see more Political Pictures
I recently lost my job; it’s no big deal, I was already looking for a new one because I felt underutilized and under recognized but having the NEED to go find a new job is never fun.
I worked for AT&T on the EVEN turn-up team; basically that means when a big company gets a new T1 or DS3 line to connect their main an remote offices together, I’m the guy who sets up the routers so they work. So a technician onsite plugs everything in then I remotely connect and configure the device to work as the gateway between the customer LAN and AT&T’s backbone with VPN tunnels to other sites belonging to the company.
Already this leads to a job that is very much in danger of being outsourced since I don’t have to actually be anywhere near the equipment; from Orem I was connecting to devices all over the US setting them up. If you can connect in from 1000 miles away why not just do it from 2000 miles away, thus to save money the company decided it would be better to have people in Slovakia do the job. Many other tech companies have already sent their services overseas, I’m sure that most people have talked with a representative from overseas, the tech industry is no different.
Obviously there are issues with having your talent located thousands of miles away from your companies’ equipment. In fact one time it became very apparent the problems with having people remotely configure systems.
One night I was migrating a customer site from their old routers to a new high-speed connection that required new equipment. The AT&T equipment was already setup and running but the customer LAN hadn’t been moved over from the old equipment to the new. To make the change we had to changes it over when everybody had gone home so as not to disrupt the network during business hours.
I was in a conference call with the customer’s LAN technician who himself was an outsourced tech working in India. His accent was thick but bad and he was a very friendly guy; while we waited for the customer’s onsite tech to arrive we chatted for a while. It was evening for me and pre-dawn for him so being away from home on the odd shift.
The problem is that the tech never showed. So what we had was an unmanned datacenter in the New England area in a remote locked building without so much as a night security guard to help us. Since the two routers involved were mounted right on top of each other all we needed was a person to move a yellow wire from one connector to the identical connector 2 inches above it.
Both me and the Indian tech were helpless to do anything, each remotely connected in from two opposite points on the globe to two devices humming along next to each other, two inches from a job well done. All we needed was any flesh and blood human onsite to perform a task that required absolutely no technical knowledge whatsoever.
Outsourcing had affected the Company in question so much that there was nobody left to perform the most simplest of tasks. Of course we were able to reschedule the switchover for a couple weeks later (we were always booked up for about 8 business days) and the customer finally had some intern go make the switch late one night. Who knows what was lost in money having to depend on their oversubscribed line for a few extra weeks (they were already paying for our highspeed connection since it was their fault the ball was dropped). Imagine having your business stuck on the equivalent of dialup while paying for a DSL connection that you can’t use. Except in this case the unused DSL was over 20 times the cost of the connection you were stuck maintaining.
For me that highlighted one problem with sending all knowledgeable people away from the company; the next big problem is the communication barrier and how it affects your service.
There are many extremely good bilingual techs outside of the US but there a lot more who don’t have a great of hang of the language; and since you’re already outsourcing so you can pay people a fraction of the low US wages chances are you’re going to get the ones with language issues. Dell computers has been struggling with this issue directly from many years.
When I first got a Dell laptop about a decade ago Dell was lauded for some of the greatest customer service in the business. I even had to deal with them a few times myself and had nothing but praise about my experience. But then around 2002-2003 they outsourced everything to India and their reputation for service dropped to the bottom and Dell customer service became a joke synonymous with uselessness. I found it was better to ignore the call in service and use email or just try fixing the issue myself without their help.
For my job moving to Slovakia I already know our US onsite techs, the guys that actually physically install the equipment, are already dreading the changeover. I was told many times how relieved a tech was to be talking to somebody in the US and how it was much easier to get a job done in 30 minutes through good communication rather than taking 2 hours to struggle through a foreign language barrier.
Most companies don’t see these secondary issues that arise. Sure it looks great on paper that you’re spending $20,000 less a week on online techs, but they don’t notice that the pay for onsite techs jumps up $20,000 because they have to be onsite longer for a job that isn’t done as quickly. You also can’t resolve customer issues as quickly, there may be greater frustration on the customer’s end with the delays and that can cost a contract. And just one lost contract of the size we dealt with would immediately counter any monetary gain from outsourcing.
Lost customer loyalty can be so bad that many businesses that outsourced in the early 2000’s have already brought back their customer facing divisions so that when customer’s call in they get somebody speaking the same language.
The sad reality is that it will continue to happen and there is nothing any of us involved can do; it’s not even a South Park “They took our jobs!” issue. Businesses go where they can charge less to boost profits and hopefully pass savings onto the customer. It’s be nice if customers rose up and fought back against the trend of outsourcing but the lure of just slightly cheaper prices are too great.
And so I move to a different job, hopefully it will be a while before that one is sent overseas.
BTW: I know the guys in Slovakia are good guys, the picture at the top is a joke.