Speak English! Foreign Customer Service Representatives

I don’t mean any harm but I’d like to speak to an English-speaking customer service representative.

 What I hear on the opposite end of the phone line when I am speaking to many customer service representatives can’t possibly be English!

Lately more often than not when I call companies and seek help from a customer service representative I get someone on the line whose English is either barely legible or so broken and minimal that I end up so frustrated that I hang up. I then call back with the hope that I will get someone on the line that I can understand, only to get another customer service representative who speaks in the same fashion.

Recently I called my cell phone provider seeking assistance with a problem I was having paying my bill at a local payment station. The customer service representative that I was connected to introduced himself as Habanabar (at least that is what I heard) He then went on to say “Howb  may I help you today” After I gave the details of the problem that I was having Habanabar asked me to hold while he looked up my account.  Once Habanabar returned to the line he asked me something that sounded like if I had a rip cord. His question stumped me so I repeated his question about the rip cord and he said yes. I told Habanabar that I did not have a rip cord, but I did have a problem paying my bill and that if I didn’t have it paid today my service would be cut off. Habanabar then apologized and asked me would I like him to purchase the pavement. Pavement? How does pavement play a part in this conversation?

After attempting to make sense of Habanabar’s question to no avail, I asked him if the problem I was having at the payment station would also prohibit me from making a payment online. Habanabar informed me that he would be happy to purchase the pavement for me on a loan and that he could even wave and pee.

This conversation lasted almost five minutes and after five minutes of speaking with Habanabar about rip cords and pee I still did not have a solution to my problem.

That experience along with many others like it has made me dread calling companies for customer service. It is very rare that you will get a customer service representative on the line that speaks good English. It almost makes me wonder if they have any English speakers employed as customer service representatives anymore.

I am in no way saying that companies should only hire Americans as customer service reps, but I am saying that how can these companies truly say that you are providing excellent customer service if their customers cannot understand what their representatives are saying? How can they help me, if I can’t even understand them?  It is very frustrating to try to have your problem solved by someone who seems to be speaking a completely different language than you are speaking. Not only is it frustrating but it is also annoying to have to explain to the representative over and over again what your dilemma is only to have them say something that sounds foreign to the problem you just relayed to them.

If companies want satisfied customers they should take into consideration that customers are not satisfied when they cannot have their problems solved by the companies that they are paying out their hard-earned money to. Maybe they should consider including in their hiring process a mock customer service conversation so that they could get a better feel for the potential employee’s English barriers before they extend an offer of employment. Because surely there must be a loop-hole somewhere in the hiring process that is allowing this many non-American English speakers to be hired to work with the public. Somewhere during the hiring process these employees either aren’t being interviewed verbally or someone just isn’t giving a damn whether they can be understood. Either way there is a huge problem and due to this huge problem I will stick to paying my bills online and trying my best to avoid calling customer service unless there is a dire situation in which I must call them up.

I wonder if you can request to speak with an English-speaking representative. I assume not since what they are speaking is supposedly English. It would seem rude to ask to speak with a customer service representative that speaks good, or at least decent American English, but it’s a tempting thought being that nine times out of ten the rep you will be connected to will speak a language that you are not familiar with.



13 thoughts on “Speak English! Foreign Customer Service Representatives”

  1. This is an interesting post. However, I’m concerned that this may be a sliding scale. I know of numerous times even here in Memphis that I have encountered someone whose English was so bad I struggled to understand them. Everyone has different ways of speaking, and I don’t know who could be in charge of setting the guidelines.


  2. Black Girl:

    Many US companies have outsourced customer service jobs to India and other countries in the region. It’s a combination of taxes, regulations, and unrealistic union demands placed on businesses in this country, Sadly! We may think that CS jobs aren’t a big deal, but that’s not the case. For those in college, recent high-school grads, single moms…working inside an air conditioned office with a computer and keyboard is a cushy job in my opinion. I know a lot of sistas who would love to have a job like that.



  3. This was a funny article. We’ve all had these types of things happen. I once had a girl yell at me because she thought I was ignorant of what a sound file was (and I’m in I.T.). Basically, she kept asking if I was trying to upload a sound file, and I kept saying, thinking she could not hear me, that it was, indeed, a “wav” file. She barked at me, “That does not tell me anything, this “WAVE” — what does it do? Is it a document? A sound? A picture? ” This pinoy just needed to get a grip. Today I had to deal with the same thing via chat on Virgin Mobile’s site. The CS kept ignoring my questions, making me think that she didn’t read English well, and kept posting canned responses that had nothing to do with my questions (she confirmed that she was a live person though). Then I explained that this was happening and she responded, “I am very sorry for the inconvenience you have caused.” lol
    Oh dear!


  4. I am a foreigner, with a Business Degree from a great University around here. I work in customer service-It is not by my choice, it just pays some bills.

    Businesses wouldn’t give me a chance to do some other jobs due to my foreign accent. If you noticed, customer service jobs are always availabel to foreigners, partly, it takes a great deal of sipline to do this job.. and if you notices, foreigners are way better behaved and patient than American born.

    Plus companies will pay you what they want. take it or leave it. It is up to you. The company will make billions, make you work days and nights, expecting you to give suppior customer service to their clients with little to no training..then clients will expect you to bend over for them and worshing the ground they walk on, all for $10/hr if you’re lucky.

