Do Americans Prefer American Call Center Agents?

Yes, a touchy subject. I’ve seen some write ups on this topic, but always wondered about the PC factor and the risk of going live with such opinions. However, since we are in the business of creating outstanding customer experiences, I think this topic is one worth exploring further.

Last evening, I called Capital One because I misplaced my credit card and was in a panic, wondering who has it and how many charges they tallied up on my behalf. With the rampant surge of identity theft, I didn’t want to take any chances. So, I dialed up the 800 number on my statement and after going through the prompts, I landed a live agent. At the point of hitting the last number on my phone’s dial pad, knowing I would be talking to someone live, a wave of anxiety passed over me. Wow, anxious about who I was about to interact with?!?!? What’s wrong with me?

After assessing the experience once the call was over, I realized that this wave of anxiety was tied directly to my fear of having to talk to someone in another country. In a mere second, my subconscious had me thinking: will this person be able to handle my issue? will I have to explain myself twice? will I be put on hold again to talk a level 2 support person? will I get frustrated in this call? will I, will I, will I??? Wow, all this in split-second time? Is it me? Am I a freak?

As my blood pressure jumped and my heart started racing all in that tiny window of time, it was diffused back to it’s normal biological state just as quickly. Yes, (what appeared to be a localized agent with a southern accent) picked up the line and said “Thank you for calling Capital One, how can I help you?” PHEW! A huge sense of relief passed over me and I felt that whatever issues I had would immediately get resolved. In fact, they did. My card was canceled, a new card was issued and I would have it in 5 business days.

I thought about why this anxiety fell over me in this particular situation. I can likely contribute it to one of a few experiences I’ve had recently; namely with Intuit. About 6 months ago, I called Intuit and ended up being on the line with someone half way around the world (not that there is anything wrong with that…). Outside of the poor line quality, the communication barrier, lying to me about his real name (I’m pretty sure his name wasn’t Chuck) and his inability to answer my questions in a reasonable time frame (was searching the same knowledge base that I had already searched), the call was great! Right. What a horrible experience.

So, do I associate the poor experience with the location of the agent, or the solution that they are using? Well, I’ve had multiple experiences like the one with Intuit and I think there is a conclusion to this trend. I’m sure that as the world becomes smaller and the English language continues to be a viable second language in other parts of the world, most of my anxiety will dissipate. Although, the cultural differences are a completely separate topic to be saved for another posting.

I still have a way to go to rid myself of offshoreagentphobia. Maybe one day, I can be free of the fears that control me in those times of my customer experience needs. Oh by the way, I found my credit card in the side pocket of my racquetball bag. Too late though; another is already on its way.

(There is great hope for the offshore contact center. Stay tuned for a follow up to this posting with a few suggestions.)


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