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HP World - HP users disdain offshore support move

Users at last week's HP World conference voiced concerns about offshore outsourcing and the fate of future HP events.

HP is using its offshore facility in Bangalore to deliver about 6% of its call centre customer support, primarily desktop support, and may shift more work overseas in the future. But the company is stepping cautiously because of language issues.

At an HP World user forum, Denys Beauchemin, chairman of the HP user group Interex, said his group has received hundreds of comments from HP customers angry with the company's outsourcing of its customer support.

The most common problem has to do with language difficulties that US customers are experiencing with HP's Bangalore-based workers.

Bob Floyd, HP's vice-president of support services, said the company is outsourcing only a small portion of its call centre support, mostly its desktop business, "so that we can work through some issues" such as technical training and language. He said the company would not expand its overseas support until it is certain it meets the standards customers expect.

HP wants Interex to back the company's technical solutions conference now scheduled for September 2005. But at a meeting, Interex members were happy to continue holding HP World.

Although 72% the user group's annual revenue of about $8m (£4.4m) comes from its conferences, Beauchemin said the financial risks of staying with HP or remaining independent were equal. "One was no more financially secure than the other," he said.

The main reason Interex is staying independent concerns the long-term viability of the user group, said Beauchemin. If Interex joined HP, "we were going to be emasculated as a group," he said.

The Encompass user group, which jointly sponsored this year's HP World with Interex, is taking a different course from Interex and will support HP's conference.

At a meeting of its members at HP World, Encompass president Kristi Browder said the HP conference is "the best place for us to be" because of the high number of technical experts, such as systems administrators, it expects to attend.

Patrick Thibodeau writes for Computerworld


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