Become a fan of Slashdot on Facebook

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Businesses IBM IT

Are Indian High Schoolers Manning Your IBM Help Desk? 237

Posted by samzenpus
from the cut-rate-help dept.
theodp writes "IBM CEO Virginia M. Rometty's Big Blue bio boasts that she led the development of IBM Global Delivery Centers in India. In his latest column, Robert X. Cringely wonders if customers of those centers know what they're getting for their outsourcing buck. 'Right now,' writes Cringely, 'IBM is preparing to launch an internal program with the goal of increasing in 2013 the percentage of university graduates working at its Indian Global Delivery Centers (GDCs) to 50 percent. This means that right now most of IBM's Indian staffers are not college graduates. Did you know that? I didn't. I would be very surprised if IBM customers knew they were being supported mainly by graduates of Indian high schools.'"
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Are Indian High Schoolers Manning Your IBM Help Desk?

Comments Filter:
  • No shit sherlock (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 25, 2012 @06:27PM (#40771161)

    You don't need a college degree to know how to work a phone. I know the HR hysteria in the USA would have you believe otherwise, but trust me! It's not that hard...

    • by ackthpt (218170) on Wednesday July 25, 2012 @06:29PM (#40771191) Homepage Journal

      You don't need a college degree to know how to work a phone. I know the HR hysteria in the USA would have you believe otherwise, but trust me! It's not that hard...

      Haven't seen the dang phone system we just had bestowed upon us, have you? Geez. Why not just drill my skull and put an implant in and get rid of this Cisco stuff.

    • Re:No shit sherlock (Score:5, Interesting)

      by JDG1980 (2438906) on Wednesday July 25, 2012 @06:46PM (#40771367)

      You don't need a college degree to know how to work a phone. I know the HR hysteria in the USA would have you believe otherwise, but trust me! It's not that hard...

      But one of the big justifications for outsourcing call centers to India was that you could get college-educated workers for cheap. If you're going to be staffing the call centers with people who have just a high school education, then you might as well do that in the United States and not deal with the language/accent barrier. Workers without a college degree are cheap enough in America as it is. Moreover, it's strongly implied that IBM is misrepresenting the educational level of the employees in these outsourced call centers. Regardless of whether workers in call centers should need a college degree, it's not kosher to say or imply that your workers do when in fact they don't.

      • Re:No shit sherlock (Score:5, Informative)

        by hawguy (1600213) on Wednesday July 25, 2012 @06:59PM (#40771477)

        You don't need a college degree to know how to work a phone. I know the HR hysteria in the USA would have you believe otherwise, but trust me! It's not that hard...

        But one of the big justifications for outsourcing call centers to India was that you could get college-educated workers for cheap. If you're going to be staffing the call centers with people who have just a high school education, then you might as well do that in the United States and not deal with the language/accent barrier.

        You're missing the cheap part -- highschool grads in India are cheaper than high school grads in the USA. That's why they deal with the language/culture/accent barrier.

        Workers without a college degree are cheap enough in America as it is.

        Pay range for entry level agents in India is $200 - $350/month [crmbuyer.com]. Where are these cheap Americans that will work for $1.75/hour?

        Moreover, it's strongly implied that IBM is misrepresenting the educational level of the employees in these outsourced call centers. Regardless of whether workers in call centers should need a college degree, it's not kosher to say or imply that your workers do when in fact they don't.

        Where is this implied? I never assume that first level tech support agents will have any kind of relevant college degree - they all seem to follow a script (and I wish they'd just publish the scripts online so I could follow them myself).

        • by Frosty Piss (770223) * on Wednesday July 25, 2012 @07:12PM (#40771591)

          Pay range for entry level agents in India is $200 - $350/month Where are these cheap Americans that will work for $1.75/hour?

          That may be so, but American companies that contract with Indian outsource firms are *certainly* paying more than that.

          • by hawguy (1600213) on Wednesday July 25, 2012 @07:29PM (#40771717)

            Pay range for entry level agents in India is $200 - $350/month Where are these cheap Americans that will work for $1.75/hour?

            That may be so, but American companies that contract with Indian outsource firms are *certainly* paying more than that.

            And American companies that pay their call center agents $10/hour are still billing them out for more than that to account for benefits and overhead (including agent training, facilities, administration, etc). But since nearly everything is cheaper in India, the final bill rate for an Indian call center agent still ends up being less than an American call center agent.

          • by jamstar7 (694492)

            Pay range for entry level agents in India is $200 - $350/month Where are these cheap Americans that will work for $1.75/hour?

            That may be so, but American companies that contract with Indian outsource firms are *certainly* paying more than that.

            Yup. The difference, after you subtract out the salaries of the front office workers (secretaries, vice presidents, and others who don't pick up the phone to take support calls), facility lease, phone bills, taxes, equipment, insurance, etc, is called profit. Profit is good. Just ask your friendly local 1%ers.

