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Welcome to HP

Has anyone noticed how many once great American companies are crumbling and being destroyed by their competitors in places like China? Why is this? As I said in another recent blog entry it’s because they just don’t care any more. They make no attempt to genuinely innovate. They make little effort to produce quality products. And they do the absolute minimum possible in the area of customer service.

In one of my earlier blog entries (titled “HP Helldesk” from 2005-02-11) I ranted about a horrible experience I had with trying to get an HP printer repaired and how I never wanted to use their helpdesk system again. Well I have managed to keep away from their (so called) customer service system for over 7 years but a recent problem with another printer meant I had to use it again. And as you have probably guessed, things haven’t improved!

Naturally when you call HP you are diverted to an Indian helpdesk (at least I think so: maybe it was some other low wage economy). Why do they do this? Is it because you can’t run a helpdesk in New Zealand or the US? Is it because there aren’t enough people with the appropriate skills here? No. There is one reason and one reason only they do this: so they can exploit people who will work for very little. The customer experience doesn’t matter to them at all because all they want to do is save a bit of cash.

Before you even talk to anyone though you have to listen to a lengthy introduction explaining how they might record your call, how you will need to navigate through a menu system (advanced warning which fills even the bravest with a sense of foreboding) and how they will soon introduce a voice navigation system which will be so much better (their staff don’t understand a New Zealand accent, how will their computers do any better?)

So after wasting time on that you get on to the menu navigation system. The first two options are actually fairly simple but the third is a classic. It requires selecting a number based on an extensive list of obscure model specifications (something like “if you have a LaserJet (not DeskJet) PL, ML, MD, N in the 1000, 1200, 1500 or 2000 model range please press 1…”).

Sometimes you are then asked to enter your case number from previous calls. You type this in to the automated system. I’m not sure why because the first thing you are asked when you do get through to a “consultant” is what your case number is. It’s the same as the one I typed in 5 seconds ago!

Now you do make contact with an “expert”. Except they aren’t experts at all, of course. They just follow a script and have no real understanding of what they are doing. At least most of them are in this category because just occasionally you are lucky enough to get one who does know a small amount about computers or printers or whatever else you are calling about.

But then comes the Indian accent versus New Zealand accent thing. This isn’t totally insurmountable, but it does add an extra element of uncertainty and you are never totally sure if the communications on often difficult technical issues are really as clear as they should be.

At this point the scripted conversation usually begins. You can explain the problem and what needs to be done but you still have to go through the standard routine: have you cycled the power, do you have the latest driver, have you upgraded the firmware. Yes, I’ve done all that because I knew you would ask. Remember I already told you what I had done 30 seconds ago?

By this time the easy solutions have usually been eliminated and something a bit trickier is involved: “please turn on the printer while holding down the OK, up-arrow and cancel buttons” or something similar. You try that and call the helpdesk back. You have been clever enough to remember the sequence of numbers to get to the right place so that saves some time but you still need to enter your case number multiple times. And of course you get a different person who insists on going through a similar set of inane questions as the previous one.

Finally they decide the printer will need to be replaced and say they will do it soon. So you give them your email address so you can be notified of when it will happen. Several days pass and nothing happens so you call them back. It’s another person who needs to contact a support manager and they will email you back. Except they don’t.

Another week later you call them back again. All the above frustrations repeat themselves but after giving them your case number (several times) they are surprised to find the replacement hasn’t happened yet. They will do it as soon as possible and the new printer should arrive soon. Except it doesn’t.

They do email to ask if I want to replace the current printer with an identical one or a newer model (which is inferior in some ways). You choose to stick with the same model and they assure you it will be actioned. Except it isn’t.

You call the helpdesk again and they explain that the current model isn’t very reliable and you really should choose the newer one. So you give them the go ahead. They say they will email you to confirm which model is required. Except they don’t.

A month after the initial problem the client still can’t print or, more importantly, receive faxes (yes I know that is ancient technology but some people still use it). With a sense of great resignation and sadness you call the HP helpdesk again. Yes, as you can probably guess by now, there is a repetition of the same old thing. This time they will get back to you within an hour regarding the replacement.

Still waiting…

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