What Is "Quality Assurance" To An Indian Call Center?

What really happens when you connect to an Indian call center? An anonymous tipster responsible for quality assurance gave us an insider’s perspective, which we will share throughout the day.

You know the ‘this call may be recorded for quality and training purposes” message you hear? I’m that guy. I’m the one that listens, finds problems, and fixes them.

To most Indian call centers, quality assurance has nothing to do with the happiness of the caller, and everything to do with how well the agent toes the company line.

Our tipster explains, after the jump…


I have no power when it comes to how the process is handled, but if I see something is causing problems, I can send a complaint up the totem pole. My focus is just on helping the agents communicate better, and offer better solutions within the framework that the company provided.

Western corporations retain call centers and provide them with clear service guidelines that spell out what resolutions can be used in a given situation. Agents are closely monitored to ensure that these guidelines are followed.

There are lots of people who screen calls. Most are from a “quality” standpoint, or how much the calls fit the guidelines set by the client. There 2-3 people on site who do that, and another 2-3 in the US, working for the company itself. For each agent, they monitor around 5-10 calls per month, depending on whether that agent has had problems, or how new they are. My monitoring varies widely. Sometimes I listen to around 10-20 calls a month for each agent, but once I’ve gathered enough info, I’ll focus more on training.

Though agents are monitored and metrics are tabulated, the structure of call centers prevents the adoption of consumer-friendly changes.

The thing about any corporation like this, and the thing that causes most of the problems in customer service, is that there are just so many people doing so many jobs, that no one quite understands the hierarchy. I mean yes, each department has a head. That head has a boss that presides over the whole building. Then he has a boss that presides over all outsourced centers. Then he reports to the guy that runs all the call centers. But around that are so many team leads and managers, and supervisors, people in quality, training, quality & training, that no one really fully understands what is whose job. I’ve never actually met the man who is technically my boss. Anything I need to get done gets passed through so many people at so many sites while they try to figure out whose job it is, that it takes months.

— CAREY GREENBERG-BERGER

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  1. dwarf74 says:

    I was a quality assurance guy at AFNI – a collections and outsourcing (sorry! I mean upsourcing) company. This sounds a lot like my job was, only mine was based here in Illinois rather than Bombay or what-have-you. I would listen to calls and highlight the problems based on a list of expectations the client had. This was incredibly nit-picky stuff, which in the end, somehow added up to “quality.” Pretty much the only important measures were how long it was taking our reps to process the calls & how long they spent in after-call work. While cusotmer service was important, since we were one step removed from the actual company, we didn’t have too much invested in their success and/or failure.

    Maybe I’ll send something in myself later on… I’ve fortunately moved on, but I still remember all of that stuff plain as day.

  2. lpranal says:

    What we need, is a retaliatory consumerist recording to play, as soon as a human being is finally reached on the other end. Something like

    “This call may be recorded and submitted to theconsumerist dot com for actual quality assurance”

  3. dantsea says:

    I did call center QA for HyperQuality, in Seattle. There are many Fortune 500 companies in the client roster, including many of the ones mentioned here on a weekly (or sometimes daily) basis.

    Our company sells clients on affordable QA by operating a massive evaluation center in India, just outside of Delhi. They didn’t really care for those of us doing the work in Seattle because we represented the companies who didn’t believe that offshoring wasn’t The Ultimate Answer To Everything. I think they’ve since had an epiphany (“you mean we can charge clients ten times as more?”) but that’s a story for my personal blog.

    What was amazing to me was how much companies would spend on QA monitoring and evaluations, things that went far beyond AHT and mere company policy, and once they had that data in hand, not do a damn thing with it. Day after day and then week after week and then month after month I would monitor the same crappy agents pissing off customers by not knowing their jobs, giving out incorrect information of being just plain insulting. Never an indication that any problem was seriously addressed, so along with my co-workers, we decided that any agent who suddenly dropped off the radar had probably quit, as opposed to getting fired.

    The problem, in my opinion, had to do with management at the client’s end. They outsource QA and they outsource the call centers. Management at the call center end is ferociously invested in telling everyone that the sun is shining and the weather is always fine. They’ll make a million excuses for the crappy performance of their agent and continually blame the client for not providing them with clear direction. Client management rolls over and says “okay” so that a negative evaluation becomes a “coaching experience” and lather, rinse and repeat the next day.

    I hate to say it, but the only clients who used outsourcing on both ends had to be really heavy-handed and assertive to make everything work correctly. But I couldn’t help but wonder: If you’re going to go through that much drama and bullshit, wouldn’t it be cheaper just to bring everything in-house?

