"You can't do support blindly," she says. "But cost should not be the driving factor. We have tried to shift our mental model to, 'What does the customer want and need?' We want to be the leader in our customers' support experience so they will continue to come back to us. We want loyal customers who come back to us both at work and at home -- for generations."
Thus, HP has implemented a number of changes lately with that goal in mind. One of those was creating separate phone numbers for its commercial and consumer customers.
"This change was the result of customer feedback," says Schilling. "People were getting lost in the phone system, and we realized that having that having one number was not working. On the consumer side, we also simplified the phone system considerably. Callers now no longer have to know what model computer they have when they call. And we reduced transfers by more than half and improved accuracy of those transfers by 35 percent."
An independent study done by VocaLabs found these changes to be having the desired effect. "In 2009," reads a press release from VocaLabs, "HP customers reported that they found it easier to reach an agent, felt they endured fewer irrelevant steps and experienced fewer problems with the automated portion of the call, or the IVR system."
The new frontline of tech support
There are more improvement plans for HP tech support as well.
"We -- in customer support -- are in the frontlines," says Schilling. "We take that information right back to the development labs."
Anticipating calls before they happen by preventing problems and providing better self-diagnostic tools are becoming essential elements in keeping customers from getting frustrated.
"If we can send customers to the Web to get diagnostics before they call, we can solve their problem a lot quicker. So we are funneling back into the businesses and looking at next-generation opportunities from the hardware and software perspective. You can't depend on the frontline agents to solve everything. Sometimes, we have to prevent that call from ever happening," Schilling says.
I put one of Kevin's questions to Schilling as well: "Is it unreasonable to think that at least half of the support interactions one experiences could end without head shaking?" (Or as I put it: "Why is it talking -- or chatting -- with support technicians so often makes me wonder if I'm speaking to an extraterrestrial?")
Kevin and I are not the first ones to notice that this devotion to the "script" makes for some pretty strange human interactions.
"We have been working very closely with call center agents so that the training is not so much, 'Here's what you do and when.' We are also doing some role playing so they can develop some soft skills in dealing with people," Schilling says. "But customers expect a very similar experience no matter what agent they reach. So some of that 'scripting' is in place for consistency."
What do you think, Gripe Line readers? Are the new phone systems and other changes making a difference in your support calls to HP?
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