When customer support goes wrong

Customer experience impacts a product or service’s overall success in the marketplace —just one reason that I invest time in this blog. Customers are quick to share their positive and negative experiences with others, thus enabling or hindering adoption.

Recently, my wife had a negative customer experience with a major PC manufacture. In her fury, she sent the following feedback email to the CEO/President:

Dear XXX,
As a XXX customer and investor, I felt it important to share with you my XXX technical support experience today. I own a XXX notebook that no longer boots. When I called the XXX Care Pack service phone number, I was transferred 8 times (all with extensive hold time) before speaking with a notebook service technician about troubleshooting my issue. Rather than asking if my computer was a notebook or a desktop, I was asked to confirm my email address and if I would like to renew my service agreement that would expire in 16 days. After 1 1/2 hours of transfers, I spoke with a service technician who assisted in troubleshooting my issue. She informed me that I would need a new hard drive. When I asked if the hard drive is covered under warranty, she informed me that it is. She also suggested that I buy a new computer and then transferred me without warning to a sales associate. When I called back to find out how to secure a new hard drive under warranty, I was again transferred incorrectly to a desktop service technician.

The quality of service from the XXX is upsetting. If my hard drive can be replaced without calling the off-shore service/sales call center, it would be greatly appreciated. Please have someone contact me with instructions regarding next steps.

More than the hard drive, I believe there are serious customer satisfaction issues than need to be addressed immediately in order to retain valued customers.


The CEO Customer Relations team handled her situation with the upmost professionalism and speed. The representative acknowledged the problem was likely the result of a “change in the compensation plan”, where technical support was incented to sell new products during support calls.

Just weeks after purchasing her next notebook from Dell (not surprisingly, a different PC manufacturer), the chassis overheated, enough to cause concern over whether or not we had adequate home insurance coverage. When she called customer support, the first person she spoke to on the phone assessed the support issue and offered to send a new machine and authorized us to break policy and swap hard drives so that she didn’t have power up the inferno to re-install and transfer files. The support experience was brief, pleasant and appreciated.

The difference in support between the two PC manufacturers was a combination of process, policy, employee empowerment, and compensation. Company executives have a responsibility to share holders to cultivate long-term “good profits”, even if it means forgoing gains from “bad profits” (The Ultimate Question, by Fred Reicheld). In this case, the first PC manufacturer lost a valued customer over an inappropriate, zealot pursuit of a quick sale.

Great customer service is hard, takes lots of time, and money. Over the long run, I think people appreciate companies that attempt to build great product and provide appropriate support.