One of the most common complaints I get from airline customers is, “I had to talk to India” — meaning that when they phoned a carrier, they were connected to an outsourced call center in a place like India or the Philippines. But Virgin America, which began selling tickets this morning and is expected to take off next month, is promising a break from the past. All of its phone agents will all be “home grown,” according to a representative.
Virgin America, like a handful of other carriers, will use a network of home-based agents scattered across the country. The project will be managed by a Miramar, Fla., company called Arise, which specializes in what’s called “homeshoring.”
“This puts Virgin America on the cutting edge of customer service options,” said Karen Seaman, an Arise spokeswoman. “They don’t need to staff an old-fashioned call center and can easily add more agents at the drop of a dime if customer demand soars at certain times. In the end, this will help offer better service to its customers as they anticipate their flights.”
It is far too early to say whether Virgin America will offer better customer service through its call centers than, say, Southwest (which often picks up the phone before the second ring). I’m almost certain that passengers will prefer this option over those offered by this year’s other big startup, Skybus, which doesn’t even accept phone calls.
I’ve cobbled together a cheat sheet for Virgin America this morning. If its outsourced “homeshored” call center doesn’t do what it’s supposed to (and honestly, I hope it works out) then at least you have a few other options.