Thursday, 24 October 2013

When bad customer service can leave you frustrated and angry.

Are you like me in loathing organisations that have very poor customer service and seem to not care about their customers?

I really cannot understand why some large businesses don't do a better job in dealing with the people that keep them in business - us, their customers.

We can all accept that sometimes things go wrong. When they do, we just want it put right quickly and efficiently, but here in the UK, this rarely seems to happen. All too often, when trying to get things resolved on the telephone, we are passed from one person to the next, with nobody either capable or willing to solve the problem. When this happens to me, I am left with a feeling of frustration and often, anger.

It happened today and being tired of getting absolutely nowhere, I have decided to publicly denounce the guilty party, in the hope they do actually do something to improve. Who knows, it might work.

It was Hewlett-Packard that let me down. Having nearly run out of the high quality photo print paper and urgently needing some more for a large print job, I went online and saw on the HP shop website te paper I needed was available and would be delivered the next day. That was perfect and just what I needed. About £100 / $150 of this was ordered. Sadly, it didn't arrive the next day.

Telephone calls to HP were made and the farce started.....

  • Despite the HP website statement of delivery the next day on this specific product, I was told the delivery could not actually be made for over two weeks.
  • I spoke with seven different people. Shamefully, not one offered to solve the problem, or even gave good advice.
  • There is no way to make a complaint on the telephone as HP do not have a process for this. They insist customers write in. (We all know that most written complaints receive not much more than scant attention and nearly always receive just a standard reply).
  • After being on the phone for twenty minutes, one person tried to transfer the call to someone else but disconnected the call.
  • Nobody could suggest which of their vendors might have the paper.
  • One person thought the best way was for me to order the paper from their website as it showed next day delivery! Duh, that is the very problem I was talking to her about.
  • Two people I spoke to suggested the best thing for them to do was to cancel the order. Pretty unbelievable stuff!
  • Several members of HP staff gave me the wrong telephone number for their head office. I later learned the number was changed some time ago, but apparently, nobody has bothered to tell the staff.
  • One person I spoke to told me if customers ask for the head office telephone number, they must be referred to the HP website. That website lists the head office number as the same one I had dialled to speak to the person who suggested I look on their website to get the head office number.
  • I tried to send an email to their shop, but couldn't because their inbox was full.
  • Needless to say, I got nowhere and the problem was not even close to being solved.

Does this sort of chaos and disorganisation sound familiar?

What is really silly is I must have been speaking to the various HP staff members for about 45 minutes in total. In that time they achieved precisely nothing, but if just one person had tried to help, it would have taken far less time than that to actually solve the problem. Lets remember this is an IT organisation, so they really should have the systems in place that give their staff the information they need to help their customers. It is purely down to training and attitude.

Sadly, this is depressingly all too common with UK businesses. There are notable exceptions, but they are rare. Quite when and how things will get better is difficult to see. What is important though is than organisations like HP actually try. I wonder if they really do want to improve?

UPDATE 30 November - despite HP first saying the product would be delivered the next day, then saying it would be over two weeks, I drove around my area and found the product I urgently needed.  Those buffoons at HP just sent an automated email to me saying the product has been despatched.  What good is that to me now?  I have already gone and found it elsewhere!  I despair of organisations like this.


Unknown said...


I used to stock HP Premium PLUS paper but I got mad at HP too. I refuse to buy anything HP when before I used to have many of their printers. I also won't buy Toshiba laptops.

anyway, If you need Original Canon Platinum Pro High Gloss 13x19 I have a few packs in stock but I can't guarantee overnight delivery.

I'll bet you feel better already. Sometimes venting relieves a bit of stress.

Either that . . . Go and ride somewhere

Riding the Wet Coast

redlegsrides said...

That treatment is pretty much standard from any large company with large bureaucracies, incompetent staff who are mandated to follow ineffectual scripts, and are overloaded with several middle management layers.....

RichardM said...

Unfortunately, not unusual. Good customer service is externamely difficult to pull off for any company no matter whether it's important to them or not. Getting employees who know how to interact "properly" is extremely challenging for any business. Especially in the 1st world…

Canajun said...

Lots of folks can relate and while the idea of publicly shaming them may feel good (venting always does), it's not likely to have much impact.

What all of these companies know is that it costs many times more to get a new customer than to retain an existing one, yet very few of them actually put that knowledge into practice with good customer support. Ironically I believe it was HP that was the subject of such a study quite a while ago that found that good customer service would even trump crappy products, resulting in higher customer retention figures. But still they pay their front-line staff minimum wage and measure them on the basis of calls handled rather than problems solved. I still don't understand it.

Trobairitz said...

Nothing like getting the run around.

