Outsourcing Customer Service

Global response website screenshot
Screenshot of Global Response's website

One thing I haven’t shared too publicly is that I worked as a part-time customer service agent for a telemarketing firm. It was a departure for any of the previous jobs I’ve held but I now hold a deeper appreciation for the work that telemarketers do. So, what has precipitated this change of subject matter?  Several weeks ago, I was contacted about a nice lady (hi Lynn! 🙂 ) about advertising on my site. (Yes, I accept advertising on this site. Hit me up!) I was (a) flattered at the attention and (b) intrigued because of my former job & just how big and surprisingly effective Global Response’s call center outsourcingis.

What Does Global Response Do?

The Global Response  is a “3rd party outsourcing Catalog sales, Customer service and fulfillment.”

In plain English, that means companies like JC Penney, Puma, National Geographic, Blue Cross Blue Shield, David’s Bridal, MoMA, etc hire Global Response to handle things like customer service, sales, etc.

One of Global Response’s services is the provision of inbound call center services. An example of this could be if you’re having trouble buying an item on a website and there is a 1-800 number to call, chances are good that the party/person that picks up is a customer service agent working for a call center i.e. a center like Global Response. You know how you have to call a 1-8xx number to active your debit or credit card? Chances are you are calling into a call center much like Global Response. When you have trouble watching Netflix and that 1-866 number appears on the screen, Netflix can choose to hire people to handle those calls (in-house) or use an outfit much like Global Response (outsourcing). It is becoming increasingly popular for companies to outsource customer service to professional telemarketing organizations than handle them in-house.

In addition to providing customer service, they have fulfillment centers which means they help their clients with storing, selling and shipping goods to their clients’ customers. They also provide outbound calling services, one of the more recognizable duties of telemarketing agents. Global Response is able to be effective in their outbound calling services by providing training & quality assurance which is (to be fair) standard at call centers worth their salt.

In learning more about Global Response, I was really impressed at their client roster, case studies of their customers and their social media savvy. Let me count the ways:

  • Their website stands heads & shoulders above other call centers. The site is designed to be modern, loads fast and even makes use of simple & “pretty” URLs.
  • They put up case studies on their site which is something I haven’t seen on the other competitors that I’m used to. I like to read testimonials and these case studies provide prospective business some level of comfort that Global Response doesn’t trade in BS.
  • The first search I did was “Global Response call center sucks” and I was relieved to find that there weren’t any major negative issues either with clients or employees. Like my (former) employer does, they pay their employees weekly and here are 2 employee reviews of Global Response which are largely positive.
  • They have a blog written by several employees (David Cogan, Shane Slack, Bill Erickson, etc) which they use to put a personal touch on their company’s duties.
  • Contact information is prominently displayed on all pages of their site;

Global Response isn’t perfect; I did discover a typo on their site. 😛 Overall, I’ve been pretty impressed and while I haven’t had the pleasure of speaking with a Global Response call center agent, I’m fine with drawing attention to what appears to be a well-oiled operation that Global Response runs. Visit the Global Response website at http://www.globalresponse.com/

Disclosure: I was compensated for writing about Global Response.

Getting blocked from Amazon and their disconnected customer service

See the latest developments at the bottom. As I write, it’s been close to 48 hrs since I got an email from Amazon that alerted me to “suspicious activity” they had detected on my account. Thus, they helpfully suspended my account. According to that same email, the account suspension was reversible following their receipt of a follow-up email from me telling them whether or not their detection was in error. The following account is a recounting of Amazon’s epic failure in the basic rules of engagement in customer service.

Here’s what happened: I signed up for Blippy which is a new service that pulls your purchases from accounts like Amazon, iTunes, bank accounts and allows you to broadcast (or keep private) your transactions. I added my Amazon account to my Blippy account and next thing I know, I got this email from account-alert@amazon.com (cc’ed to investigation-dept@amazon.com) at about 6am on 01/13/2009:

Given the seriousness of the situation i.e. (i) I couldn’t log into my Amazon.com account to review my purchases (ii) I couldn’t log into my Amazon Sellers account (iii) I couldn’t log into Amazon related services like the Amazon Mechanical Turk (don’t judge me, a girl’s gotta eat. lol), Amazon Associates, etc because my account had been suspended, I expected that there would be an expeditious resolution of the matter. I sent them an email response at ~ 8:40am on the same day as shown in this pic below:

In that email, I let them know exactly what I did i.e. I signed up for Blippy and added my Amazon.com account credentials. According to their first email, I assumed (wrongly) that this issue would rank highly on their to-do list. When nothing happened after ~ 3hrs, I sent another email to account-alert@amazon.com and investigation-dept@amazon.com. After placing 2 calls to Amazon’s customer service number, I was given an E.T.A. of 24 – 48hrs and I let the matter lie until today (01/14/2009). After about 35hrs and counting, I have yet to have my Amazon.com account reactivated. No one from Amazon has initiated a phone call to me to keep me abreast of any issues that they may be facing. To be clear, up till now, I’ve never had an upsetting experience with Amazon.com. I’ve spent a lot of my money through their website and I have an Amazon Seller’s account there as well. My point: I have a long history with Amazon.com and a bit appalled at how they appear to be dragging their feet on this serious issue.

