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Tech giants floored by monsoon

It rains in India. Who knew?

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Seasonal rain in India has left some of the biggest names in IT stranded today.

Problems at Hewlett Packard, which outsourced its UK support to India last year, were reported by several readers.

One HP channel partner said that it had been impossible to assign an engineer to fix a customer's problem, because the call is logged, and an engineer dispatched, from an Indian call center.

"We've been waiting for an engineer all day," a representative told us.

The cause is the monsoon season, which has left dozens dead, and much of Mumbai itself underwater. One reader reported being told that"due to the rain, none of the engineers are in work". Not so surprising, given the situation, but can't the support infrastructure of global IT companies be more resiliant?

HP says it is, and should be.

An HP spokesperson said that the system should be set up to automatically redirect calls to another call center.

"I'm not sure why people have had problems getting through," we were told. "That should be fine."

"I am being repeatedly told that because of rain there are no technical agents available!," another reader mailed us. "When requesting if anywhere else in the world has any technical support personnel to help me I get the standard 'sorry sir we are not able to help you'. Useful for a multi-billion pound company!"

Yet another reader who experienced similar problems with HP today mailed us to say:

"Is it just me, or is it madness that because of flooding thousands of miles away, I can't get a technician who probably lives a few miles away called out to fix our printer?"

HP corporate said that it's happy to hear from people experiencing problems, via The Reg and will attempt to resolve them. We'll forward them along.

HP opened a Bangalore call center in early 2004, and after the outsourcing move last year, UK queries are sent to Chennai.

The rain isn't unusual, but Indian's infrastructure seems ill-prepared to cope. Two years ago, a fire in a telecommunications hub in Chennai knocked out phone and data connections to several major India cities, including Bangalore and Kolkata.

But the downtime isn't all bad. At Hutchison's UK 3G network 3, "untrained" staff were fielding customer calls, and at least one reader reported a significant improvement in customer service. While 3's emergency staff aren't trained in call center etiquette, they are familiar with 3 phone services, unlike their Indian colleagues. ®

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