            • I'm lost. Do the other 99% of local people not like profits?

              I follow your sentiment and dislike the results of this when I have to deal with a call center, but is the tired rhetoric really proving anything here?
        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward

          So then... Because I-BM finds yet another way to circumvent the labor laws of the US Americans should sit quietly?

          I realize they are one of many corps that justify their actions by citing the corporate manifesto of profits over patriotism but that won't stop people like me calling as it is.

          • by hawguy (1600213)

            So then... Because I-BM finds yet another way to circumvent the labor laws of the US Americans should sit quietly?

            I realize they are one of many corps that justify their actions by citing the corporate manifesto of profits over patriotism but that won't stop people like me calling as it is.

            They aren't circumventing the labor laws of the USA -- they are working within the labor laws in India. Even though I work in a job that is often outsourced I don't think that outsourcing should be banned - in many cases it makes a lot of sense, in others not so much. I try to make sure I keep skills and knowledge that is hard to outsource.

        • Re:No shit sherlock (Score:4, Interesting)

          by larry bagina (561269) on Wednesday July 25, 2012 @08:11PM (#40771967) Journal

          Pay range for entry level agents in India is $200 - $350/month. Where are these cheap Americans that will work for $1.75/hour?

          They're in 1971. Where minimum wage was $1.60/hour. $200/month isn't good or bad in and of itself, only relative to the cost of living. Rampant inflation has fucked us up the ass like Jerry Sandusky in the shower with a 10-year-old boy.

          • Not just inflation (Score:4, Insightful)

            by rsilvergun (571051) on Wednesday July 25, 2012 @11:10PM (#40773137)
            I've got cleaner water, better health care. Laws that make sure my food isn't poison. I've got a social safety net that keeps bands of thieves and kidnappers to a minimum. My air is also much, much cleaner. Sure, 80% of Indians never have these problems, but for the other 20% life just sucks. America put a lot of effort into closing that gap. For those of us that don't just live a charmed life we want that.
            • by oiron (697563)

              Reverse that percentage, you'd be closer.

              When you're dealing with call center employees from here, you're dealing with a member of a group maybe a million strong. Out of a country of a billion+. In other words, 1% of the population!

              The largest portion of workers in the country is in agriculture - maybe about 50%. The whole of IT, including programming, BPO, everything - is probably less than 10%.

              Not that they're our 1%ers; that's guys like Ambani [wikipedia.org]. It's just a coincidence that the numbers are the same. Acces

          • by Kjella (173770)

            Until you run into something that doesn't follow the cost of living like say computer equipment - a $300 graphics card is still a $300 graphics card. Same goes if you want a marble slab in your kitchen or anything else where the cost of materials and factory processing far exceeds the local labor. And if you scrape together enough to go on vacation then your money is strong and theirs is weak, people always go in direction of most bang for their buck. Yes, it does make your labor expensive but I've no doubt

        • Americans that will work for $1.75/hour?

          If my healthcare was covered %100, no transportation costs, and my taxes were 0%, I could do it without a family in tow. But I'm not going to work balls to the wall at that rate.

        • And what is the cost of living between the two?

      • by nashv (1479253)

        you're going to be staffing the call centers with people who have just a high school education, then you might as well do that in the United States

        Employee salary. Next!

        Money Money Money!
        Must be funny!
        In the rich man's world...

        • Re:No shit sherlock (Score:4, Informative)

          by tsotha (720379) on Wednesday July 25, 2012 @09:00PM (#40772339)
          You wouldn't do that, not because US high school graduates are too expensive, but because a US high school degree isn't a good indication of literacy. Maybe in India a high school degree means something (I don't know one way or another). But in the US, a BS is the new high school diploma.
          • Re:No shit sherlock (Score:4, Informative)

            by funwithBSD (245349) on Wednesday July 25, 2012 @09:19PM (#40772449)

            Except that is exactly what IBM is doing in the GDF centers (Fishkill, Dubuque, Colombia)

            They are hiring high school grads and putting them in first line jobs. If they stick with it, and get their certs/education (certs are provided by IBM) they can move up in the system. (I joined with no degree, although I have one now. I was not a entry level position either)

            The pay is somewhere in the $10 to $15 range, and yes, it is hard to get people to sign on at that wage.

            These resources are replacing India resources as those resources are getting harder to get. Not surprisingly, years of outsourcing to India has built an in country demand. The best and brightest head there because the hours are better, and often the pay is better too.

            As for the Indian work quality... it varies. I have worked with some that were as good as any US tech, and some that are mere chair warmers.
            It definitely takes 2 to 4 to match a quality US resources, but you can afford to do that.

            Any customer can demand US only resources if they are willing to pay for it... but they are willing to do so.

            The GDF centers get US resources in close parity, a 15 to 25% premium. Many customers are opting to use those resources in place of overseas resources. Work is still shipped over there in "backoffice" type support of the US based teams, such as provisioning of disk, etc, but the customer is not in contact with them.

