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A story we wrote about Gateway's problems with support earlier this week has prompted Big Blue to tell us what it is up to. Dermot O'Laughlin, programme director for IBM US services and support, said that steps the firm took in the last few years has paid dividends for its customers. O'Laughlin said that four or five years ago, IBM took around 6.5 million support calls a year, using 3,000 different agents, but decided to completely revisit its support strategy. "The most important thing we discussed was architecture to get our data delivered in a consistent way. The Web, then, was in its infancy. We started to consolidate our call centres and we ended up with a call centre in Greenock and Dublin which covered Europe." He said that worldwide, IBM now has 14 call centres, with only one of those, in Florida, being outsourced. The consolidation was important because, for instance, its Raleigh operation could be affected by hurricanes and its Canadian centre by ice storms. The system now allows him, effectively, to switch the loads anywhere around the world. "I can flick a switch, send people home, and transfer the calls to other centres," he said. Big Blue also opened up a centre in Brisbane, which is being used to cover its Far East operation, O'Laughlin said. He said that IBM uses knowledge based software to filter the types of calls it gets, and brought in the IBM Research Labs to implement a data mining methodology for its PC support centres. Although the number of calls IBM has taken has dropped to around five million a year, he said that many queries were satisfied by its Web support site. "Calls have come down, but when we went on the Web, around two and a half years ago, in the first month we had 256,000 visits from people in 132 countries," he said. The Web figure now runs at around eight million a month, with a large proportion of visits, three million or so, downloading patches, drivers and other software. He also claimed that IBM had surveyed customers to find their level of satisfaction with support, and the results were positive. So are you happy with IBM support? Mail us at The Reg with your thoughts. ®

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