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Westinghouse: behind the scenes (the horrors of a call center)

Recently someone purporting to be a phone rep from a Westinghouse call center left me a comment. After the months of pain, I appreciate getting some more information from behind the scenes. Given how many times I called Westinghouse, chances are good I maybe even talked to this guy once or twice (so hello again, anonymous Westinghouse guy!).

The situation at Westinghouse is largely as I imagined. Here is the comment, and my response follows.

Heads up for everyone ever trying to deal with a Westinghouse RMA.

I ?currently? work for the call center for Westinghouse. It is not our fault the service center will not ship you a tv, or even tell us why. Our database only lists information that has been typed in by other tech support reps, and occasionally things like a logged reciept, tracking number, or RMA number. And yes, it is true that we cannot transfer you to a manager, they do in fact have to call you back. Also, we literally do not have access to any contact information for the corporate office or the RMA center in any way, and even if we did, we are expressly forbidden from given it out. You'd have a much easier time searching for the contact on Google. We also have no way to change any of the Warranty policies, or give you free shipping labels for RMA. Those don't even come from a ?manager? at the call center, that all is done through corporate.

Basically, 95% of all of the RMA issues arise from the fact that a)the Westinghouse corporate warranty policy does not allow us any deviation on our level and b)the RMA center is the slowest, shittiest facility I have ever dealt with. Last I heard, there were litterally 5 people working there. Also, the fact is, there are far more returned RMA tvs than there are available to ship back to customers, and that is causing most of the shipping problems. But please don't call us at the customer service and expect us to be able get you a tv faster. We are in NY and ME, and the service center is in TX, we cannot ?walk downstairs? like some people would like to think.

If you do want to buy a Westinghouse tv for some reason, please PLEASE purchase it at Best Buy. We have an exclusive deal with Best Buy that if your tv breaks during the warranty period, you can call us to get a return authorization and bring it back to the store directly and get an exchange/store credit, even 11 months 3 weeks and 6 days after you bought the tv. Other than that, DO NOT buy one online, and I'm sorry to say it but, even at Woot, E-Cost, or any other online discount store. ESPECIALLY if it is a refurbished television.

And also, please, everyone, read the warranty policy on ANY expensive item you purchase, especially TVs. You'd be surprised what isn't covered under most electronics companies warranties. Almost every major TV manufacturer requires you to ship a defective tv back to them at your cost.

For all I know I can get fired for posted this online, but to be honest at this point, I could give a shit. Sorry everyone who has had to deal with a Westinghouse RMA, but please remember that if you have to call the tech support line, it really is not our fault, and there is almost nothing we can do.

I worked at a call center too (tech support and general billing/service for a residential satellite TV company); I lasted about four months. I remember very well the horrors of that job. Working at a call center should be classified as a form of torture by the Geneva Convention.

The main criteria of whether we were doing our job "properly" was how fast we finished the calls. Call volume mattered, not making customers happy. The second criteria was how closely we followed the scripts. We were told to never, ever deviate from the scripts, even when the scripts were completely bogus, redundant, or insulting to the customer's intelligence. And the scripts ARE insulting; they are written to appeal to the lowest common denominator of customer, by necessity. If I as a phone rep knew how to fix a problem and it deviated from the script, tough crap. Deviate from the script at your own risk. If someone was monitoring that call, you're in trouble.

At any given time, there was approximately one manager per 15-20 phone reps. If a customer asked to speak to a manager, s/he often got put on hold for a good 10-15 minutes by necessity; this is because I was 30 cubicles away looking for someone to take the call. And yet putting people on hold was a HUGE no-no, per company policy. It was a lose-lose situation.

The company under-staffed the center to save money, so the hold queue was always filled to the brim. By the time the customer got to us, they had been sitting and fuming on hold for 15 minutes or more. We also had an offshore call center in general vicinity of India, and those reps were only trained to take the most basic of calls. If there was a tech support issue or anything complex, it was transferred to us (resulting in another 15 minutes of hold before they talked to me). THOSE weren't fun calls.