            There is also a growing need for "US Only" based on regulations. Governments are expanding regulations to require data and systems are handled by US citizens only because of the nature of the data. That is a fast growing quarter.

            • These resources are replacing India resources as those resources are getting harder to get. Not surprisingly, years of outsourcing to India has built an in country demand. The best and brightest head there because the hours are better, and often the pay is better too.

              As for the Indian work quality... it varies. I have worked with some that were as good as any US tech, and some that are mere chair warmers.
              It definitely takes 2 to 4 to match a quality US resources, but you can afford to do that.

              Any customer can demand US only resources if they are willing to pay for it... but they are willing to do so.

              Please don't call them that. It's dehumanizing. They're people, perhaps employees, staff, or workers, but not "resources". Show some respect - they're the people that keep companies producing and keep the managers (who call them resources) employed.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 25, 2012 @08:46PM (#40772239)

        This is the point.

        Indians will work for pennies on the dollar. Hell you can outsource to Canada for cheaper than the US and not get the entire culture/accent barrier. Trust me worked in a outsourced call center, twice. My jobs got sent to India and the Philippines.

        As a native English speaker, I can certainly attest to the amount of abuse Americans hurl at those they suspect of not being American. Canadians don't get nearly as much abuse unless they sound Indian or Asian. There were representatives who came from the Arab world with weak accents who get subjected to so much racist shit because of 9/11.

        If you, as a business owner, want to outsource here's some simple rules to keep everyone happy:
        1. Outsource only non-core business. Customer Support and Technical Support are core businesses in ALL businesses that offer a service.
        2. Outsource only material that if it fell into a criminal's hands, they would be unable to use. So for example you should NEVER outsource billing/payments. Because companies like Verizon and AT&T run credit, they should absolutely NOT be doing this from outsourced centers, since stealing the data is worth almost 10 years worth of pay. Much of this problem is how SSN's are used as part of phone authentication process, and americans don't even question it. If a government policy banning the use of SSN's for ALL non-IRS purposes, many companies would be up shit creek.
        3. Outsource non-core work. So for example if your company has a website that doesn't have customer interaction, you can probably outsource this. As soon as a credit card is required, this work must be done in-house. Outsource basic customer support to in-house forum systems (eg your customers are also your customer support) and then just employ in house staff to make sure things stay sane.

        One of the most frequent problems I notice, is how understaffed companies become once they outsource. This is because they try to replace inhouse staff with outsourced staff on a 1:1 ratio when this isn't anywhere near the requirement.

        Your in-house staff likely has experience, or training with your products and services first hand. Your outsourced support staff only has documentation to work from. When I worked for the mobile phone company, they provided us with exactly one mobile phone... for the entire call center of 500 people. And since they don't provide service here, we couldn't even use the phone for any level of troubleshooting. There were countless times where simply having the equipment available would have been useful. They could have setup a pico-cell inside the call center so that troubleshooting could be done directly on the network and not having to relay through several layers of people. So if you're paying one US citizen 20$/hr to do this, they may be the first and last contact. But when you're paying someone in Canada, India, China, whatever, 1/3rd or less (The going rate in Canada is upwards of 12$/hr) you end up needing three or four times as many staff because the staff are unable to troubleshoot problems because they aren't in the customers location. Basically anytime you have a technical problem with a mobile device, you're much better off taking it to the company owned store (more on that in a moment) and having them call dealer customer support using the internal number that bypasses the outsourced centers.

        Also I worked the warranty exchange queue for business. That was a load of fun. Now remember what I said above about being better off taking devices to a company owned store? Well some people don't know the difference between a dealer and a company owned store. So you get lots of people who buy the most profitable phone for the dealer, calling in when the device breaks, and being told to return it to the dealer. The problem is that dealers make commission, so if you return a device, they lose their commission. So they will pretty much waste your time or charge you a fee for returning the item. Some of them get told to do a warranty exchange... even when the device i

        • Indians will work for pennies on the dollar. Hell you can outsource to Canada for cheaper than the US and not get the entire culture/accent barrier. Trust me worked in a outsourced call center, twice. My jobs got sent to India and the Philippines.

          Maybe in the past, but certainly not now. When the Canadian dollar was worth about $0.65 US it made economic sense. Now that the Canadian dollar is brushing against parity, some days worth more some days worth slightly less than the US dollar, it doesn't make economic sense for a US company to outsource to Canada at all. Canada has a higher minimum wage than the US, and requires more benefits be paid. The only thing that made it economical in the past was that our dollar was worth so much less than the US d

      • by mdm42 (244204)
        You're missing the educated part. If the call centres were staffed by graduates of the US high-school system, you'd be stuck with all the lack of quality that implies. At least Indian high-schoolers graduate having received a decent level of actual education.
    • by jo42 (227475) on Wednesday July 25, 2012 @06:54PM (#40771443) Homepage

      Yes, but some fumbducktard MBA decided that you need a college degree to follow a script to deal with support issues.

