In the Customer Experience Hall of Shame, HP Rises to the Bottom


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To say that you’ve experience the nadir in technology service customer experience is saying a lot. But yesterday, HP hit rock bottom.

Just over a year ago (i.e. – out of warranty) I bought a humongo HP wide-screen monitor that swivels 90 degrees to become a “high-screen” monitor – perfect for reviewing process flow maps. No problems for the first year, other than coming with zero documentation and hiding the on-off switch.

But yesterday, things came unglued. First, the bottom data strip for Word that tells you what page you’re on and how many words over maximum word count you are “sunk,” so that only the very top was visible, but not the data. Then the type in all menus morphed into almost unreadable outlines of letters. Not wanting to waste hours trying to identify and fix the problem, I called HP. And it was the call of a lifetime.

After going through an AVR menu twice waiting to hear the word “monitor,” I decided to select something to do with photos or some such. Bingo! Took me straight to a woman in some foreign land (definitely not India) who spoke a little English. Alas, she understood lots less than she spoke. Being accustomed to states-side HP techs, I groaned. But I didn’t yet have a clue what I was in for.

She started asking questions–over and over again because she couldn’t understand the answers. She couldn’t even understand a serial number. We repeated that 5 or 6 times. Then she asked me to describe the problem, which she couldn’t understand to save her life. I asked to speak with someone more fluent (I’ll leave what I actually said to your imagination), but she was obviously not allowed to transfer. After some 20 – 25 minutes, she had recorded my name, phone number, e-mail address, the serial number and the product type. But she still had no clue why I was calling.

So she finally transferred me to a tech…in India. I understood him fine. He understood me fine, or seemed to. Better than average start. Then he tells me that this call will cost me $59.99. What is this, WalMart? Beyond nickel and diming, HP is down to pennies. But here comes the capper. Reading from a script, he told me that I was going to pay $59.99 whether he fixed the problem or not!

Hello HP, is anyone home at corporate? What the hell are you thinking? Well, we probably don’t want to know. But we know you’re not thinking about customers.

When I finally agreed to this travesty, I still hadn’t sampled his diagnostic and repair skills. No matter, he didn’t have any. Plus, he suddenly lost his “command” of English. He kept saying this happened because I had changed the screen resolution, which hadn’t changed. In fact losing the bottom data occurred while I was typing. Anyone know a keyboard shortcut to change screen resolution? Anyone?

Finally, I think I communicated the problems. Well, at least the bottom data strip. But it didn’t matter, because this guy didn’t have a clue! So he did the usual. He said, “May I put you on hold?” (like I have a choice) and went away. Very far away. So far he couldn’t return to the phone. So I finally hung up and eventually figured out the problem myself. The monitor had magically morphed to “picture” mode from “text.” I wonder how many times this self-inflicted injury will recur.

Time was when we were a nearly 100% HP office. ThinkPad laptops the only exception. Then HP “pulled an Oracle” (not providing upgrade paths to sell entirely new systems) and left Color LaserJet 5s incompatible with Windows XP. So we went Xerox, rather than get scammed into buying another HP. Then, 2 HP work stations crapped out prematurely, so we went Lenovo there, too. But the Xerox color laser is getting very expensive to maintain, so I was thinking about going back to HP. Never, never, never, ever.

Apply this incident across HP’s entire small business base, and It’s called “losing millions to save pennies.” I’d call to complain, but I know in advance nobody’s home.

BTW, last week’s post, “Guess Who’s Putting the Wow in Customer Service,” describes a wonderful Lenovo/IBM experience. Putting these two cases side-by-side speaks volumes. Hey, if HP is going to compete head up against Dell, might as well act like Dell, eh?


  1. Dick,

    I actually had a similar experience with Dell a few weeks ago. Tried to charge me for something stupid. I lost my cool, then figured it out myself. Funny, there are dozens of customers with the same issue posting on forums and no one from Dell was reaching to solve the problem. I was a little surprised, but not that surprised.

    Mike Boysen
    Effective CRM Consulting

  2. Dick Lee: Mike – I’ve been hearing those same stories, although I’ve heard that Dell moved at least some contact center activity back here. Do you know if that’s true?

  3. I can’t say one way or another. I dealt with someone in the Phillipines who kept asking the same questions, and say the same things over and over (just like your experience). Then we finally got to the part where I’d have to pay.

    To be honest, I’ve also had to deal with Microsoft a few times in the past 4 months and while I was speaking with someone in the Phillipines (we discussed the weather), the experience was darn good, and the set call back times and actually make the calls within the window they specify. Pretty amazing for an organization that large to seemingly be pulling it all together.

    No issues with Dell equipment, I was just upset that I had to pay to resolve a simple issue. I didn’t pay and resolved it myself, but that’s just because I’m lucky that way 🙂

    Mike Boysen
    Effective CRM Consulting


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