Common Call Center Misunderstandings

After calling Indian call centers, many people email us to say “You won’t believe what I just heard!” Most of these problems can be chocked up to cultural differences or inexperienced agents who have yet to master the nuances of conversational English. Our call center tipster explains:

When there’s a problem, it’s usually just a misunderstanding, or a cultural thing. Phrases that are used in India, but not the US, that make a customer think the agent is being rude. Or the agent still in an “Indian customer service mindset”. (When dealing with Indian customers it’s all about getting right to the answer, completely ignoring any attempt to make the call personal. Also, to avoid confrontation. Even if they know something’s gonna take 3 months, they always say ‘2-3 days’ Believe it or not, that’s how people like their service here).

Urine Year-end statements, and the story of “Mr. and Mrs. Hymen,” after the jump…


Their tendency to start every sentence with “you have to” or “you need to” is most likely to offend. I always get on them for saying “May I know your social security number” because it sounds like they’re asking if it’s ok that they’ve memorized it.

Most likely to confuse are simple matters like the mathematical definitions of “into” and “by” being completely opposite, leading to all sorts of confusion. Or simple pronunciation issues, when “year end statement” comes out as “urine statement.” I once heard a 20 minute call where the agent referred to both Mr. and Mrs. Haimon as “Mr. and Mrs. Hymen” nearly 10 times per minute.

— CAREY GREENBERG-BERGER