      Have you ever tried to call one of these help desks -- and get any real help? You're better off wacking yourself over the head with a 2x4 repeatedly.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by msauve (701917)
        I'd rather get support from a HS grad who knows the product, than someone with a masters in anthropology, who doesn't.
      • Try calling for support from a small or medium business. Too small to outsource, their staff is more likely than not to have lots of contact with the people who made the stuff in the first place. You can get good results.

        I work at a larger place than that, but instead of the traditional three levels of support we effectively have two - second level and third level, all internal. The people you get on the phone when you call know how to think, and solve 90% of incoming calls (including many tougher calls

    • I'd point out that due to the tech bubble, we have almost a decade worth of college drop-outs who took one or two years of courses before being hired to be a warm body in a cubicle at a startup that ended up failing because it turns out that you can't make up a negative cash flow through increased volume. So we have tons of people in the U.S. who have the title and not much education beyond high school, and never went back to get the remainder of their education.

      I'd also say that the average Alok and Ananya

  • Skill Requirements (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ThatsMyNick (2004126) on Wednesday July 25, 2012 @06:27PM (#40771171)

    Perhaps, that is all the skills that is required for the job. Just like car mechanics, IT support is becoming less and less of a highly skilled job.

    • Perhaps, that is all the skills that is required for the job. Just like car mechanics, IT support is becoming less and less of a highly skilled job.

      Actually, car mechanics nowadays is more of an IT skill, in that the diagnostics are run by instrumentation.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 25, 2012 @06:41PM (#40771331)

        Perhaps, that is all the skills that is required for the job. Just like car mechanics, IT support is becoming less and less of a highly skilled job.

        Actually, car mechanics nowadays is more of an IT skill, in that the diagnostics are run by instrumentation.

        Fantastic! That means that the next time I need my car serviced I just need to find an Indian high school student!!!

      • by tsotha (720379)
        Pretty much the computer spits out a number which the mechanic looks up in a book and then replaces the part the book says to replace. There really isn't a lot of human analysis going on with automotive repair.
        • by espiesp (1251084)

          Not exactly. That works sometimes to be sure. But saying that is like saying a PC always tells you what is wrong with it. Sometimes, the module itself is faulty and you have to use diagnostic skills to figure out what link in the chain is not behaving. There are also hundreds of non-computerized parts on an automobile that can't tell you when they break.

          So nice try, but so totally wrong. Have you ever even changed you own oil?

        • by afidel (530433)
          LOL, I take it you've never actually tried to troubleshoot an OBDII code before? Yeah, it's not as simple as code nn replace part a. The code will generally get you to the system involved in the problem, or perhaps one down stream from the source of the problem. Heck, not long ago I had a code that said the problem was with the mass air sensor so I cleaned it, then replaced it, then cleaned the throttle body, and on down the line, the real cause was a cracked vacuum line which I finally figured out with a b
          • by ethanms (319039)

            The code will generally get you to the system involved in the problem, or perhaps one down stream from the source of the problem.

            Exactly. You show up for a "PC can't get on internet" call, the ODB-II code would be something like "No IP" ... OK that could be a network card failure, mis-configuration of network settings or the hardware itself, missing or damaged cable, broken switch at the end of the wall jack, broken DHCP server, etc...

        • by ethanms (319039)

          Pretty much the computer spits out a number which the mechanic looks up in a book and then replaces the part the book says to replace. There really isn't a lot of human analysis going on with automotive repair.

          ...and how many years have you worked as a professional in the auto-repair industry?

          BTW, your summer at "Auto Zone" doesn't count.

      • by tragedy (27079)

        Engine diagnostics maybe. The majority of work for car mechanics is still plain old mechanical stuff. Diagnosing complicated engine problems is something most mechanics barely ever have to do. When they do, they can usually do it by the sound of the engine or some deductive reasoning based on the symptoms. When it's a deeper mystery, most mechanics will simply refer it to the one mechanic in the area who really does have the deep diagnostic skills. They don't mind losing the work so much when 90+ percent of

    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 25, 2012 @06:47PM (#40771373)

      No, it isn't. It's still a highly skilled job, it's just that we've moved the title and position further from the end users. Those people are called troubleshooters now, and they make good money. (I know, I was one). The "tech support" or better yet, "help desk" positions are nothing but robots reading scripts, and soon enough, they will literally be robots. That doesn't change the fact that in order to actually be HELPFUL they have to know more than how to type.
       
      Your standards of service are an affront, please raise them.

      • by rrohbeck (944847)

        Exactly. I generally refuse to deal with the standard helpdesk. I make sure the business people get me 3rd level support phone numbers and email addresses. Anything less is a waste of time.
        Where it gets interesting is when those people tell me after discussing the issue "I'll have to email my colleagues in Taiwan." Happens all the time at certain major server vendors.

