IN a bid to improve its service to customers in Asia, National Semiconductor has opened a regional customer support centre in Singapore. The centre will handle orders, shipment and technical and general enquiries from customers in China, Taiwan, South Korea, India, Hong Kong, Thailand, the Philippines and Singapore. Michael Burger, vice president and managing director of National Semiconductor's international business group for the Southeast Asia division, said the US$3 million spent in establishing the centre was a strategic investment because of the importance of customer service to the company. The centre is to be run from the company's Singapore manufacturing plant, which is in the process of undergoing a $130 million expansion. Mr Burger said Singapore was chosen as a site for the centre partly because the centre would be in a location that was wholly owned by the company. Another reason for selecting the Lion City was its excellent telecommunications infrastructure. To make it easier for customers to contact the centre, Singapore Telecom has installed a comprehensive communications system which allocates to each customer a toll free phone line enabling it to connect instantly with the centre's staff. President and chief executive of Singapore Telecom, Brigader-General Lee Hsien Yang said: 'This is a good example of how Singapore Telecom can assist multinational corporations in Singapore to provide solid support to their customers in the region and around the world.' Within the centre, staff are organised into groups, with each group handling a different country. The centre's staff speak a number of different languages including Mandarin, Cantonese, Hokkien, Korean, Thai, Tagalog, Tamil and English. However, if the dedicated staff for a particular country are busy when a call comes in, the centre's computerised call distribution system will pass the call around until it is answered. The company believes that with this system it can answer any call within four-and-a-half rings. The call distribution system is one of three new 'intelligent systems' that have been installed at the centre. Another new system is the case-based reasoning system, which records details of customer's problems and the engineer's solutions, so that the information can be recalled should the problem arise again. The third system is the Scopus Customer Tracking System, which records a customer's past records. According to Mr Burger, this system allows staff to get a complete profile of the customer as soon as they receive a call. The centre represents the first phase in the development of National Semiconductor's customer support strategy. The second phase will see the establishment of a technical response group, a customer response group and a special services group. These groups will offer technical and general assistance to customers. The second phase should be completed by mid-1996. Apart from the plant in Singapore, National Semiconductor has manufacturing facilities in Cebu, Penang and Malacca, as well as a total of eight sales offices across the region. The company's product lines are divided into four categories: telecom, video, personal computing and multimarket products. Existing customers include Samsung and Goldstar in Korea, Acer in Taiwan and S Megga and VTech in Hong Kong.