Real Live Customer Support Gal on NBC’s ‘Outsourced’: Ep. 3 & 4

October 21, 2010

I wish I had better things to say about Outsourced. It’s just a bit of a chore now, isn’t it?

If it’s not the appallingly stupid novelties they’re selling, it’s the equally appalling “Americans” they are selling to. Seriously people, “bitch pills”? And the “World’s Best Mom” t-shirt the customer is hoping to wear to her parole hearing? They may have started out painting Indians as cow worshipping bumpkins, but they have also been characterizing the American customers as moronic hillbillies. And both are equally offensive. I mean maybe it’s the particular customers of the trashy novelties they sell, but ugh: I find myself cringing every time they cut to the phones.

The balance they seem to have struck on shows like The Office and 30 Rock — where stereotypes are also used and abused for laughs — is just not there on Outsourced. For one thing, the protagonist Todd garners very little sympathy. He’s actually kind of a jerk. He told the girl he was sleeping with in the US that he was going to Iraq. Classy, right? And he seems to be after Asha more out of a challenge than actual interest.

There were a few laughs that didn’t rely on the broad stroke dumbed down stereotyping. Particularly at dinner when each person is making a toast and Gupta, echoing the “as my father used to say” first toast, says”As my father used to say, ‘Shut your mouth, shut your mouth, I can’t hear the radio’.” I actually laughed at that. There’s also a sweet bit between Madhuri and Ragiv where he shows her an unexpected kindness and leaves her the office key so she won’t have to sleep on the roof of her overstuffed home. Unfortunately, that’s pretty much it for high points. Outsourced still continues to be a missed opportunity, but what can you do.

Advertisers not getting what they paid for?

Aaaanyway, I don’t know why I assumed Outsourced was meant to be about a call center for support calls. Maybe it’s the advertising that accompanies the show. I’m lucky enough to have a TiVO so I generally skip through the commercials, but I caught the first one during episode 3 and thought it was worth mentioning. It’s an ad for Dish, but they’’re not actually advertising their television service so much as their customer service. The first line of the ad is “Customer service is one of those things you notice when you’re not getting it… we aren’t perfect, but we are labeled number one in customer service.”

Right off the bat, they’re admitting that their product isn’t perfect — it may not work 100% of the time; birds may nest in your dish; thunderstorms might scribble your reception; space trash may clog their satellites — but they will answer the phone when you call to complain and they’ll do their best to help. In this day and age of canned support, getting through to a real live person is a big deal; getting through to a person who is actually willing and excited to help you is a small miracle.

I try to be one of these people. I’m a customer advocate here at Zendesk and I take helping people pretty seriously. I love that we post our phone number on our site and we try to make ourselves as available to our customers as possible. I’ve had both good and bad experiences with customer support and the bad ones stick in your memory. It’s about going the extra mile in customer support and even if you can’t fix a problem or answer a question right away, making sure the customer knows they are important and valued is one way to do that.

I don’t use Dish Network, but I’d love to hear about any great experiences their customers have had. I’d also like to know how they got their number one rating 🙂

Is anyone watching?

Continuing on, I am still seriously surprised that we have actually made it to four episodes of this program, but in episode four we are treated to a mix-up that leads to Todd helping Ragiv with his love-match marriage problems and the other employees into a prank war with the “A-Team”. Fair enough, these are perfectly reasonable plots for a sitcom, I have no problem with that. What I do have a problem with is the level of humor. Indians having names that sound like other terms in English = not funny anymore. It’s a one-off joke guys, try harder next time.

I will say that the characters are rounding out nicely, but that also means that I am really starting to hate Ben Rappaport’s Todd. It seems like he’s meant to be the glue that hold the show’s premise together, but really it’s much better without him. I can easily imagine the last episode with that character being completely replaced, he’s just completely unlikable. Just something to think about, Outsourced writers, who are almost certainly not reading this.

And with that I will watch the fifth (!) episode tonight and report back. To be continued…

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