    • by kermidge (2221646)

      Maybe not, but since when is an "education ticket" a real-world necessity for the knowledge and skill to do anything? While classes can be exceedingly valuably for getting info (including the discussions, examples, problem solving) it's never been the only source of the information needed to learn how to do things.

      Seems to me the fixation on these 'tickets' has become ridiculous. Certifications are, or ought to be, by examination and practicum.

      Sheesh, in 1986 I saw an ad from a local country club looking

    • by couchslug (175151) on Wednesday July 25, 2012 @07:16PM (#40771623)

      "IT support is becoming less and less of a highly skilled job."

      Not even close. Auto mechanics requires far MORE skill and broader knowledge of theory than it did forty years ago.

    • by billstewart (78916) on Wednesday July 25, 2012 @07:27PM (#40771697) Journal

      "High Schoolers" says that the people manning the help desk are kids who are still in high school. "High School Graduates" implies that they've finished high school but don't have college degrees. There are some help desk jobs for which that's really just fine (as long as they've learned enough English that they can understand the concepts and get some practice with speaking it), and others for which you need a lot of specialized training, much of which depends on concepts you'd learn in college.

    • by sjames (1099)

      Actually, a GOOD mechanic must be highly skilled. A parts changer, not so much. Same deal in IT.

    • by Shompol (1690084)
      Let's just say IT support is not helpful at all. Whenever I need support I bare with them for about 20 mins and then just give up. They follow their scripts, and when scripts don't help they say "reset your device to factory default". Paying for any kind of support is waste of money. I honestly don't care if they have a college degree but understanding the subject they are supporting would be helpful.
    • by pete6677 (681676)

      It doesn't really matter anyway. No business signs an outsourcing contract with IBM because they care about quality. They only care about doing things as cheaply as possible (but yet they still pay IBM a 60% markup for the privilege, go figure). The customer company gets the cheap labor they want and IBM gets the profits they want and the only loser is the consumer who can't talk to anyone on the phone who can actually help them.

    • by jkrise (535370)

      I think Cringely would do well to research a little before spewing bullshit. The average salary of a well qualified software programmer in C, Java or PHP is about $400 to $500. Tech support engineers get a lot less.

      Why would IBM go to the trouble of hiring High School graduates when they can get College graduates, or indeed, even post-graduates* for very little money compared to US pay scales?
      ----------

      * : There are 2 very popular programs in India - MSc Software Systems, and MCA - Master of Computer Applic

  • Big deal? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Todd Knarr (15451) on Wednesday July 25, 2012 @06:29PM (#40771197) Homepage

    What's the big deal about that? Tier 1 helpdesk doesn't need a degree. A high-school education (even a US one) is more than enough to understand and speak English at a high-school level and follow a script and checklist. You don't need to be a cordon bleu chef to cook burgers at McDonald's either.

    • Re:Big deal? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Trepidity (597) <delirium-slashdotNO@SPAMhackish.org> on Wednesday July 25, 2012 @06:35PM (#40771269)

      I believe that was typically the case at U.S. call centers too, back when there were more of them. In the late-90s and early-2000s, working helpdesk was a common way for techies without degrees to make some money (either to help pay for college, or just to pay rent).

    • by Microlith (54737)

      The big deal is that they can pay the Indian post-high school worker a pittance compared to what they'd have to pay the US post-high school worker.

      That's why Mrs. Rometty spent the better part of the last 10 years moving over 100K IBM jobs out of the US and to India. I'm sure she'd move everyone but the executives over if she could find a way to do so and still claim all the benefits of being "US based."

      • by sjames (1099)

        Given how much U.S. executives make, he'd be better off outsourcing that to just about anywhere else and keeping the rest in the U.S.

    • by toygeek (473120)

      Dude, McDonalds has Cordon Bleu Burgers now? Imma go get me some!!!

    • What's the big deal about that? Tier 1 helpdesk doesn't need a pulse

      Fixed.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    If they're required by policy to follow a script, does it matter if they have a degree? I'm more concerned about fluency in english, an understandable accent,quality of the voip connection, and quality of the inter-cubicle sound isolation.

    • by baegucb (18706)

      Hello, my name is Debbie (yeah, right lady). Welcome to 1-800-IBM-SERV (said in a thick accent over a scratchy VOIP line). Even Oracle does better, with world wide call center support.
      I deal with support vendors every day. IBM has had the worst call center support for years. Oracle is even better than IBM. At least all the local support guys are usually good. I just have to get the ticket opened, then layer explain to the CE (old terminology) or FE, what the issue is.
      Not that Oracle is so great. Our platinu

      • by tsotha (720379)
        Oracle has better support? Bah. You know what we get from Oracle? Case numbers. Help, not much. Sure, the people are pleasant and understandable, but I can't remember the last time they were actually able to help us.
  • by cavtroop (859432) on Wednesday July 25, 2012 @06:31PM (#40771227)

    ...the problem is, they're not allowed to think for themselves. Education is completely irrelevant - they have to follow the scripts they have in front of them, and not deviate or they get dinged. I know, I've had to write some of these scripts for them (not IBM, but another large multinational co that does outsourced helpdesk work). The last step in any of the scripts is to escalate to Tier 2/3 - which 90% of the time is an actual employee of the company and not part of the outsourced help desk.