Today (01/14/2009), I placed no less than 3 calls today to Amazon’s customer service and all the customer service representatives could do was make and send notes to the Investigation team. I called the Amazon Seller’s hotline number and the person I spoke with at ~ 3pm today let me know I was essential Shit-Outta-Luck (SOL) with them as this email shows (His reason: my case had been reassigned to the mysterious account-alert@amazon.com folk and his unit (sellers’ accounts) could not continue handling my case):

At this point, it appears I’m at Amazon’s mercy because according to the last person I spoke with, reopening a new account (which is NOT a desirable option) would not be smart because their systems would detect and automagically associate the new account with the blocked account and THEN block the new account! Confusing, eh? I don’t know what else to do but pray to the Gods-that-be at Amazon to PLEASE get their shit together. Blocking a customer’s account for over 48 hrs despite said customer doing all the right things is NOT cool.

I mean, even my bank gives me the courtesy of a call to let me know there is suspected unauthorized activity and lets me talk with an automated machine to verify any recent transactions! I guess I needed a wake up call. I *have* been spending too much money at Amazon anyway so thanks!

Update (01/19/2010): I sent this carefully worded email to Amazon.com and copied all the parties that I had been in touch with (account-alert@amazon.com, investigation-dept@amazon.com, seller.service05@amazon.com and legal@amazon for good measure).

Here’s the full text of the email:

To whom it may concern:

On January 13, 2010: I received an email from account-alert@amazon.com and it was cc’d to investigation-dept@amazon.com. This email informed me that my logon credentials (specifically) had been used to access Amazon.com, but that no purchases were made. I wrote back ~ 3 hrs after receipt of this email (which was ~ 8.30am EST) that I had indeed used my Amazon logon credentials elsewhere i.e. on the website Blippy.com. In my opinion, doing that was no more risky than sites like Facebook that ask for email credentials in order to access one’s contact lists. That was on the 13th. Since then, I have been in touch with Amazon customer service representatives by phone and have been given the runaround. No one seems to be able to get in touch with anyone at Account Services. The Amazon sellers’ team has passed the buck to Account Services (see Case xxxxxxxx). The Investigation Team (according to my email records) did not find

This is not acceptable particularly because I am an Amazon Seller in addition to patronizing Amazon rather frequently. I have been unable to do anything related to my Amazon.com dealings (Amazon Associates, Amazon Payments, Sellers, etc). I had read about Amazon.com’s atrocious handling of security issues and thought it would never happen to me. Well, here I am: 6 days into my account being “blocked” for “security purposes”. What Amazon.com is indulging in is security theater because *surely* my previous 2 emails to account-alert@amazon.com and investigation-dept@amazon.com should have alleviated your fears about an account intrusion.

Pray tell, what exactly is taking Amazon.com 6 days and counting to “investigate”?

I am rather disappointed in Amazon.com and will think twice about giving Amazon my business. I keep very close tabs on my financial accounts and would have been the first to alert Amazon.com of a breach. I have assumed my account-lockout was instigated by my giving Blippy.com access to my Amazon.com account in order to pull my purchase history. This was bolstered by the fact that the initial account-alert@amazon.com email to me said: “We believe it may have been accessed and used by a third-party to make purchases without your permission, but it appears they did not use your credit card to make these purchases.”

If this is not about Blippy.com’s authorized access to my account, what caused the lockout? At the very least, don’t I have a right to know why my account has been locked for 6 days and counting? I have invested my time and money in Amazon.com and to be treated so shabbily is disheartening.

I am not in violation of any Amazon.com ‘password’ security policies so I need an official response (email:xxxxxxxxxx@xxxxx.com or phone: xxxxxxxxxx) from Amazon.com about the following matters by 5:00PM EST today (01/19/2010):
1) What unauthorized activity was detected
2) What steps has Amazon taken to secure my account
3) When does Amazon.com anticipate unlocking my account, if that is their decision.

Yours sincerely,
Jane Ullah

Update: Please note that my account access has since been re-established.