Exclusive: Apple Is Building a New Helpdesk Operation: New Product, Or Growing Popularity? | Cult of Mac

Exclusive: Apple Is Building a New Helpdesk Operation: New Product, Or Growing Popularity?



CC-licensed photo by Joohyun Jeon

Apple appears to be building a large, distributed helpdesk operation, either in anticipation of a major new product, or simply to sustain the company’s growing popularity.

Apple this summer is recruiting about 450 “At Home” technical support staff in at least six cities across the U.S., according to a document seen by Cultofmac.com.

Instead of locating these workers in a centralized call center, they will work out of their own homes.

“As a company who’s motto is ‘think different,’ our ‘work different’ philosophy offers you the opportunity to work independently in your home office,” the job ads said. “You will receive all the wonderful benefits of working for an amazing company without ever leaving your home.”

Virtual call centers are a growing trend in the support industry. Most tech companies’ have helpdesk operations that are partly home based, while companies like JetBlue and Sears are entirely virtual.

“It’s a huge trend right now,” said Allison Wroe, executive director of marketing at HDI, a support industry association. “It offers companies lower overhead, and staff have great job satisfaction.”

Maggie Klenke, a partner at The Call Center School in Lebanon, Tennessee, which offers training and consulting services, said 10 to 15 percent of all helpdesks are now virtual.

Klenke said the big advantage is that companies like Apple can recruit highly specialized staff without having to find them all in one city.

“Tech support is particularly good for this application because it’s so hard to find an army of people with those kinds of skills all clustered in one community,” she said. “You can get the cream of the crop instead of the average high school graduate and trying to train them. I see it as a real plus.”

Apple plans to recruit 150 At Home staff every month from July through September, in and around Orlando, Florida; Charlotte, North Carolina; Cincinnati, Ohio; and Orem, Utah; among other cities.

Apple has been advertising for “Apple At Home Experts” on Apple’s website and at various online job sites like Monster.com, Yahoo HotJobs and MySpace Jobs.

According to the ads, applicants need a private and quiet workspace; an ergonomically fitted chair and desk; a dedicated phone line; and an internet connection (both of which would be subsidized by Apple).

“Mac and Mac OS experience strongly preferred,” the ads said.

The ads were live on Apple’s website and various job boards until the end of last week, but are now unavailable. Here’s one that expired last week. There are copies however in Google’s cache, like this ad at Monster.com, this Yahoo adthis listing at Simply Hired and this link at Indeed.

Apple declined to comment.

Klenke said Apple is most likely extending its helpdesk operations because of the growing popularity of its products.

She said it might be possible that Apple is ramping up for a new iPhone –œ widely expected this summer — or another new product.

“If it’s as popular as the iPhone, they’re going to need an army of support people to support it,” she said.

Apple has call centers in Elk Grove, just outside of Sacramento, California, and in Austin, Texas. (The Elk Grove center has drawn comparisons to Mike Judge’s satirical “Office Space”).

A home-based helpdesk seems to be a new direction for the company.

In 2006, Apple abandoned a plan to build a giant call center in Bangalore, India. Apple planned to hire 3,000 support staff but pulled back because of cost concerns, according to reports. India isn’t as cheap as it used to be.

Plus, Indian tech support has received mixed reports. But Wroe said the support industry in India is doing something right –œ it’s still growing rapidly.

“Onshore, offshore, outsourced or virtual, you get what you pay for,” she said.

“The thing about Apple is, they are known for their phenomenal support,” added Wroe. “I love calling them.”


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