    Customer service has really tought me an American culture, attititudes,life styles, I wouldn’t have known had I been working behind the desk in HR or with some computer programing company.

    Hear me, I do sale products, I love my company, I love the products, but let me tell you what I have learned in these ten some year of selling products to Americans:

    Besides, to hear them:complain,complain and complain, the worst are women..older clients.

    1- American born, no matter where they come from, will never accept a foreigner as equal.

    2-American born, regardless of status, will always feel superior than you. (even though you may be financially stable or educated than they’re)

    3-American born, will always try to take adavantage of you, be in sales, promotions, always will look for ways they can manuplate the situation into getting what they want.

    (90% of clients who complain to management about my accent, most of the time, they’re looking for favours. Don’t think your superior will back you on this either.. He/she will believe them, and you would probably never hear anything about it becasue your supervisor is not comfortable or blave enough to bringing up this subject to your face–clients know that. I have had those who praise me, then those who say I should be fired…when you look at the record, they have had numerous issues even before I started.. may be that is why I am still here. I trust my HR and love my supervisor too)

    4-American born, will always put a blame on you regardless of how hard you try to offer them a great service.
    ( you will always be reminded how America is ruined by Immigrants)

    5-American born-Your own co-workers, will always look you down because you speak with a dialet different from theirs-
    (I have been told, you’re very smart.. why are you in sales! you should find a better job ! wait, you’re in sales too, are you stupid!! or did you not expect me to be as knowledgible as you’re?)

    6-They will always try to correct you, even when you know what you are doing.

    7-They will always offer to help, even when you don’t need help.

    8-Your co-workers will always put you under to make them feel superior. Co-worker to Client: “Sorry, she speaks with an accent, she is from Africa. How may I assist you today 🙂

    Instead of letting the caller know that even though you may speak differently, but you’re knowledgible and glad to have you as a co-worker!! but ofcause only smart person will remember that.

    9-Make no mistake, because if you do, you will hear things like, customers are not able to understand you.. (but look at his record of purchase, he has had same size issue even before you started)

    **Just remember to stay calm, when a caller sounds unhappy, pushy, demanding and demeaning.

    ** Remember to repeat the question, ask the spelling of their names to better understand them.

    **Remember to be willing to pass the phone to an American born to difuse the situation and never take it personal (It is hard sometimes, I have left my desk in tears some times, wishing to purchase a ticket and go back to where I came from. Try to look at the bright side. As long as you’re in customer service or in a foreign land, things will never get better)

    **About your co-workers, stay away, keep to yourself, do not get involved in gosip. Focus on why you’re here. Don’t loose yourself. Keep being you. Try your best to make sure clients understand you. follow your company’s regulations. Keep reading. Keep record as much as you can. Remember, on every job you learn something, and we foreigners are always hungry for knowledge. Trust me, I wouldn’t be working as a customer service representative, if I had same opportunity of being born in this great country.. so they’re stupid to be doing what I am doing. They should all be supervising me not seating besides me doing same job. I feel, I am the winner hear.

    **To you callers, please do not blame me for not knowing the spelling of your name, you can’t spell mine either**

    **To you my co-workers, even though I can not speak your English, I can read your system. Remember we all make mistakes..I also can have unhappy customer just like you do sometimes. You don’t have to be my friend, but respect is required.. and yes, if we all work for the same company then we must follow the same rules and regulation. The job may become easier for you but remember, I didn’t hire myself. There is a reason why your company hired me and I trust smart people who interviewed and hired me.

    **You all don’t need to micro-manage me.. I think we all worker under one management**

    **One world one Peace, sorry I was born this way**


  5. Strange that this article is written by a girl who is trying to fight racism.
    I have written my name, and if you can’t pronounce it, its your issue not mine!


  6. I think it’s hilarious that “teddy mimi” gets all those beliefs about Americans strictly from a 5 minute phone call with customers. His comment just reinforces the idea this author (and millions of other Americans as well) has about foreign call reps.

    He says he has a degree from a “university” yet he’s working in telecommunications which takes absolutely no education whatsoever, not in the least the English language.

    He says he has a degree, yet he can’t spell in English, doesn’t use grammar correctly, and has poor writing skills.

    He has a degree, yet he’s bashing Americans based on their minute long phone calls to his company.

    No university where I’m from would give someone a degree when they can’t spell, type, write, or form unbiased opinions about another country’s citizens. My phone has spellchecker and so do most computers , so why the hell is he still spelling wrong?


  7. well put. i actually have more issue with the in-person non-english speaker. the person making my sandwich at subway shouldn’t have to ask her supervisor what a pickle is.
    one solution i’ve found for the phone-based issue is to always select spanish. even if you don’t speak it! the spanish-speaking representatives are generally bilingual americans, and as a bonus there is usually less of a hold time too. just start speaking english when they get on the line.


  8. Address the problem not the writer of the post Anuradha. It is horrible that you can’t call a business that you are spending money with and get a person on the phone who can SPEAK and UNDERSTAND ENGLISH. For consumers this is a huge issue. And its not okay to tell me to power my device off then back on just because you aren’t fluent in English, therefore unable to resolve my problem. Which basically means you are not successfully doing the job you are paid to do


  9. The part about being asked to repeat the problem (which you do repeatedly) and then the agent will say something that makes them seem like they have no idea what your talking about you start to feel like your on a merry go round or talking to Siri.


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