The trouble with offshore support can be that you aren’t understood. Passing a call from office to office was what I used to call “help desk tennis,” passing people from one center to another until they either found a solution or gave up altogether.


I called the help desk a few days ago. My PDA phone has taken one too many blows to the screen and bits of it are hanging off. The battery doesn’t hold a charge, and people complain that they can’t hear what I am saying.

From the idyllic location of an English country churchyard in rolling countryside, I rang the extension number of the help desk and got through to an American. I could tell it was an American because at 5 p.m. she greeted me with a cheery, “Good Morning!”

I explained what I wanted, and she advised me that I needed to talk to another department. After a few moments on hold, a new voice came on. I wasn’t able to identify the accent, but it was obvious that English wasn’t his first language. I later heard that he may have been in the Philippines.

That person then put me on hold, and I was soon talking to a call center in the sub-continent. The tech there took all my details, found my account, greeted me by name, and took a note of the problems I was having.

The truth is that my phone has suffered too many violent blows and is now the telephonic equivalent of Ozzie Osborne. Bits of it work slowly, other bits don’t work at all, and its memory is completely shot away. After several calls, many of which I could neither hear nor understand, an IT department in the UK phoned me to ask what the problem was. Thirty seconds later the call closed with the IT person agreeing to post a new PDA phone to me.

Although the technology used to pass my call around the civilized world (and Connecticut!) is most impressive, I can’t help feeling that a fair bit of time was wasted, pushing up the cost to my company of that replacement PDA beyond reasonable limits. The poor quality of the signal from my phone didn’t help, but my car doesn’t have a land line in it. Having to call a foreign help desk to resolve a local issue can make sense financially, but it is not great customer service.

My new phone arrived this morning; it is a vast improvement over the old one. For one thing, there are no craters on the screen, and the stylus gets a response on every part of it. It is so clear that I can now read it again. I was beginning to think my sight was failing, but now I have no excuse for showing up at the wrong customer’s place of business.