November 19, 2009

HP responds to ‘Why I love public transportation and hate HP’

David SparkAt the beginning of November I wrote an article titled Why I love public transportation and hate HP after a horrible customer service experience with HP where I had to wait two hours for technical service after I had paid for their tier 2 service. I compared it to public transportation in San Francisco because now we have transponders on our buses letting us know how long we’ll have to wait. That information is very valuable, allowing us to make a decision on how to proceed. Should I wait, take another bus, or hail a cab?

While I like HP products and the actual service was excellent, the wait angered me so much that it has irreparably damaged my opinion of the HP brand. I was contacted by two people at HP and spoke to one of them on the phone off the record. I wanted something on the record that I could print here, so I sent two questions for which the HP representative said he would get an “on the  record” response. After a week and a half, here are the responses to my two questions from Jodi Schilling, Vice President, HP Global Customer Support Operations for the Americas. I reserve my opinions and follow-up questions for you readers until after you read the responses.

My Q&A with HP

David: What is HP doing to educate customers about their wait time online for customer service/technical support? I don’t want to know that on average you answer tech questions in 10 minutes. I want to know how someone who either gets stuck online for a while can figure out what’s happening so they can make an educated decision. For example, when I look at the Muni wait time and it says 45 minutes for the next bus, I know I should take an alternate route. If I know I’m going to be waiting for two hours on hold, I know to take an alternate route.

HP’s response: HP’s focus has been to answer all calls in a timely manner, and we typically do so in 2 minutes or less. In your particular case, it appeared to have been during a time period of unusual and extremely high call volume and we are currently increasing our staffing to ensure minimal hold times. It also looked as if you were transferred twice, which added to the wait time, unfortunately. We sincerely apologize for the inconvenience.

Thank you for your suggestion about the wait time notification system. Although HP currently does not have a system like this in place, we may consider adding one in the future. With the volume of calls coming into HP and being routed to multiple call center locations, estimating hold times is no easy task. The length of technical support calls can also vary widely depending on the issues being discussed and the level of technical expertise of the customer, so providing accurate estimates would be a challenge.

David: Is the official complaint line [email protected]? How are people supposed to know that? Is there a phone number people can call? You said that hundreds of thousands of people send emails, but I’m sure plenty more would if they knew that. Have you done some type of PR campaign to promote that email address? I know that if I click on a couple of screens and scroll to the bottom I can find that, but really, who would know?

Mark HurdHP’s response: Customers are asked for feedback on their support experience after nearly every support interaction, either by phone, on the HP Customer Care site, or following support chats and via email. We greatly value customer feedback and take action on it whenever feasible. If customers have specific complaints, they are encouraged to submit them online here. (Note: This is a form to “email HP CEO Mark Hurd [pictured at right] your suggestions and complaints.”)

My take on HP’s response

While I appreciate HP reaching out to me, I wasn’t that impressed with their response.

1. They’re very sorry about my two hour wait, yet they took a week and a half to answer my two questions. That doesn’t jibe.

2. How is anyone supposed to know about that Mark Hurd customer service page? They didn’t answer that part of the question. The only reason I knew about it and asked about it was because the person who contacted me off the record had told me about it. Not in my wildest dreams would I have thought to contact the CEO of HP. Outside of my providing the link here, how would any of you know to make that connection and contact him?

Also, this strikes me as a completely bogus customer service offering. They’re telling us to email Mark Hurd, and yet I’m sure he’s not reading nor responding to any of those emails. I don’t need to talk to Mark Hurd. I just need to talk to someone who will consider my question and respond accordingly, which I’m sure is what happens.

But why say, “Email Mark Hurd your complaint”? What kind of bogus non-authentic relationship does HP want to create with us? Why would they set up something like that? I take that customer service page the same way as McDonald’s telling me to email all my complaints to Mayor McCheese. How can I possibly take it seriously?

What companies have a good customer service wait experience?

