Disgruntled HP customer meets happy resolution

Readers -- and the company -- react to a tale of HP tech support gone awry

A recent Gripe Line in which HP customer Stacy was made to feel "belittled, embarrassed, and ashamed" by the tech support he received elicited some strong responses. Several people wrote to declare that they, too, had gone away angry, frustrated, and in search of a new PC vendor after a dispute with HP. But one reader wrote in to report that Stacy's story -- as told in my post -- was far from over, and since then, it has made an about-turn, ending with a very happy outcome for Stacy.

But first, more proof that all it takes is a bad tech support experience to turn a loyal customer into a lost one.

[ For a look at where tech support is going, read Christina Tynan-Wood's "The (better) future of tech support." | Frustrated by tech support? Get answers in InfoWorld's Gripe Line newsletter. ]

"Your narrative about Stacy and his laptop rang a bell for me," Fred says. "I used to be a big fan of HP. I bought and recommended dozens of the company's printers. And when I replaced our home PC a couple of years ago, I got an HP tower and widescreen monitor. I could have bought another brand's monitor for less but figured I'd stick with quality. I had faith in HP."

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But when the backlight in the system's monitor and the power supply in the tower both failed within 18 months of the purchase, Fred's faith was gone, and he no longer buys or recommends the company's printers.

For Bob, who also felt compelled to share a story in response to Stacy's plight, it was HP's request that Bob send in $450 to fix a system he believed should have been covered by a warranty that pushed him over the edge -- much as it did Stacy.

"In 2007, I bought my son an HP laptop to start college with. It worked well for about 30 days but then started to lose wireless connectivity," Bob says. "We sent it back, but it came back not working any better."

In all, Bob ended up returning the system for repair three times -- though each time the problem was a bit different. On the third try, the machine was no longer within the warranty period.

"A tech diagnosed the problem as the motherboard," he explains, "and offered to replace it for about $450."

Bob argued, but the tech was intractable. Bob eventually gave up. "We've bought a Toshiba laptop and are very happy," he says.

But it was the letter I got from a spokesperson at HP that made me hope that HP's recent efforts at beefing up support are paying off. (Both Frank's and Bob's experiences date from a few years back.) Back in my March post "HP's big bet on better tech support," Jodi Schilling, vice president of America's customer support operations at HP, told me, "We are investing in the support space in a way that we haven't in the past. We are moving toward a leadership position in the industry in this area."

The spokesperson's letter about Stacy's case was meant to bring me up to speed on what's happened since I reported on Stacy's initial gripe.

"We did some more research into the matter, and Stacy's notebook battery was not part of a recall," the spokesperson notes. (This recall is what led Stacy to believe HP should cover the repairs on his laptop and why he refused several offers for discounted repair.) "HP reached out to Stacy this week and offered him a replacement laptop, which he accepted. He was very happy with the resolution. HP is also investigating his claims regarding his initial support interaction and will take appropriate action there."

All's well that ends well? So it would seem. Stacy reports that he was "surprised and elated" when HP contacted him and offered to replace his old laptop -- at that point taken apart for parts in the hope of selling them off on eBay -- with a brand new one. "They even offered me a choice between three models." He reports. And proving that, even when a problem has gone this far, it is possible to turn it back into an opportunity, this action has restored Stacy's faith in HP. "Although this whole ordeal has taken a long time with a lot of negativity towards HP on my part," he says. "I am very satisfied with the end result and will continue to use and support HP products."

Got gripes or questions? Send them to christina_tynan-wood@infoworld.com.

This story, "Disgruntled HP customer meets happy resolution," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more of Christina Tynan-Wood's Gripe Line blog at InfoWorld.com.

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