HP Outsourcing Tech Support to Bloggers?

Google Analytics tells me over 80% of my traffic is from Google searches, with a smaller percentage from MSN and Yahoo. People click the Ask A Question link at the top of every page at the rate of 10-20 new questions every day. Yesterday morning I got a question from a guy named William who was referred to me by the HP support team:

I have a HP PAVILION 783c Desktop. I would like to make still photos from home video on a DVD+R disc. I contacted HP and they said to contact you.

I’d publish the full header of the email here as additional “proof”, but that’s not fair to William since he’s looking for an answer to his question not a violation of his privacy.

I have no reason to believe HP didn’t recommend this course of action. There aren’t very many people offering tutorials on how to extract data from DVDs recorded with camcorders. The process is a pain because the disks aren’t really designed to be re-edited unless you buy Sony’s software.

The question is: how many other companies are off-loading their customer service load to blogs? AOL apparently just dumped 1400 customer service reps. Are bloggers going to pick up the slack for AOL too? (Their secret reason for buying Weblogs, Inc maybe?) HP cut 15,000 jobs in July.

These large companies aren’t reducing staff because computing is getting easier – I see questions ranging from the very basic to challenges that leave me scratching my head every day. Reducing staff is a balancing act to keep costs down for shareholders while providing “good-enough” support to keep customers from leaving. And in the case of a computer manufacturer, the customer is generally stuck for several years because Average Joe doesn’t have the budget to buy a new computer just because the company gave lousy service.

So now we know this is happening. How do we (the bloggers) capitalize on large corporations off-loading their tech support to those of us who are providing free information online? Is the traffic enough? I’d like the traffic better if I was getting link love from HP. A big link on their support pages that says, “Can’t find the answer here, try JakeLudington.com!” Maybe a Quad-Core machine to replace my aging P4 with HT?