We've experienced similar with Bunn - an American coffee machine maker. Even though our receipt showed we bought it less than three years ago they said our three year warranty had expired because of the "build" date. Um yeah, thanks for that.

Poor customer service is all to common I am afraid, from large companies anyway.

David Drouin said...

I think it is amazing that they want your complaints written in a letter and sent in. This is obviously just a ploy to keep from having to do anything immediately about your problem. I find that the bigger the company the harder it is to get any real customer service because people don't really know what is going on nobody is held accountable.

- Dave at Motorcycle Addiction

Doug Klassen said...

A slightly similar story courtesy of Acer Computers: I bought their Iconia A500 tablet early this year and it had a very specific problem with the microphone. Acer service couldn't find the problem despite the fact that I'd put an audio file on the tablet demonstrating the problem. They returned the tablet to me unfixed.

I next wrote a fairly scathing letter to both the head of service and the president of Acer America. A few weeks later I got a call from someone at Acer Corp. headquarters asking what they could do to rectify the situation. It was a sweet moment when I told the person that I'd sold their defective tablet on Ebay and replaced it with an iPad that worked perfectly.

(There, another public diatribe against Acer!)

Over all, the problem is that customer service is dead, killed off by bean counters with authority who balance unhappy customers with costs and profits. There is no real commitment to customer service, the commitment is to profits, customer service has become a necessary evil for most companies.

Gary France said...

Bob – I can totally understand you not buying from HP any more. They are so dumb because incidents like this put us off a brand for life. Here I am typing this on an HP laptop, and my printer is HP using HP paper and HP cartridges. Unless HP step up to the plate and do something spectacular to recover the situation, from now on, my customer loyalty will reflect their customer service – there won’t be any!

Gary France said...

Charlie6 / Dom – I disagree as some large companies do get it right. I use one large company as often as I can, purely because of their excellent customer service and fantastic staff. They are called John Lewis and if they sell whatever I am looking for, I will always buy it from them, irrespective of price. I do agree that most companies are not like that though.

Gary France said...

Canajun – It is incumbent of all of us to tell any organisation when they do a lousy job, otherwise they will never improve. It might do some good as I am going to use the power of Twitter to get to thousands of people and in linking back to this blog post, they will be able to see what a bad job HP can do. So, it might have an impact after all. You are so right about the cost of getting new customers vs retaining existing. What is ironic is it would have been cheaper for them if just one person had taken ownership of the problem and solved it, rather than passing it on from person to person. Good customer support can actually be cheaper than bad.

Gary France said...

Trobairitz – Here in the UK warranties always start from the purchase date, not the build date – I have never heard of such a thing. I hate getting the run around and it seems it exists on both sides of the Atlantic.

Gary France said...

David – I imagine they want people to write in because most folks won’t bother to do that. I imagine that with so many different departments and levels of management in a larger company, it is more challenging to get customer service right, but that doesn’t mean they cannot get it right. Getting the run around always seems like people just want to get the problem off their desk, and so it is rare to actually find someone that wants to take ownership of solving a customers problem.

WooleyBugger said...

It is the general attitude of most companies these days. We had a problem with Lenovo when our four month old computer crashed. They sent two techs out and they worked for days trying to sort it out. Finally the older one with 35 years with IBM under his belt called a special number that he had to use a code to get through to a top dog. His conversation told the TD that his advice was to replace the unit and the TD'd response was, we're not geared up for that. IT tech says, well, you better start because I have a feeling shipments of mother boards used in production are bad and that won't be good for business.
Still took another 2 to 3 weeks to get our new unit and it's made two towns over.

Gary France said...

Doug – I have to admit, the more I hear stories like your, the more I despair of big business these days. What I don’t understand is most big companies have a customer service department and okay they maybe on a budget determined by a bean counter somewhere who has little experience of being on the front line, but the fact remains that those departments do a poor job. Okay, they maybe constrained by tight budgets, but developing good processes and in-house training can cost very little. The big companies can do something to improve the situation for customers, but they don’t and it baffles me why they don’t do it. The solution really is simple and it is a question of attitude.

Gary France said...

Wooley – I feel really sorry for the staff in these poor performing companies who have to deal with these problems every day but don’t have the ability to solve them. It’s not their fault, but they are the ones that take the flak from unhappy customers. Even more so when they have to go out in the field and they know how to solve the problem, but the companies processes don’t make it easy. I try to keep calm when speaking to them, but it is sometimes very difficult when faced with such negativity. At least you got your laptop repaired but 2 to 3 weeks is a long time to be without such an important piece of technology.

Nikos said...


Write to Meg Whitman personally, I'm sure that I can find an email address for her if you want.