The backlash against sending work offshore

May 6, 2004
We interrupt this column to bring you a special bulletin from the Machine Design newsroom. This just in.
View other Ron
Khol editorials

Bobbie Macy, circulation manager of the Penton Media Design Engineering Group, of which this magazine is a member, has issued a statement regarding subscriptions to Machine Design. Ms. Macy’s statement says that all telephone calls to readers about renewing their subscriptions to Machine Design come from call centers located within the United States. In fact, the calls are from within the contiguous United States. They don’t even come from Alaska or Hawaii.

The primary call center is in Coshocton, Ohio. A second call center is in suburban Chicago. Ms. Macy points out that the Machine Design organization is so sensitive about sending work offshore that it makes sure its call centers aren’t even close to coastal waters.

This policy is somewhat reminiscent of the way major defense factories during World War II were generally located away from coastal areas to minimize threats from invasion or bombardment. To reduce the threat of foreign influence, the Machine Design call centers are located no closer than 375 miles from the nearest ocean. The fact that Coshocton is only 120 miles from Canada causes some concern, but there is some question as to whether or not Canada is offshore, or whether there is even a shore there at all.

Seriously, the issue of where call centers are located has come up when our circulation department has telephoned readers for subscription renewals. At least one reader initially refused to renew when he assumed the caller was offshore. He changed his mind after Ms. Macy explained that our call centers are domestic. He said too many companies are dumping work offshore, and he wanted to be counted as part of a silent majority representing a backlash fed up with corporate and political greed.

Personally, I sympathize with that viewpoint. I know today’s economy is global, and just as you have, I’ve heard all the palaver about how sending work offshore increases our standard of living. Yeah, right.

My viewpoint is that if typical offshoring corporations really want to save money, the first thing they should do is take a look at how much they pay their CEOs and other top moguls and titans. When you talk about money, it is the vigorish skimmed off by the top dogs that has become so embarrassing it can’t even be discussed in polite company. History tells us that the captains of pirate ships shared booty with their crews more equitably than do today’s corporate managers. Yet these are the same people who will look you in the eye and tell you they can’t afford to pay someone $20,000 a year to answer the telephone.

That brings us to the overall question regarding how much competency you should expect when you deal with a call center. When I bought a new computer last summer, I had problems getting my e-mail connection up and running, so I made a lot of calls to the Earthlink help desk. I didn’t keep a scorecard, but the quality of the assistance ranged from adequate to abominable.

In many cases, I could tell that the person on the other end of the telephone wasn’t even paying attention to my problem but, instead, was reading from a boilerplate script designed to get me off the line as soon as possible. One of the most aggravating things was constantly being referred to a company Web site that presented canned solutions to problems I didn’t have. It is especially annoying when you get that sort of runaround from someone offshore but, frankly, I’ve come to expect it.

-- Ronald Khol, Editor
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