Call centre woes
Understanding accents and slang is a big problem in call centres. Added to this is the number of fraud companies operating from overseas call centres that try to scam people to buying virus software and cold calling means that by association, a call centre operator with a similar accent is immediately not trusted.
The other big problem with call centers is finding the right person to answer you question. eg. You would think it would be easy enough to get a form to change a broadband plan but after three attempts, the call center used by Optus, cannot manage to either send the correct form. The first form sent was a "Application for PrePaid Mobiles", the second form did not arrive and the third time, the call center operator sent a "Change of Name form". Each time a form was not sent correctly, involves ringing a 1300 number, navigating through the options (hopefully without voice recognition technology) and finding an operator in the right area. Everytime, you are assured that the form will be sent but the operator is half way across the world and they are using a web based system, to send off a form to you. There is no way of emailing the operator back directly and they can't even pop a physical form into Australia Post because they are not in Australia. Where once, it was a matter of calling a company and having a clerk send you out the right form, now it can take hours on the phone and still no form.
Corporations need to understand that its not just about the bottom line - it's about providing a service. Time is something that cannot be replaced and call centers may be cheap but they are frustrating and inefficient.
Increasingly, a large number of website design and software development companies are outsourcing their work to India. Unfortunately, the projects come back with shoddy programming, spelling and grammar mistakes and there are huge communication problems. If it takes a few hours on the phone to get a simple form sent (and we are still waiting for the right form), then what happens when you try and get a website developed or a complex web application. Communication between customers is hard enough, without misunderstandings caused by differences in the way English is used.
Corporations need to start decentralizing
In a world where we can have multiple websites devoted to a particular customer base, we have major corporations building mega websites that are so cluttered with information, and poor searchability that it is impossible to find information quickly, if at all. Then there is the one phone number for all customers, that is the most ridiculous idea. How much time, do we waste each day on hold or navigating through shoddy voice recognition telephone systems that bounce us to the wrong departments? If companies want to cut costs, then the best investment they can make is in good copywriters, effective website design and websites for each of their products and services. How easy would it have been, if we could have just gone to the web and downloaded the correct form, rather than spending hours on the phone trying to get the right form emailed from a call center somewhere half way across the world.