We had to take calls non-stop for hours, until we got a specified 15-minute or 30-minute break. Breaks were measured DOWN TO THE SECOND. Aside from your breaks, you couldn't stop taking calls even to go to the bathroom or get a sip of water.

Phone reps are hated by customers, because they are the voice of the company for the customer. They are also abused by the company; the pay is terrible, the people doing it are desperate (few people take that job if they can find any other), and the company knows they're replaceable. Attrition rates at call centers are through the roof. Even people how stay at the call center aspire to become managers themselves as fast as humanly possible, so they can stop taking calls, so at any given time, the person you're talking to when you call a call center has probably only been working for 3 or 4 months tops. Phone reps are seen as little better than cattle by their employers.

So I definitely sympathize. In all of my lengthy dealings with Westinghouse, I was always polite, and the phone reps were generally polite back to me.

One thing that absolutely IS the phone reps' fault, though, is when I'm promised a call back, and then I never get one. This happened to me many times when dealing with Westinghouse, and there's no excuse for that. Or when someone says "Call back tomorrow and we'll have more information for you!" knowing full well that they won't. This also happened to me many times. Once the phone reps determined that they had no information for me, I was often told anything that would get me to hang up quickly.

If one girl at Westinghouse hadn't finally taken 15 minutes to somehow track down my first (lost forever) monitor, I'd never have known what happened. I don't know how they did it, but if a phone rep had done that sooner instead of two months of dodging my questions, I may have been able to get UPS to track down the first package.

If someone is unable to help me, they should say "Sorry, I'm completely unable to help you." A little honesty goes a long way. If I'd have contacted the corporate office sooner I could've gotten things done a lot faster, without all the run-around.

But yes, this comment reaffirms what I already suspected. Don't buy expensive electronics online; the price savings aren't worth the disaster you face when it breaks. And remember you're taking a huge gamble when you buy Westinghouse or any other "bargain" (i.e. cheap) brand.

(Read the entire Westinghouse saga, if you dare: The beginning, Update 1, Update 2, Update 3, Update 4, Update 5, Update 6, Update 7, Update 8, Update 9, VICTORY, aftermath.)

October 27, 2008 @ 11:03 AM PDT
Cateogory: Hardware

9 Comments

kristy loomis
Quoth kristy loomis on October 30, 2008 @ 2:22 AM PDT

I recently bought a Westinghouse TV, and so the story begins. I wish I had seen this blog before purchasing it. I hae had the sme diffuculities with it that are described in your soga. I appreicate your posting the coporate phone number becuase the one I got was only another recording where I could leave a messsage and ...that's right, you guessed it.....someone would call me back! I too have been telling everyone not to purchase Westinghouse products, have filed a complaint with BBB and the Attorney General's Office. My TV is supposedly scheduled for shipment today and will be back sometime next week but it's too little too late. I suggest we file a class action lawsuit against Westinghouse. If anyone is up for this, please notify me by e-mail. I don't think I have ever bought anything from a company that has given me so much greif. my TV only lasted 4 months before it had to be sent back. Thanks for all the help!

Ivar Refsdal
Quoth Ivar Refsdal on October 31, 2008 @ 7:04 AM PDT

For non-native speakers (like me): RMA == http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Return_Merchandise_Authorization (I think)

Brian
Quoth Brian on October 31, 2008 @ 9:36 AM PDT

Right, sorry. Actually many native English speakers I talk to don't know what RMA means either. I only know it from working in that industry.

kristy, best of luck to you.

the guy again
Quoth the guy again on November 04, 2008 @ 8:29 AM PST

Me again here. I'm glad to know you noticed I commented. To be honest, I seem to be one of the few people in my call center who actually go out of their way to find out some information for a customer, and will actually follow up on things when I say I will, partly because I think I'm relatively new and not completely jaded yet, but that I do actually sympathize with everyone who has to deal with the horrible RMA process. Having read through your blog, and a few other stories online, I feel like I have some sort of obligation from "the inside" to try and make things better. I have no problem telling you when I have no idea what is going on, and even have agreed with some people on the phone at times that the situation is ridiculous and there is nothing I can do on my end that can help them. And for that matter, no one in our facility can help them either. As a side note, we currently have a grand total of ONE agent who is actually authorized to make manager callbacks. We also have one person who responds to emails, and one person who deals with sending out the RMA forms and such.

