I used to think customer service and technical support were givens: you either did it well or failed in business. After all, if you don't support your customers, what have you got?
Now I'm not so sure. The multiyear trend of outsourcing service calls--primarily to India--seems to have consumers endlessly frustrated. The big question is: does it matter?
Conventional wisdom says we're frustrated because American jobs are being outsourced. But anecdotal evidence from my own personal focus group suggests that we may have gotten over the outsourcing thing, only to hit a snag on the support itself not being up to snuff.
I've personally had shockingly horrible experiences with offshore technical support from HughesNet and Symantec. I canceled my service with both as a result. On the other hand, a recent experience with Dell was quite satisfactory.
I'm really not sure why overseas support should be inferior to onshore support. Isn't everybody working from training manuals? Are we really better trained than our friends in India, or is it just a time zone thing? It can't be language; India has a huge English-speaking population.
Looking at it from a corporate perspective, the savings of outsourcing service calls are enormous. But is it worth it? The answer to that question lies with consumers. Are you willing to pay more for better service from representatives that live on your soil?
If so, then for the first time in decades there's potential for electronics companies to differentiate based on service. But does that potential really exist, or are American consumers unwilling to put their money where their mouth is?
Here's the million-dollar question: would you be willing to pay more for a product or service, say 10 percent to 20 percent more, if you knew the service calls would be fielded by American workers?
Put another way: how do you rank customer service and technical support versus factors like performance, features, and price when making a buying decision? I'm talking about all kinds of electronic products and services. And I'd love to hear from small businesses and enterprise customers, as well as consumers.