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What's happened to Customer Service?

Not too long ago I posted a review of my new Compaq X1000 laptop that I received from shopping.hp.com.  There were two issues that I had:

Quirky keyboard and...

The option I chose for my cd/dvd drive clearly shows the ability to burn DVDs: http://www.sharpcrm.com/compaq.jpg
And my laptop only came with a dvd/cd-rw drive. 

I've called HP 7 times up until today trying to get a hold of someone who'll stop passing the buck.  I've even called HP's corporate office, seems that Carly Fiorina has her own call center as a line of defense against angry customers.  And all they do is pass the buck.  "So, really all you are is another layer of beaurocracy between the customers and management - with no real power to do anything for them?"  "Sometimes.  We have to work with the departments..." blah blah - in other words, they're just a Carly Fiorina's personal firewall.

This laptop goes back tomorrow, simply on principle.  I didn't even so much as get an apology.  Pathetic.  Off I go to buy a Thinkpad...

GiorgioG
Monday, July 28, 2003

Thinkpads suck, too.

I hate my thinkpad for quite a few different reasons.

Flamebait Sr.
Monday, July 28, 2003

I don't dislike the laptop so much - I just refuse to let myself be insulted by a company that's so big it doesn't care what customers have to go through to get what they expect.  I swear, not 1 person of the 7-8 I spoke to, took ownership of the problem.

GiorgioG
Monday, July 28, 2003

Why do you dislike Thinkpads?  I'm planning on getting one soon.

Kent
Monday, July 28, 2003

1) Various design flaws in various models:
http://tinyurl.com/ibw4
(Origionally http://groups.google.com/groups?hl=en&lr=&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8&threadm=b246238d.0307161618.3c121431%40posting.google.com&rnum=1&prev=/groups%3Fq%3Dthinkpad%2Bt30%2Bmotherboard%2Bmemory%2Breplacement%26hl%3Den%26lr%3D%26ie%3DUTF-8%26oe%3DUTF-8%26selm%3Db246238d.0307161618.3c121431%2540posting.google.com%26rnum%3D1 ) is one example thereof.
2) The keyboard joystick, lack of a windows key far after everybody else had one, etc.
3) Very poor driver design.  Nobody tested the drivers against in a real multi-monitor setting, I'll say that much.  One version of the drivers will let you switch the primary monitor once and only once.  Then you need to restart.  More recent versions are only slightly better and often display quirky behaviour.
4) Doesn't play well with KVM switches.  My mouse has a habit of freezing up, requiring a restart.

Flamebait Sr.
Monday, July 28, 2003

Yep, had roughly similar problems with HP 'non-support' myself. I avoid their equipment when I can because of it. Our sysadmin has had similar experiences on larger scale as well. It's just not worth the time to deal with these people.

anonQAguy
Monday, July 28, 2003

I've dealt with Dell's executive staff twice. Both times they've done what it took to make me happy. I'm annoyed that it took writing to Michael Dell, but the end result was that I'll only buy/recommend Dell now.

Philo

Philo
Monday, July 28, 2003

The answer to the question is pretty obvious.. Customer service is gone because you didn't pay very much for the item in the first place.   

One failing of modern capitalism mixed with instant access to information (Internet based price comparisons, etc) is that given two items, people will virtually always choose to buy the cheaper of the two if there are no obvious and tactile advantages to one or the other, and most people never even figure customer services into the purchase price up front.  Thus if you have company A vs company B and each has a product that is virtually identical but company B charges 50% more because they will invest that money in customer service, well company A is going to sell a lot more units up front and gain a hold on the market.  Company B is likely to go out of business before the advantages of high quality customer services can ever be seen.

It is easy to just think "Well, companies suck these days and they don't offer good customer service" but it is us, the consumers, who are to blame.  Good customer service costs money, but we demand our items to be as cheap as possible and we don't figure after-sale service and such into our purchasing decisions. 

Mister Fancypants
Monday, July 28, 2003

True.

However, there also is the concept of brand loyalty, which does go beyond instant price comparisons.  Included in the price for buying a "name brand" product is the general expectation of better support, better quality, etc. than you'd get from the "generic brand" product.  So often times, people will find the lowest price for a Thinkpad or a Vaio or whatnot online, but will make sure that it's a genuine Thinkpad or Vaio.

I have a 50% hate ratio with Vaios, which is better than any of the other laptops that I've used.  Although the word on the street is that Sony quality is going down the toilet.

Flamebait Sr.
Monday, July 28, 2003

Although, to add one thing, this implies that market pressures will stratify things and prefer companies to either have phenomenal support or crappy support, no in-between.

Flamebait Sr.
Monday, July 28, 2003

Interesting point, fancypants --

and I think you're right.  For example, the service is why we stay with our current insurance company. They happen to be very price competitive, but you can find some companies that will beat them on price for certain situations. We've never switched, though, because nobody can compete with them for service as well as price.

for some highly disposable items, customer service isn't really an issue, but for many things it is very valuable.

To your point, however, I recently had to call Dell support to get an ailing HDD evaluated at home. I was pleasantly surprised that I ended up talking to a support center in the USA. The problem got handled and solved very quickly. While I was on the phone with the guy, I said something like ' I hope your tape is running because for the record I want you to know that painless and effective support is important to me. I realize it's not free, the PC market's down and margins are thin, and I would be willing to pay a premium if need be to be guaranteed a high quality of support. Particularly if it was domestic-based support. I'd rather pay a bit more to support domestic support operations than to see it all farmed out overseas.'

anonQAguy
Monday, July 28, 2003

TONS of our customers use laptops, and the best overall right now seems to be Dell... which is what I have myself. They're not flashy, but they're generally reliable, and do what you expect them to do.

HeyCoolAid!
Monday, July 28, 2003

My experience with Toshiba (Canada) has been great - every-one was falling all over themselves trying to help. They did help too; Replaced the hard drive, Replaced the CD/DVD-ROM (twice, first time at my expense - being a proprietary drive the replacement was $400+). I don't know if I'd recommend a Toshiba or not at this point.

Dave
Monday, July 28, 2003

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