Center was told to answer Texas. Along with that, they gave him, daily, the weather report. Of course, they switched the states around every now and then. Florida/etc...

I think the proper requirement would be that they're not allowed to LIE about where they're located. However, requiring them to state their country truthfully; would be a nice change.

That's funny because I was on the phone with an Indian guy with a really thick accent, who said his name was "Joe." Yeah, I bet. So I promptly said, "Oh, well my name is Vishwa." Silence for about ten seconds... I wanted to crack up.

Yeap....i worked in call center as a technical support for a big antivirus company :-)....but i do say my original location even though our seniors wont allow it...but our team was quite good in our accent...but i didnt stay there long due to heavy work & always night duty!! i am jumped to IT field...

Many shout at our colleagues saying that they couldnt understand the slang (yeap..tats true), we will ask them whether they really need to speak to a US person, if they say yes, we will transfer them to US...but they need to wait for another 30 - 40 mins..(and persons calling during a virus attack will never want to wait, rather trys to understand the slang & fix there issue!)

i work in a call center for budget rent a car. anywhere all over the world, if you call to rent a car, you will reach my call center, which is in canada. when people ask where we are, we're not suppost to say, but if the customer makes a big deal about it (and they do, but i dont know why) then i just say eastern canada and they're satisfied with that.

I think it may help consumers decide if they purchase a product from a company in the future... I know some people are afraid to buy from Dell since the majority of their helpdesk is serviced from India..

Yeah and why is that? My experiences with the customer service there has been perfect. They are polite and know their sh*t, which is something I can't say for customer service here in Canada.
But with that said...
Little foo foo bills like this make me sick. They are nothing but smoke and in reality no more than throwing a dog a bone. If the REAL interest of the people is what these politicians are trying to protect how about passing legislation that restricts the outsourcing of jobs by corporations that have their headquarters based in the US! I mean really, who cares about finding out where a job that should be held by an American is being held instead? It's already too late at that point isn't it?
Globalization is a cash cow that serves only a few and is not needed by the rest.............kind of like politicians!

Well I worked in a call center for Verizon, and whenever anyone asked where we were located we were supposed to say "We're located in the United States but I can't disclose where due to security reasons".

I don't think people should be FORCED to say "hey we're not in the US" but if they were asked I don't think it would hurt to say "No we're located in *place*".

Yeah, because everyone's inspecting their clothes to see where they're made.

The 'help desk' industry is going the way of the textile industry. The economy didn't fall apart before, and it won't fall apart now.

Using clothes is a bad analogy. We don't usually have to call the clothing manufactuerer to figure out to fix the sleeve that tore or to replace a missing button, we either fix it ourselves or toss it and get a new one.

I don't think the help desks themselves should require the disclosure but simply the company when advertising their tech support, etc should be required to state something like "Some of our tech support is out-sourced to the following countries....... if you prefer you can reach one in the US by pressing 9, although there may be a longer wait for assistance"
Personally I wouldn't care where they are located, though I agree the overseas centers are taking potential jobs from us here. I also do think though a company who really cares about their customers would insist on the cost of having the support located in the US for US customers. Its difficult enough to explain a problem over the phone, never mind trying to explain it to someone who doesn't understand idioms or slang.

Jack31081 said,
Yeah, because everyone's inspecting their clothes to see where they're made.

The 'help desk' industry is going the way of the textile industry. The economy didn't fall apart before, and it won't fall apart now.

Uh... well, if you're gonna use that as an analogy, yes it did. Across many parts of northern England and elsewhere in the UK (and US no doubt) where textiles had been the #1 industry. Maybe the national balance-sheet recovered through other industries taking up the slack, but those local economies, many of them at least, are still broke as f*** for that very reason.

I do get where you're coming from. It does seem a bit like hypocrisy, but where clothing is concerned, that ship has sailed. The textile industry will probably never now return to the West at the strength it once had, but the call-centre phenomenon is happening before our eyes right now, and can possibly be curbed by consumer-power -- *if* consumers decide they get better service in their own country (highly debatable, but hey, the West is still horrifically racist after all).