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HP Consumer Customer Service: Where the Rubber Melts on the Road, Part 2

Earlier this month, I wrote about a PC warranty experience. The issue is finally resolved, and it still amazes me how long it can take to fix an issue that, in hindsight, should have been trivial.

In this case, the vendor was HP (HPQ) and the store chain, previously kept out of the picture, but given that this is an industry systemic issue, I'll mention that it was Staples (SPLS). Then again, I've had the same how-long-can-it-possibly-take experience with the pair of Toshiba (TOSYY) and Best Buy (BBY). Comments from various people, including an editor at BNET, suggest that the issue is commonplace.

I brought the laptop, which I had purchased for my daughter about four months prior, to the store on January 5 because the battery wasn't charging. Here, again, is the conversation I had with the store manager:

"What happens now?" I asked. "Is this going to be a four or six week process?""At least," said the manager. "We have to fax over the paperwork to HP. They respond in a couple of days, but usually say that they lost the paperwork and ask us to resend it. It's gotten so bad that we've taken to resending it the next day to try to head that off. I'll email out outside tech, who will then decide whether we can send it to them or not. Then we actually ship the product out to HP, but if they don't have the proper paperwork that's dated right, they won't do a thing."
The back and forth delays things for at least a week and the diagnostics in house can run to virtually nothing. And I think that's what happened here. The product finally came back for pick-up on January 25th, so the process took about three weeks. According to the final paperwork, the cause was ... a bad charger. You'd think that might have been obvious if someone locally simply had a power source that would have worked with multiple laptops. But, no, it took the back and forth and sending the unit, with charger, in to HP to determine the problem. The bonus? They replaced a keyboard because some of the keys were sticking. (I hadn't heard about that problem.)

Still, this isn't an unusual experience for those getting warranty work, and it has to be one of the least efficient process designs you can imagine. If stores are going to offer any sort of technical assistance, they should have a minimum set of tools to do something rudimentary. And vendors should be focused on keeping customers productive and happy, particularly when everyone involved pushes the extended warranties. Clearly they're concerned about their appearance in public: I was contacted multiple times by HP PR, asking for the details so they could "do some further research as to why you may be experiencing such a long repair time." But the answer was easy: the industry's customer support, warranty, and even quality mechanisms are severely broken. Glad I could clear that up.

Image via stock.xchng user garwee, site standard license.

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