    So how is having a college educated phone bozo any better than a high school educated one if they're not allowed to deviate from the scripts they're given?

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by jkrise (535370)

      This article is bullshit. I am in India, and I work with a large group, which has 3 colleges, and I am a part-time professor in the engineering college.

      IBM employs ZERO high school graduates manning their Helpdesk. My nephew finished his engineering degree in Computer Science and worked as a night-shift SAN support engineer at IBM Bangalore. He was earning about $1,200 per month and was very good at it. But he quit because he couldn't put up with night shifts.

      IBM normally employs engineering graduates and a

  • by erp_consultant (2614861) on Wednesday July 25, 2012 @06:33PM (#40771245)
    Have you ever spoken to these people? I used to work for a big IT company that rhymes with Hell, and they staffed all of their call centers with undertrained, underpaid Indian nationals. One time it took me 5 calls just to get a password changed...and I was on a client site at the time and desperately needed it fixed. Frustration does not even begin to describe how I felt. It's bad enough when you use it for your own internal support but using it for customers paying big bucks for support contracts? Inexcusable. I bet that IBM is working on training monkeys to follow a support script cause, you know, the wages are starting to go up in India and we've got to make our numbers this quarter - damn it!
    • by arbiter1 (1204146)
      seem to remember a study years about by a company that found hiring US people for their phone support was either cheaper or made them more money then using cheap ppl of India. All cause the fact when they pay an american to do the job the people calling for help can understand them and in the end are happier then tring to talk to a guy that can't barly understand the customer and customer can barly understand the phone support guy.
  • The term "graduate" means different things in US and India. You can hold a 'diploma' that's 10+3. This 'diploma' isn't considered a graduate in the US. It's not a degree because it's shy of the typical 4 year course structure. It could just mean they have a 3 year 'degree' than a 4 year bachelor's degree. Your assumption is flawed. 1 year of additional education can make a lot of difference if you're a developer or something else, but for a help desk job, I doubt it would add much value. Also, if you have
  • by beltsbear (2489652) on Wednesday July 25, 2012 @06:36PM (#40771273)
    Inflammatory title of course, it implies that the people manning the desks are in high school or of high school age not just adults that only went to high school.
  • I thought we were supposed to complain about job ads with ridiculous lists of required skills. And if you need a college degree to do PC administration tasks, your OS is in bad shape.
  • Same as it was here (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 25, 2012 @06:44PM (#40771355)

    Did you know that 10 years ago, if you called Dell, Gateway, HP, WellsFargo, Netgear, etc etc etc etc, that you spoke to someone making $10.50/hr, who most certainly did not have a college degree, and whom the technical skills test was "here, type this". The only difference now is, those people aren't in the united states, and they don't make anywhere near 10.50$/hr. Then or now, they never had any chance of actually helping you solve a problem.
     
    NDA be damned, Dell had 5 solutions for ANY problem. Is it on. Check. Is it installed correctly. Check. Reformat, does it work now? Check. Does the rest of the computer work without it? Check. Replace it. DONE. This is essentially what all their scripts say. Oh sure, there are minor detailed differences, and some small portion of the people they employ to read the scripts even understand the differences. Most do not, never did and never will. They are paid to go through those scripts AS FAST AS POSSIBLE. They are not paid for your satisfaction, and in fact, you can't commend or condone them in any way, because you don't know if you were talking to 'joe' at Dell's Texas headquarters, 'Joe' at the Beaverton Oregon Call center called Stream, or some other third party call center. You can call to complain, and customer service will no doubt apologize, coddle you and then do absolutely nothing.
     
