The View from Landmark

Trends and issues in personal computing from Bud Stolker, a long-time PC consultant. The View from Landmark features tips and techniques to make time spent with your computer more productive and rewarding, commentary on new personal computer policies and trends, plain-English explanations of new hardware, software, and network designs and their relevance to you, and answers to common questions. There may be personal material interspersed if Bud believes it is of general interest.

Monday, March 28, 2005

India Calling (I)

This week I received several calls from an Indian call center claiming to represent Dun & Bradstreet.

The calls began with the urgent news that someone had attempted to access my D&B credit report, and that D&B needed to update my information. When I voiced my concern about the legitimacy of the request, the caller in each case became increasingly strident, argumentative, and belligerent. And because each rep had an unmistakable Indian accent, I figured these calls were outsourced at best, and bogus at worst.

When I asked to speak to a supervisor, those supervisors were equally argumentative and insistent. When I demanded in no uncertain terms to be removed from D&B's list for such calls, I was refused.

In one case, when I asked the rep to verify that this was really D&B calling, "Bob Simpson" retorted that he could not be sure that I am really Bud Stolker. (The fact that HE called ME, not vice versa, seemed lost on him in the heat of argument.)

I especially doubted the authenticity of these calls since I had received a call from D&B for routine updates to my file just two weeks earlier. At that time I gladly confirmed the information on file.

I called D&B Customer Service and learned that the calls were indeed sales calls, and that D&B did indeed sponsor them.

They came from an Indian call center in a technology park in Gujarat, “where azure seas meet sparkling sands, blushing sunsets embrace rosy dawns, where lions prowl and flamingoes preen”, according to the Tourism Corporation of Gujarat Ltd.

The call center manager responded promptly to my complaint by firing one rep and suspending another. But it was a wakeup call in terms of giving out privileged information by phone. Until this week I have always trusted callers claiming to be from Dun & Bradstreet. D&B still actively solicits confidential business information by phone. Yet this latest round of callers had no clue about customer relations, and sounded for all the world like sleazy condominium salesmen calling from a boiler room operation. I wouldn’t trust them with my company data for all the tea in . . . uh . . . India.

Several things worth learning from this incident:

1. Call centers may be recording your conversation without your knowledge. Effective Teleservices records every D&B-sponsored call. In this case the call center manager was able to play back the conversations and determine that his reps had violated company policy. In fact, he sent me copies of the recordings. (Listen to these calls: See "India Calling (II)", below, or click here.)

2. D&B has no way to absolutely verify authenticity of their telephone representatives. Nor does any company which does not use a confidential PIN number or equivalent. D&B Customer Service advises small businesses to check your own company report frequently if you don’t wish to deal with telephone calls from the company. If you’re a small business and you have a D-U-N-S® Number, you can check and update your info by using D&B’s eUpdate service. (You may need to obtain a password from D&B Customer Service at; call them at 800-333-0505.)

3. Even the largest, most prestigious companies are not above hooking you with a phony sense of urgency. The fact that someone bought access to Landmark’s business credit rating should not have triggered an urgent sales call. I had updated my company info just two weeks prior to these calls. There was no need to worry me on a false pretense. Though D&B has been around for 160 years and Landmark for only 24, D&B still needs to look at how it communicates with its customers.

You won’t much much mention of Dun & Bradstreet on its corporate Web site. In October 2001 the company officially changed its name to D&B. The intent of the new branding, according to a press release, was to show “an intense focus on enabling customers to make better, more confident business decisions.”

Decide this: Don’t give business or personal information away by phone, even if the caller swears he is legit. (What else would he swear?)

Want to know more about Landmark Computer Labs' financials? Go to D&B's Web site and key in “Landmark Computer Laboratories, Inc.” in Virginia for what D&B calls “a meticulously researched and continually updated report that provides an informative, in-depth evaluation of a company's financial stability”. Cost: $121.99. (Wow -- At these prices why do they have to outsource to India?)