Avoid Outsourced CSRs By Asking For Someone Who Works At AT&T

A mysterious AT&T CSR tosses this little tidbit over the transom. You can get a non-outsourced CSR just by asking for one:

The company is outsourcing customer service jobs on the sly, and have been for at least a few months. Not to India, because that would be obvious, but to Canada. Alberta- to be specific. The newbies are working with a company called Convergys. These people seem to be going through a real crash course, and seem to know only how to read the sample scripting our computer system spits out. We’ve been having problems with them screwing up orders left and right, misquoting (or not quoting) rates and fees, and generally mucking up everything they touch. The bad part for customers, aside from not knowing exactly what they’re going to be paying every time, is that it seems like they’re not as ready to credit accounts when it they need to. I’m not sure they have the authority to give more than a few bucks back, which doesn’t always cut it.

We have a no outsourcing contract, but there’s a loophole allowing them to hire out temporarily if there are too many calls for the normal reps to handle. Soooo what they’ve done is freeze hiring, and make our quality standards so inflexible that everyone’s job seems to be in jeopardy. People are quitting and getting fired and there’s not enough people to take the calls, so what you have is outsourcing by attrition.

There’s a loophole for consumers also: when you call in, all you have to do is ask if the person works for att or for a company hired by att- if they aren’t they can request someone who does. Things will go better when you do.

Good to know. —MEGHANN MARCO

(Photo: mrbill)

UPDATE: A Convergys AT&T rep rebuts:

As a Cingular/New AT&T CSR at one of the Alberta based Convergys call centers mentioned in the story, I can understand why the original tipster feels the way they do about outsourced reps, however; asking for a US based employee is not necessarily going to ensure that customers are speaking with someone south of the 49th parallel.

It’s not that we would be unwilling to transfer the customer to an American rep, it’s just that it’s not an option available to us. In the call centers we can reach Cingular/New AT&T departments by either speed dials or 1-800 numbers. When we call these numbers our calls are transferred into the queue and answered by the first agent available. There is no way for us to call a specific call center. For example, if I were to call tier two technical support, I have an equal chance of speaking with a rep in California as I do with one in Canada.

If a customer were to ask to speak with someone who “works for AT&T”, as the American CSR suggested, the likely response would be “I can assure you that I do work for AT&T and I would be happy to resolve any issues you are having.”

If a caller were insistent on speaking with an American the only course of action we could take would be to call the customer care queue and ask each rep what call center they were in before we transferred the call. There are Convergys call centers operating in the United States as well, so even if a call was transfered to an American rep, the caller may still be speaking with an outsourced agent.

In regard to the other claims by the original tipster, we do get the exact same training as our non-outsourced counterparts, and have the same amounts available to credit.

Basically, I think that asking for an American rep would be an inefficient way for customers to deal with issues. My advice to customer is this, If you are not happy with the representative assisting you, escalate the call. Just ask for a supervisor; they’ve all got the same authority, regardless of their nationality.


Edit Your Comment

  1. Kornkob says:

    Because CSRs will always tell you the truth and an outsourcer has such a strong motivation to be honest in response to that question. /sarcasm

    Now it’s been a few years but there was a company called Sitel here in Madison and one of their contracts was for ATT support. They handed business lines mostly (and before that I was the technical lead for a helpdesk for their internal people– even got to visit the Florida ATT offices for the negotiations).

    I’m not sure when this ‘no outsourcing’ contact went into affect but it must have been fairly recently.

  2. jetmore says:

    FWIW, COnvergys also handles calls for OnStar.

  3. razz4901 says:

    Please…AT&T has been outsourcing customer service jobs for the last 6 years…in Fairhaven Massachusetts AT&T had a major call center employing 1000 AT&T union customer service reps handling inbound long distance billing questions…by outsourcing there are less than 100 reps left working at that site….the same happened all over the country…if you wanna pay 2 cents per minute to make a LD call the company has to save $$$$ somewhere and that somewhere was on the backs of its US based work force….I once was at a meeting with an AT&T Vice President of Consumer Long Distance he told this meeting that even if AT&T’s US based customer service reps worked for free and AT&T only had to pay benefits and taxes it is still cheaper doing business out of the country…the sad thing is many of the managers who voluntarily traveled to foreign country to train the outsource workers are still employed by AT&T….send me an email … I will tell you the names…am I bitter about AT&T laying everyone off…you bet….