I do recognize that it’s not easy to calculate the customer service wait time, but I know companies have done it before. I honestly can’t remember which companies. So, I put the questions out to Socialmedia.biz readers:

What large company has a good phone customer service experience? Which ones inform you what your wait time will be? Which ones let you know the number of people who are ahead of you in the queue? Do any others provide a good experience? I remember Microsoft used to have a radio station providing lots of information. Do they still do that?

I’m looking for tips and advice that we can all share to improve the customer wait experience. If it’s going to have to be a two-hour wait, what can we do to inform people about that, or provide a faster response through some other means?

Creative Commons image by A30_Tsitika on Flickr. David Spark, a partner in Socialmedia.biz, helps businesses grow by developing thought leadership through storytelling and covering live events. Contact David by email, follow him on Twitter and Google Plus or leave a comment below.

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  • David, good post.

    I'm a big fan of HP, know a number of people on the executive team there and suspect they're dedicated to providing the best customer support possible. At the same time, I think HP could benefit from some additional authenticity and transparency into their internal processes, as this episode suggests.

    In this era of cost-cutting, adequate customer support has been one of the first things to go, and we should remind companies that if they don't stand behind their products, they shouldn't expect us to do so, either.

  • JD:

    Thanks. What I feel that happens when people are kept in the dark about when they're going to receive customer service, is they start creating their own story. Of course the company is trying to get them to a customer support person, but without information as to what's happening, we inevitably start trying to figure things out, get frustrated, and get angry. You have to think about the situation the person is on the other line. If you can't deliver the service to the person right away, what can you do for that person in terms of information, so they don't let their imagination and frustration run wild? In fact, I would sacrifice speed of service for information as to when I was going to receive service.

  • HPInsider

    Mark Hurds HP is all about smoke and mirrors. The companies PR guys are trying to give you a positive spin, but from the inside I see the customer service culture crumbling.

    The reason – this all comes down from Mr Hurd. He disrespects his employees and his customers; the only thing that matters to him is his bonus.

    If you want better service from HP then help us get rid of Mark Hurd.

  • This sounds very similar to Dell's behavior after they achieved desktop/laptop market dominance. Their customer service eroded to the point that “Dell sucks” became a meme. Dell's fall led to HP's rise, when HP realized there was a huge market void – they filled it, and now HP sucks. I see it as a failure to build an environment and process(es) that recognize that the folks on the other end of the phone – be they single purchasers, or corporate procurement officers – are the money train.

    I know that I feel less, um, fornicated when someone talks to me quickly about a tech support issue, even if I have to make a few calls over a few days. Asking someone to wait two hours, and then giving them the non-answer answers HP's Schilling gave you, is stupid. Particularly stupid, since you're what I call a “message amplifier” – don't piss off a storyteller. We never quit…

  • Dudley

    Got to this article late, but a previous poster stating that the Mark Hurd link is “smoke and mirrors” is right on! I followed that path a few weeks back. You receive a blanket e-mail response stating that your complaint will be forwarded to the proper department. About 4-5 days later, I received a phone call from “escalated customer service” asking me to HOLD while they connected me to a “case manager”. Yes, they called me and put me on HOLD again ! It’s all a shell game. The so called “case manager” (english speaking for a change) had the personality of a tree stump. The reason for all this was for her to advise me the same thing that online chat support had told me a week earlier. They could not send me the damaged part for me to repair myself, but the computer would have to be shipped to their Texas repair facility, which means in return, I get a refurbished unit.

    See current issue of PC World magazine for latest HP product realiability results, which pretty much explains my experience with HP.

    • So many customer service operations give you a wait time estimation. That information is an amazingly powerful tool in customer service. Once I have that information, there are so may decisions I can make. By withholding that information, I'm lost, confused, and get increasingly angry. And where am I directing that information?…HP. That's why it's so bad to put people on hold for that long without giving them a true time estimation.

      With that said, a personal contact I made at HP has been very helpful getting my wife's computer fixed and I'm grateful for that.