HP tech support lacks human touch

The company loses a customer when tech support staff forgets there's a human being on the other end of the line

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Stacy spoke to several other people who did little to repair the problem or the growing feeling he had that his problem simply did not matter to anyone at HP. After detailing his experience in a letter to the CEO of HP in Canada, he did, however, receive a call from an "executive case manager" who almost succeeded in turning things around.

"He was nice and very patient with me," reports Stacy. "I told him all of the issues and the emails that I have sent to HP and about the rudeness of the employees and lack of consideration for my feelings." He confirmed that Stacy's laptop battery was on the recall list and told Stacy that, just to get the troubleshooting started, he would send a new battery. This probably wouldn't fix the fried motherboard, he told Stacy, but it was a first step. The parts arrived and didn't fix the problem, so Stacy called back.

But his case manager was apparently not authorized to repair the laptop. He offered Stacy a laptop bag and an additional year on the extended warranty if he bought a new computer, but told him that was all he could do. He suggested Stacy try another case manager.

"The next day another executive case manager called me and before I could say two words, she told me my case was closed," Stacy says. He had accepted the battery and adapter, she told him, and that was all HP was prepared to do.

I contacted HP on Stacy's behalf, but it was too late. It was probably too late after the technician laughed at his stutter. It took my contact in the United States a while to work through channels, but she managed to get the Canadian HP division to offer to look at Stacy's computer for free. He declined, saying he preferred to sell it -- in parts -- on eBay.

For a company that makes and sells computers, it may be easy to view the world in terms of parts, service, and the bottom line, but it is humans who purchase machines. If using emotion to sell machines works, it also works to make people regret those purchases. In marketing campaigns, most companies try to make their customers look happy, optimistic, and productive. Stacy's experience was at the other end of the spectrum. "I am just a nobody to HP," he says. "The people there made me feel small and insignificant."

I completely understand that a company cannot replace an out-of-warranty computer every time a customer calls with a problem, but I think it's instructive for anyone who runs a business to remember that, while making this sort of business decision, it is a human being at the other end of the line. Computers are often more than just machines to us. They are our livelihood and our connection to the people we love. We might be willing to accept that the laptop needs replacing -- though a lifespan shortened to 18 months by a known manufacturer defect is likely to irk most consumers -- or any other fair(ish) business decision. But you can't be rude about it and expect us to keep spending our money with you.

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

This story, "HP tech support lacks human touch," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more of Christina Tynan-Wood's Gripe Line blog at InfoWorld.com.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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