  4. KernelPanic says:

    I enjoy the quite irony of the the old Ma Bell logo that is still burned into the side of the AT&T building.


  5. mac-phisto says:

    nice pic. that building reminds me of those big black cubes that the borg rode around in conquering the universe. which, imho, is a perfect analogy for at&t.

  6. ptkdude says:

    It is important to note with this story that it does not apply to Cingular. All Cingular CSRs are US-based.

  7. Kornkob says:

    Oh– and for the record, when I was at Sitel we were specifically prohibited from indicating that we worked for anyone BUT the person we answered the phone as. This was true on every contract: Nationwide, ATT, AOL, Fidelity, Solomon……

    Of coruse, things may have changed in 10 years.

  8. synergy says:

    I think that’s the building here in San Antonio. I drive or ride past it all the time. Bastards did lay off my brother 2 weeks after giving him and his crew a banquet for being the best CSRs in the state.

  9. notallcompaniesarebad says:

    Synergy, that building is in Houston. I see it all the time.

  10. notallcompaniesarebad says:
  11. cbear says:


    Since I’m typing this from a Cingular-outsourced call center in Victoria, BC, I think its safe to say you’re wrong :D

    FYI, roughly half of Cingular call centers are outsourced, although the vast majority of them ARE in the US.

  12. kaila says:


  13. Helvetian says:

    @KernelPanic: lol good eye.

    Convergys (based out of Ontario) also handles calls for Time Warner Cable, not sure if national but at least for NYC they do. Service is friendly but you immediately know when you ask for a courtesy or billing credit. They freeze and even for a $2.00 credit for a payment, they have to ask a supervisor whereas the TWC reps can just issue an instant refund.

    I don’t like OS centers because they seem to malfunction when you have a unique problem or something not part of the script. This always happens when calling Chase Credit Card Services in Mumbai, you can almost always hear them shutting down and restarting in the background.

  14. acidrain69 says:

    Coming from a former employee, Convergys is a hell-hole. They have centers all over the world, and more accounts than I can even guess at. In my building was SBC, Palm, Sunbeam, some cable company, and who knows what else. They really try to drill into you to just read the script. I was on the SBC accounts, doing DSL tech support. They tried to build a flowchart to troubleshoot everything, but helping nwebie customers setup DSL is very complex, and you can’t fit everything on a flowchart. That account had 2 weeks of training, which is not nearly enough to learn everything you need to know. I don’t think they handle SBC anymore, I haven’t worked there in almost 2 years. They also used to handle Dell and Gateway. The place is a pit, avoid it if you can.

  15. Employee54 says:

    This is a very interesting subject… I am also a Convergys Rep in Ontario, Canada! As confirmed above, convergys is working on behalf of ATT and other clients. However, as a representative, there is nothing that a outsourced rep cant do! We all follow the exact same rule book. In fact, believe it or not, we may even have more power than a true ATT employee because of the simple fact that we are working in customer service.. Agents working directly in a store need to call someone, and mostly, they call us… in Canada… I do understand how some people do not like this, but its just a job. I often find myself asking, would I want a Customer Service Representative like me, and I say YES.. The standards for convergys are set way above what is outlined in the contract, we are overtrained, and if we do not overacheive, we loose out.. I cant speak on behalf of convergys, but I can say that we want to continue to be contactors of att, so to dispute what the first guy said.. we are overtrained because we want to renew our contract with ATT. “real att call centers” have lower standards and generally perform lower… So remember that when you call att and ask for a real att agent, your asking to be transfered to a call centre with lower standards, who dont have to prove anything to the client except the bare minimum… Which do you prefer?? Att rep with lower standards with the same training… or Convergys reps with higher standards who are overtrained…?? Plus! You get the added touch of great canadian hospitality!! There’s gotta be a reason y the client would keep us!

    Employee #54