Dear HP, We Have Friends and Family

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This is my first post about business.  I chose this topic because it is a case where a business that could be exceptional is dropping the ball.

I currently own an HP Elitebook 8440p.  This is an amazing little business machine.  When my old HP failed, I was going to choose as different brand.  However, I often work contracts with large companies that use things like smart-cards for security and this machine was the best deal I could find on a machine with a built-in reader.

Buying an Elitebook class machine, kicks me out of HP’s consumer support division and into business support.  It has given me a fascinating view into a company that understands support, almost.  It is HP’s paradoxical business vs consumer support that has prompted the writing of this post.

My previous HP was a TX1419nr, Best Buy consumer model.  Because of a recent lawsuit with HP and Nvidia I expect it to be replaced because it died early do to a hot running graphic chip that slowly weaken the electrical connections and can cause a specific set of failures.  Mine failed the first time out of warranty.  I got it fixed and then it failed when I was on a key deadline.    BUT, it is not a bad support experience with that machine that leads me to question if HP understands that business people don’t live in the office.

This last Christmas my best friend, who already owns 2 HP products for his business, bought his son an HP consumer notebook as a gift.  It was defective out of the box with the screen just going black after a while.  He like many others has been trying to avoid the credit card habit, so paid cash at Best Buy.  In the Christmas rush, the receipt was lost.  So Best Buy would not exchange the machine. 

That makes Best Buy the worst business in his story.  He wasn’t asking for a refund, he wanted an exchange of model they sell.   How much does Best Buy spend in advertising and sales promotion to get customers.  Now they have a customer in the store, that wants something very reasonable, and for lack of a piece of paper, they send him on his way.  Exchange the machine and send the bill to marketing.

He is a very accountable man, and gets that he owns that part of the problem.  However, he has a brand new HP consumer machine that was DOA.  HP it turns out insisted his son pay $37 to ship it back for service.  My friend who is all about service in his business, thinks this is wrong.  I agree with him.  A good company stands buy its product and deals with the cost to the customer to make it right when there is a failure in warranty, especially out-of-the-box.

I am sure some very talented person with an Excel spreadsheet put some numbers into a PowerPoint slide and said, “we can save a bunch of money if we don’t cover shipping of our consumer machines for warranty service.”  Everyone smiled and nodded.  After all it’s just a consumer machine and we need to shave every penny off the cost to compete.  Lets assume that it was a bad run and 10% failed and no one could take them back to Best Buy.  That  means that covering the cost of shipping back for warranty repair might add 1% or $3.70 to the cost of each machine.   If HP can not make the case that their machine is worth $3 more because of better support, then send the marketing department back to school.

Because my friend is a man of principle in his business, he is doing everything to help HP be principled too.  After several calls, HP has given him a free extended warranty, with a retail value more than the $37.  But after multiple calls and missed call backs from his assigned incident manager, HP refuses to budge on the $37 charge.  So they have given him a warranty that he doesn’t want and I am quite sure have spent well over $37 in employee time dealing with this situation with the apparent goal enforcing a policy that is losing them money. The goal should be keeping this customer satisfied and backing the HP name 100%. 

He has also posted this on Facebook and to other sites on the Internet.  I am sure the cost to reputation was also not on that spreadsheet.   Support wanted to save money, what do they care that they are doing hundreds if not thousands of dollars of damage to sales and marketing’s goals of happy, loyal, returning HP customers?

HP someplace knows how to do support.  I just bought a second battery over the Internet for my Elitebook.  It was brand new, with the HP seal tape etc.  However, it was not from an HP retailer.  It was DOA, and will not charge.  The excellent HP support software diagnosed the battery as bad and gave me a failure code.  When I called HP, I expected they might not honor waranty because I got it from a discount dealer.  It never came up.  I gave them the machine serial number, the part number of the battery and the error code. Thier response was to ship me a new one overnight. It took less than 20 hours from when I called to arrival of the replacement.  It has a pre-paid shipping tag for returning the bad battery. I didn’t ask for it overnight, they just did it.  But this is business support.

Problem is business people don’t live at the office (we hope) and they have family and friends (we hope).  So when HP spends more than they need to make business people happy, then abolutetly refuse to bend and back HP consumer machines 100% with basic support like covering shipping for a warranty repair, well that is just short sighted business.  They might be damaging the same relationship they are spending money to keep elsewhere.

That spreadsheet that calulated the savings to HP consumer support did not have all the numbers.  It didn’t have the cost of lost consumer customers.  It did not have the cost of extended support engagements including free warranties and many many extra calls to support.  It did not have the cost of tarnishing the HP brand when business people see HP not backing a product that was a Christmas gift.

In our case they did not see my friend who already had two HP notebooks for his business work, who will never ever buy HP again.  They did not see me with two HP notebooks including an Elitebook with a docking station, and four HP printers, now feeling bad for owning the machine because HP is making life miserable for a loved one.  This will open me to shopping brands again, vs just getting a new HP.

The spreadsheet did not see the power of the Internet, as I am sure the saved $37 will cost them thousands of dollars in sales as my friend’s reviews live forever on the Internet.

I love Excel, I use it a lot in my business work.  But it can not run business the way it seems to these days.  Good business is about good relationships.  That means realizing the consumer you ding to save a few dollars might be just be a college kid.  But that kid might have a father who is in procurement with a Fortune 500 company, or that kid might be using the HP computer to write the next Facebook.  Is it really worth $37 to destroy that relationship?  My second battery for my notebook could have been shipped ground and I would have been trilled with how smooth my support call went.  Save the air express for someone who says thier machine is down.  That savings could then pay to ship a college kid’s only computer back for repair when it is DOA on Christmas Day.

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