    One customer always comes to mind when I talk about this issue. She called in over 50 different times. She spoke to as many different people. She went through every script, every troubleshooting guide. Her modem was replaced. 5 times. The motherboard was replaced, twice. The CPU, Memory, hard drive and case were replaced once each. Her ENTIRE computer (include the mouse and cables) was replaced twice. Nothing solved the issue. She called in, and got me. Now, it's 12:30am, I'm quietly handling technical calls for Dell, but I'm in Oregon at STREAM intl. She explains her story, and I look it up. Holly crap, they have done just about everything that can be done... well crap. Tell me what the problem is. "Well, the last tech said..." No lady, I want you to tell me the problem, not what anyone else said it was. "my modem won't stay connected, and often won't connect at all". OK I say... any other issues..."well yeah, I get weird lines on my screen when I try and call out, or if I walk to close while on the phone". Alright, please do something strange for me, just reach down and touch the computer, but watch the screen. "It flashed with snow". OK do you happen to have power lines in your back yard. "yes, how did you know". Lucky guess. I know this isn't reasonable, but I need you to move the whole computer to the opposite side of the house, and call me back at this number xxxxxxxxxxx. She did, and you know what, it fixed the problem. 51+ phone calls, and the problem was outside interference, which isn't on any of the scripts. This isn't a problem of language, or culture, or race, or which country your phone call goes to. It's a problem that "technical support" is neither technical, nor support. Which is why it's mostly called "customer service" now. I think Carlin best described what that means.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by JDG1980 (2438906)

      Did you know that 10 years ago, if you called Dell, Gateway, HP, WellsFargo, Netgear, etc etc etc etc, that you spoke to someone making $10.50/hr, who most certainly did not have a college degree, and whom the technical skills test was "here, type this".

      Oh, yes. In fact, 10 years ago, I was one of those employees without a college degree earning $10.50 an hour taking outsourced calls for Gateway. (Well, actually it was only $9 an hour.) The difference is that they hadn't yet rolled out the dumbass scripts

      • by TheSpoom (715771)

        For all I know, they may have done this in some places already.

        AT&T Uverse has a forced IVR script you have to go through to get to a human, who then has absolutely no knowledge of what you've done and asks you to do it all over again.

        It's a shame too since they have nice TV service.

    • by jamstar7 (694492)

      NDA be damned, Dell had 5 solutions for ANY problem. Is it on. Check. Is it installed correctly. Check. Reformat, does it work now? Check. Does the rest of the computer work without it? Check. Replace it. DONE. This is essentially what all their scripts say. Oh sure, there are minor detailed differences, and some small portion of the people they employ to read the scripts even understand the differences. Most do not, never did and never will. They are paid to go through those scripts AS FAST AS POSSIBLE. Th

  • High school graduates. Which is perfectly normal, you don't need a diplome for helpdesk.

  • Wow... Article is kind of stupid and misleading.

    These workers may:

    - Be college students who haven't graduated yet
    - Be high-school graduates who aren't going to college
    - Might actually be in high-school as the article implies.

    I will say that I know a lot of Indians who have moved here to the US. While my experience doesn't necessarily speak for Indians who live in India, I get the general impression that the graduates don't really want to sit in a help-desk call center.

    Plus, I think hiring college graduates

  • by Greyfox (87712) on Wednesday July 25, 2012 @07:07PM (#40771543) Homepage Journal
    I worked IBM's support line in the early 90's. The whole cost efficiency question had not yet come up when I started there, and we were the best-rated customer service in the industry. When you called support you went through a screener who took down your info and got a sense of the problem you were having. Based on what you told them, they'd give you a problem number and route you into one of the support buckets. That's where we picked it up and would be the next people on the phone with the customer. The record would already be written up and the screener would have made sure the customer was eligible for support. At the time, IBM was talking about all of us "Level 1 analysts" picking up their "OS/2 Certified Engineer" certification.

    Fast forward a few months and they started talking about the cost of the support. Turns out, it cost IBM $30 on average for their screener to answer the phone. That was just the cost of the OS/2 support operation divided by call volume I suppose. So they started cutting costs. First thing to go were the screeners. That meant the support reps were the ones getting the customer's information and verifying that they were eligible for support. The call center also got way more touchy about call times. If you couldn't answer the question in about 10 minutes, they wanted you to requeue for a level 2 analyst call back. No more spending half an hour talking a customer through recovering their desktop. And OS/2 lost its desktop a lot.

    They killed the operating system before they had a chance to move that call center to India, but I'm sure that would have been the next step. The fact of the matter throughout the industry is that the support line is populated with meaty paperweights and is designed to encourage you to solve your problem on your own. If you actually have a problem that you can't solve on your own, they'll grudgingly schedule a callback from a level 2 analyst after making you reboot your device. In this way the people you talk to now are like less-able screeners from back in the early IBM support days. They filter out most of the plonkers, do a mediocre job of finding out what your problem is and schedule a callback from a level 2 analyst.

    Does that level of skill require a college degree? Not really. Always talking to a guy with a college degree would cost more than most of their customers are willing to pay. I'm sure they'd be happy to negotiate a private support contract with an SLA. It's just a matter of how large of a suitcase of cash you want to give them.

  • I'm kind of surprised that they haven't farmed this out to Watson yet. It can destroy Jeopardy grand champions, and partner with medical doctors, why not ask users if they're multi-purposing the CD tray as a drink holder or if they've inserted the power cord?
    • Watson turned the job down. Said it didn't pay well enough to deal with idiots all day long.