  4. Xeelee says:

    Ah, quality assurance… in the call center I work at the people who do QA are pretty much on top of things, since I’m told they constantly get feedback from the Client so we actually – as agents – get the customer the solution in a manner that at least doesn’t offend. It’s in part thanks to this care that I have a job that pays very well compared to other places or other call centers around here.

    As an agent taking calls I’m monitored constantly by both my direct supervisor, by the QA people and in addition people from the Client might come in and do live monitoring of calls. If I do something that doesn’t fit the ideal they make it a point to let me know what I did and how to fix it. The basic reward for having good QA is money in the form of bonuses; having good QA helps open doors to higher positions with better pay and better bonuses.

    Basically, it means all the good agents leave for better positions, leaving the ones with a poor record behind. This might explain why people get so pissed off at call center workers.

    Now, we’re not based in India. The company I work for operates a few US-based call centers but the bulk of the operation is run from Mexico. Not as cheap as going across the ocean but we’ve still got a “Western mindset” that pretty much guarantees compatibility between the agent and the person calling in.

  5. Xeelee says:

    @lpranal: You’d be surprised :P as of now I’m required by the Client to ask the caller to rate my service. I usually get a 5(outstanding) but there are times when you simply can’t do what it’s asked from me by the caller.

    It makes for some really awkward situations, especially when the caller didn’t get what s/he wanted.

  6. krunk4ever says:

    I was thinking… instead of just randomly choose 5-10 calls to listen to per agent, you could chose the 5-10 longest calls per agent.

    This will allow you to see:
    * what made this call so long
    * how it could’ve been improved
    * how it could’ve been shortened
    * what areas were blocking the agent from providing the support he needed to give
    * how well does the agent act under stress (assuming most long calls are from unhappy customers)

  7. mac-phisto says:

    sounds like it’s time for a visit from the bobs.

    We’re gonna be getting rid of these people here… First, Mr. Samir Naga… Naga… Naga… Not gonna work here anymore, anyway.

  8. harleymcc says:

    @krunk4ever:

    Good idea, but then you don’t see the call avoidance ones.

  9. matdevdug says:

    Despite the fact that this is going to sound horrible I need to say that Indian calling centers are the worst thing to ever happen to customer service. More times than I would like to admit I can’t understand what they are saying or they cannot understand me. Even if their English is perfect they are often rude or just so unhelpful that it makes me want to shoot myself.

    I work in IT and often have to call these call centers to get new parts and so often they make huge mistakes on their orders that cost their corporation hundreds if not thousands of dollars. For instance, we ordered a lot of new hard drives for a HP server and they ended up sending us top of the line drives when we ordered the bargain ones and they charged us for the bargain ones. HP didn’t catch on and we kept the new ones for having to sit on the phone for an hour.

    In the end what having an Indian call center says to me is that you don’t stand enough behind your product that you would invest the money in hiring Americans for a call center.

    Now excuse me while I go call Dell and explain I don’t need a new motherboard just a new videocard and they don’t have to send out a tech.. . .

  10. dantsea says:

    Holy crap, I was more incoherent than usual this morning. But you get the idea. I hope.

  11. ATTSlave says:

    @dwarf74: I used to work for afni which center did you work in? MLK?

  12. dwarf74 says:

    @ATTSlave: I worked over in Brock first, when Verizon Communications was over there. Then I moved to Wylie, where I ended up getting moved to Excel (ick)… I left there for greener pastures. :) I only went to MLK when I had a meeting or training of one sort or another.

  13. ATTSlave says:

    @dwarf74: It was my first job too I only worked there because my dad knew Bruce.

  14. dwarf74 says:

    @ATTSlave: That’s as good a reason as any. :) I was just fresh out of grad school without zero ambition and needed something to pay the bills while I was looking for a real job. Oh well… It was good experience, and absolutely everywhere looked better by the time I was done!

  15. motard66 says:

    I had a Dell computer. Once. Sure it was cheap, but i missed a payment (I moved, mail got messed up, my fault, ultimately, BUT) and got put on some Dell call list where every night, my phone would ring repeatedly, for fucking hours, and it was Dell Customer Service in India, harrassing me. They wouldn’t work with me, they wouldn’t listen to me, wouldn’t take my # off their call list, nor could i understand them; it was a nightmare. One night, after they called me 20 times in a row (I stopped answering my phone after the first call), i tried to contact Dell in AUstin, and they could give a shit and said “oh, well, those aren’t our employees; they’re subcontracted, and there’s nothing we can do.” So the next day i changed my phone number. And I will never buy a Dell product again.