CEO Meg Whitman must have cringed when she read this very unflattering example of how the company handles complaints. It all started with a dead pixel in the middle of an H-P laptop screen. At first, the customer was told that pixels aren't covered by the two-year warranty (not true, as it turned out). Eventually, he was told to mail in the machine. When it came back, nothing had been done about the pixel. NYT "Haggler" columnist David Segal picks it up from there:
(O.K., the Haggler is going to interrupt here and give a quick summary of the rest of this tale, which goes on at somewhat numbing length and, in its original form, includes lots of all-caps, which everyone knows are banned by the Geneva Conventions of Grousing in Print. The gist is that this grouser, John Kosgrove, asked for an upgrade, citing the hassle and delay, and H.P. agreed. But because H.P. is apparently run by arrogant sadists -- the Haggler is paraphrasing here -- this led only to more hassle and more delay.
Typically, in these situations, the Haggler hopes that someone in the company can explain. But at H.P., employees seem to live by the reporter's adage that it is better to show rather than tell. The Haggler's experience was surprisingly similar to Mr. Kosgrove's: it was unsatisfying and it took too long. In most instances, a company needs about two days, maybe three, to get to the bottom of a service glitch like the one described above. It took the H.P. spokeswoman Marlene Somsak five days. That would not seem particularly awful except that after five days, this is nearly all of what she said: "Our pixel repair policy wasn't clear to the agent who fielded this customer's call," she said. "He should have had a repair or a replacement because of that issue and that is now clear to our agents."
Moral of the story: Don't assume that a customer service agent knows what he's talking about because often times he doesn't. If you end up on the line with someone who is unpleasant, rushed or just plain dumb, don't hesitate to say that your long-lost uncle is at the door and that you'll call later.