The Challenge

Until a complication occurs that personally affects one’s daily routine, like a global automobile shortage, most of the world never thinks about microchips. Almost always taken for granted, they lie at the heart of everything we do and every product we use, from an MRI machine to your toothbrush. Not much bigger than a fingernail, they look small and insignificant, but they are intricate components, and consequently, they generate a lot of questions.

Today, Harte Hanks is the first line of defense for all customer support for one of the world’s major microelectronic manufacturers. While we do address routine inquiries regarding issues such as late deliveries, inventory and general information, most customer interactions are highly technical and specialized, requiring in-depth knowledge of electrical engineering and integrated circuit design. The competencies needed to resolve these technical issues require a much higher level of training and expertise. Today, Harte Hanks resolves 80% of all engagements without escalating them — but it wasn’t always like that.

Prior to Harte Hanks’ customer support involvement, our client’s organization was brimming with some of the world’s most credentialed scientists and engineers. Their knowledge and capabilities in the semi-conductor space were second to none, but as adept as the company was at designing and manufacturing chips, their customer support was basically non-existent. Customer requests would come in and be shuffled through the staff engineers, and the backlog swelled like water behind a dam.

Our Insights

We quickly learned there was no standard process for customer support. In the absence of a defined process, no one knew who in the company was responsible for addressing customer inquiries.

The staff was comprised of highly intelligent and experienced scientists and engineers whose jobs involved solving complicated and demanding technical problems. It was not surprising then that rudimentary, first-level support was not their strength. Many customer inquiries simply didn’t seem to have the same priority as the technical projects. Consequently, customer queries were often pushed to the side.

Further, in a technology B2B, the issues prompting customer calls demanded a timely response. Microchip customers were usually engineers or technicians who had deadlines to meet. Since chips were essential to their products, an unresolved request could halt production and jeopardize their business. There were often no workarounds or substitutes. In the microelectronic business, customer care was a mission-critical capability.

The company recognized a lack of customer support as a deficiency to be corrected. Though they tried to implement this competency internally, they didn’t have the expertise or background to set up a call center to match the quality of their microchip business.

Our Approach

In this situation, standard agents would be inadequate. We needed a staff of degreed engineers and technologists experienced with semiconductor design, manufacture and application. This onboarding was a demanding multi-level recruiting process requiring the highest standard of due diligence. Training required about six months for an agent to become fully proficient.

Our staff was entirely remote with no geographical limitations, which empowered us to recruit best-in-class agents and to provide native language support capability. It also allowed us to extend working hours and increase productivity. Additionally, we implemented a mandatory four-hour weekly team meeting to share best practices and address marketplace anomalies, such as the global chip shortage.

Due to the dynamic nature of chip design and manufacturing, we quickly decided to embed the Harte Hanks workforce into the client’s organization to maximize efficiency and capabilities. This was a highly classified environment requiring maximum security, for which we needed to create special protocols and procedures.

Calls funneled through a first stage web-based ticketing system. This system segmented and catalogued calls into topics to more efficiently traffic them to the appropriate agents for best resolution.

The Results

We now claim one of the most professional and comprehensive customer support teams in the microelectronic business. We have been able to expand our footprint around the world, providing extended hours and enhanced language support.

Our team is fully integrated and viewed as an essential division of our client’s organization.


Cases resolved in under seven days


Incoming queries handled without escalation

The embedded Harte Hanks Customer Support team currently handles 80% of all incoming queries. The remaining 20% are from large multi-million-dollar customers, such as large car companies, and are handled by a corporate account manager.