I got a press release from HP recently announcing the opening of its new service center in Conway, Ark. "The $28 million site will employ more than 1,000 employees and is evidence of HP's continued investment towards the goal of delivering the best support and service in the industry," read the release. "HP selected Conway in part due to its close proximity to the universities and colleges in Central Arkansas."
I've also been receiving plenty of gripes lately from readers grumbling of offshore technical support experiences. Gripe Line reader Kevin, for example, writes in to complain about chat support in general, explaining that he gets very irritated "when I ask a question that 99.9 percent of the population would interpret one way but the support representative interprets in some other way. Or when a representative is unable to do anything but go through a script even if that script makes no sense."
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Or as reader Tommy said of Adobe in my recent Gripe Line post "Beware the perils of offshore tech support": "Just like the rest of America, we're failing economically here in California. For a San Jose, California, company to send jobs to India while our unemployment is in the double digits is wrong."
So I sent a note to HP asking if this new Arkansas service center meant more support calls to HP would be handled here on our shores by newly minted graduates of Arkansas colleges. That action got me a phone conference with Jodi Schilling, vice president of America's customer support operations at HP. While she could not say if your next call would be routed to a fresh-faced graduate in Arkansas, she did say that HP has been giving the question of support a lot of thought -- and money -- lately.
"We are investing in the support space in a way that we haven't in the past," she says. "We are moving toward a leadership position in the industry in this area."
Offshore vs. Onshore Tech Support
I pressed Schilling on the overseas-vs.-Arkansas question, and she said that decisions regarding where calls are routed and how support is administered to the caller can't simply boil down to making the call as cheap as possible for the customer service organization.