If I could give out the corporate number right there on the call every time someone asks for it I would if I didn't feel like anything I say would come back at me 2 seconds after getting off of a call. I didn't even know the corporate number until you posted it here, and I'm sure all of maybe 3 people in the whole call center actually know who exactly they are trying to get through to in the few cases where we can actually direct someone to corporate. To be quite honest, I would love to assist anyone in any way possible, and if that means encouraging someone to contact the better business bureau or seek legal matters like so many people have threatened me with, I would.

I actually enjoy my job when I get to help people with setup issues or serious questions, especially the older folks who still can't operate the VCR. I just feel bad for them knowing that if they ever have to get it replaced or fixed that it will most likely cost them not only money, but a good chunk of their time. I think the worst thing is, the company could still be towards the top of the LCD manufacturers in the country if only the warranty process could be smoothed out. I'm sure the heads of the company are happy enough as they are making money off of this whole process, but they have to realize at some point that you can make more money if you have a happy, satisfied consumer base that tells people of the great customer service options offered by your company. The simple fact is, nearly all of the issues with Westinghouse arise from two things: 1) The RMA/repair center is either severely understaffed or has a severe shortage of parts and replacements on hand, and 2) The executives have hidden themselves and the corporate offices from the public view, and thus have tried to absolve themselves of any sort of direct responsibility for the company in relation to the customer.

I will also say one more thing: If you are a customer who has to deal with the RMA process (and this applies to any company), being angry and irate at the first sign of anything not going the exact way you planned on is not going to help any situation get resolved. I fully understand a customer being upset to the point of outright anger when we have had his television in our warehouse since July. But when it has been 3 days since we signed for the tv from UPS and you don't have a replacement in your house already, yelling on the phone that you need to "speak to corporate about this NOW" is not going to help anything. 99% of the time, in any customer service field, the person you are yelling at is trying to do a job that they are most likely underpaid to be doing, and can't get anything done for you any faster.

Unsatisfied
Quoth Unsatisfied on January 06, 2009 @ 11:03 PM PST

I returned my monitor in the beginning of November and did not receive a replacement until the end of December. This, too, was sent to me without notification--after calling daily asking for status updates.

Here is the best part: I sent in a 24" monitor (L2410NM) and they sent back a refurbished 26" LCD TV. Now, I have to go through the RMA process all over again.

Suffice to say, I will never buy Westinghouse again and will recommend the same to everyone I know.

Anonymous Cow
Quoth Anonymous Cow on February 02, 2009 @ 12:57 PM PST

My L2410NM broke they sent me a replacement refurbished 26" LCD TV (SK26240S). I sent it back. After long wait, they send the another replacement but this time sent me even bigger than the first one. They sent me 32" LCD TV(SK32240S). Does anyone know where they register their company. I want to report this to Attorney General on their state.

The other guy
Quoth The other guy on May 26, 2009 @ 5:08 AM PDT

Well surprise surprise, Westinghouse Digital Corporate has fucked over the 3rd party call center. Rumor has it that they owe the call center (where I also worked as a Tech for Westinghouse) over $250k. The contract has been pulled and all notes, RMA information, emails, and even the phone number is property of the 3rd party company who was doing the tech support.

Good luck getting ANYTHING back if you shipped in it. My personal opinion is that Westinghouse Digital is going to just liquidate, and because they are an LLC, there is limited liability to the people who are expecting a working television back.

BPO Manila
Quoth BPO Manila on April 25, 2010 @ 5:58 PM PDT

So it's not always the agent's fault as to why things are turning out the wrong way. Mostly, the companies are responsible for the policies regarding this kind of situation.

outsourcing providers Philippines
Quoth outsourcing providers Philippines on May 20, 2010 @ 5:33 PM PDT

Having worked in a call center, I take it you understand what goes on in there to know that it's not always the agent's fault when things go wrong. If you ask me, its the call center company that's to be blamed for this; I'm under the impression that management doesn't take very good care of its agents, and this reflects on the way that calls are handled at times.