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.

Want more consumer news? Visit our parent organization, Consumer Reports, for the latest on scams, recalls, and other consumer issues.