      Actually I have not the faintest idea what IBM is good for these days. Hardly anyone buys mainframes, they don't sell PCs, Linux-based brand-X servers are more than sufficient for most people, CICS and green-screen apps are mostly supplanted by more portable web-based application systems and free-to-inexpensive database servers are rampant.

      IBM used to be famous because they allowed managers who were too incompetent t

    • and it can mix up Toronto and Chicago

    • I worked for a company called Telstra (aussies will recognise it) Largest ISP in the country for those not local or familiar.

      They used to have a promise "The first person you talk to will always be australian". Now Cut to the last few months of my employment. As we began to trial a new "Interactive Voice Response" system. Pretty damn smart one. It asked the users for ID info, built persistent profiles & was pretty much able to troubleshoot through the entire stock standard scripts the meat robots on the

    • by arth1 (260657)

      I'm kind of surprised that they haven't farmed this out to Watson yet.

      Why pay for high-school grads, when you can get them less educated? How less educated? Elementary, my dear Watson.

  • > This means that right now most of IBM's Indian staffers are not college graduates. Did you know that?

    Oh, I really knew that. I really, really knew that.

    Personally I find the article title a bit offensive, as to call them high schoolers is an insult to the high schools of India.

    I'm guessing former auto-rickshaw drivers with maybe a third grade education. Enough, barely, to recite scripts.

    Because it's all about cost, you know.

  • Since they killed off OS/2.

    • by rubycodez (864176)

      15% rolling twelve month profit margin, $220 billon market cap. yeah, going down like a cheap whore....

  • CS is not IT and IT needs apprenticeships / tech schools. Even more so on the help desk / desktop / admin side.

    Even in the A+, MS, ECT tests there is the book way and the way the works in the real work place.

    There is a lot of stuff that needs to be learned in a tech school setting or on the job.

  • by Tekoneiric (590239) on Wednesday July 25, 2012 @09:13PM (#40772405) Journal
    Most of the help desks in the US are manned by people without degrees. There are plenty of people working help desk jobs while working towards a degree also. It’s kind of the new fast food job. The biggest difference between help desk workers with a degree and those without is the ones without don't owe huge student loans. I've seen plenty of people get a degree and stay in the help desk job. One of the biggest problems is if you have a degree and have a help desk job on your resume; employers will say "I see you have help desk experience!"
  • I have to support a piece of software and IBM bought the company a few years ago, so when it came time to move to a new version I got to deal with IBM.

    I spent 14 hours on the phone trying to get a price for a piece of software, most of the time I was shuttled around support people in India who couldn't help me, I was told that software prices were "restricted information", searching IBM's site for contact numbers got me developer's desk phones and they didn't know why the hell their numbers were posted on I

  • Technicians and Engineers are out of work. Cheap overseas labor is used here and abroad.
  • by byteherder (722785) on Thursday July 26, 2012 @12:58AM (#40773729)
    I worked for IBM for 3 years so I have first hand knowledge how bad their tech support is. IBM staff has to use the same tech support that their customers use. Eating your own dog food they call it, or dog shit as the case may be.

    Let me briefly describe the process you have to go through, Call in, work you way down 5 layers of automated phone messages and finally get a live person. That person barely speaks English and really hates their job. This is Tier 1. They ask you a few simple questions and to describe the problem. Lastly, he or she asked what priority you want to make it, Level 1 - call back in 24 hours, Level 2 - call back in a week, Level 3 - call back in ???, hell, I don't know, never made any level 3. You have to make it a Level 1 or you will won't get anybody to look a it for a week. Every help ticket is now a Level 1.

    So the next day, you get a call from Tier 2 support. Really, this is a Tier 1 person, who has had a month's worth of training. He goes down a script of all the typical problem, tell you what you need type. Oh course, you have already done this because the those are all online. He then waste another 15 minutes of your time fumbling in the dark and then gives up.

    Another 24 hours pass, then you get a call from Tier 3 support. This guys has a year or more experience and is familiar with all the features of the product. He listens to your attempts, then asks you to do something and actually fixes the problem in about 5 minutes. He is the rare bird in IBM Tech support. Also, he is so overworked because Tier 1 and 2 are close to useless that he burns out and moves to so other division just as soon as he can.

    That's it. That's how IBM tech support works..


    Sincerely, Ex-IBMer
  • worst artical ever.... who really care's? as long as they have the correct answer to your question when they call and they are nice to talk to does it really matter. i am not more than high school educated and i do just fine, i have been in technical support for the best part of 15years. due to the massive expense of higher education in the UK i have not done it. the only thing that higher education gives you is a better earning potential but that is not at the top of everyone thougths...
  • 3/4ths of first calls to help desks are for ID admin issues. It doesn't take a rocket surgeon to do that.

In seeking the unattainable, simplicity only gets in the way. -- Epigrams in Programming, ACM SIGPLAN Sept. 1982

Working...