At ClientsFirst, we are passionate about Client service. You could probably have figured that out since the company is called ClientsFirst and since we capitalize the word Client in most of our messages. Anyway, because we put such a strong focus on Client service, every once in a while we will take time out from our regular discussions about building business through relationship development and Client Relationship Management (CRM) to talk about Client service, which is a core element of both. These posts will usually involve a particularly good or bad Client service experience that we encountered that we think may be instructive for developing business and relationships. This 2-part post involves both.
For years, I have had computers from HP. I have enjoyed working with them, have had good experiences with their salespeople and have found their products to perform well and be relatively problem free. On the rare occasion when there are problems, they have been good about fixing them. As a result, in the past I have made recommendations of their products and influenced several sales.
Recently however, the keyboard failed on my HP Tablet. The machine has a service contract, so I decided to get it repaired. But it’s also three years old, so I thought it made sense to get a new one too. Being a technology consultant, I was intrigued by the new HP Slate, one of the only tablet computers that runs Windows. I like to use a small computer when I travel, and while I also have an iPad, which I find to be a great device for e-Mail and e-Books and other types of ‘e-Ntertainment,’ I just haven't been able to make it work for business since I am a real power user of Word, Excel and PowerPoint. The prospect of having my business applications on a tablet was appealing, so I went online and purchased the Slate – in early November.
I then called HP for service on my current machine. After spending hours on the phone with someone from another country going through diagnostics they told me what I already knew: the keyboard was fried. I would need to ship them the laptop in the next 30 days so they could repair it. Oh, and I had to give them permission to wipe my hard drive and erase all my data if they decided that was the problem – or they would not even look at it. Not pleased at that prospect, I thought it prudent to wait for my new machine so I could transfer my data in case the inevitable happened.
30 days passed – and no Slate. Apparently HP underestimated the popularity of the little device and they were on backorder. I continued to wait and called HP repair to tell them I would need to delay sending my old machine for repairs until the new one arrived. They assured me they had the ticket number and I could just call back to let them know when I was ready to send it.
60 days passed - still no Slate. But a message did arrive from HP telling me that to make up for the delay they were providing a coupon for $100 of my next purchase. Since I thought that I might need another computer for the office since the hard drive on the Slate was pretty small, I went online and found one I liked for $799 and called to place the order. The sales rep was very helpful. I ordered the machine and he upsold me to the new Office two-pack that could be installed on both machines. But when I got to checkout, the eCoupon didn’t work. He said it was only for a purchase from the Business division of HP, not the Home Office division. When he transferred me, the HP Business rep said that he would happy to honor the coupon, but the only comparable machine they had was $1600. When I asked what justified double the price for a similar machine, he said it was ‘a business machine.’ I passed.
But I still needed the software. His answer: sorry, the coupon wasn’t good for that. When I asked for a manager, the rep said he would transfer me, but he said the manager ‘would only waste another 10 minutes of my time’ because a lot of people had problems with the coupons and they hadn’t been able to help any of them. Now I really wanted to talk to the manager.
Surprisingly, the manager did some damage control. While I vented, he listened patiently (Business development tip number one: when a Client is frustrated, be quiet, let them talk and listen. Often all they want is to be heard). He then he apologized for the problems (Business development tip number two: often, all a frustrated customer needs is an apology. Give one. Apologizing for a problem or bad situation is not the same as admitting responsibility for it.) The manager then told me the one thing that the coupon was good for: an external DVD drive that could be helpful for loading the software onto the Slate, since it didn’t come with one. It was $99 and he said he would pay for the overnight shipping because of all the issues. Done.
I finally received the Slate computer at the end of January, almost 3 months after placing the order. The DVD player never arrived. Then HP sent me a survey to tell them about my experience. Boy did I. I was shocked when someone from the company actually called to follow up. He didn’t acknowledge or apologize for anything, but he said he had looked into the reason I hadn’t received the DVD drive. Somehow the order was canceled. He said he would reinstate the order and overnight it to me. That was almost a month ago. I’m still waiting.
I then called to send my old computer off for repairs. I went through the automated system to get to a technician who was very pleasant, but had some challenges with English. I politely gave him my ticket number and explained the situation. He said we would need to go through all the diagnostics again since the old ticket was canceled – even though he was able to access it and to see the issues on it.
When I asked why I would need to spend hours doing the diagnostics again, even though nothing had changed since the original call, he said that was how they do things. (Business development tip number 3: ‘Because that is how we have always done things’ is a very bad way to try to do business and keep customers in today’s competitive marketplace and challenging economy) For a better way to do business – and keep customers – check out next week’s post: Customer Service Stories Part 2: Apple…