Customer Service – Saga #1

UPDATE Aug. 26, 2008: My sister received a replacement computer from Lenovo yesterday. While this was initially handled very badly by Lenovo sales and the support people initially appeared to have their hands tied, in the end Mark and Lakeysha made it right – within 6 business days of when the problem was reported. That’s not too far from what you expect, and not bad considering that it first descended into chaos. The contact point appeared to be her post in the support forums. Moral of the story – if you’re right dealing with someone, don’t quit. I’m happy enough with the outcome that I ordered a very sweet Lenovo T400 last night.

UPDATE Aug. 18, 2008: My sister posted a link to this story in the customer service forums at Lenovo. As you can see in the comments, she got in contact with Mark at Lenovo and then another person via phone. It appears this will be resolved, and I will post an update when we get to the end of the story.

It amazes me when people ignore customer service. Nothing hurts a company more than bad rep on customer service. I have two stories. How two companies you may never have heard of – Jax Outdoor Gear (Fort Collins) and Chaco Sandals (Paonia, Colorado) went above and beyond in service twice in three weeks. The second is how Lenovo of legendary customer service just screwed my sister refusing to replace a brand new laptop that arrived dead in a timely manner. They told her she’ll have to wait six days for them to even tell her what they will do and she needs to teach with this in ten days. Needless to say that Lenovo T400 I was about to buy is not looking nearly as sweet as the Sony Vaio.

Let’s do the icky stuff first – Jax and Chaco deserve their own post.

My sister tells her story with Lenovo better than I would:

August 16th, 2008

I received my first ever laptop on Wed, Aug 13th but didn’t have time to take it out of the box to get it going until this morning. That is when the fun began. When I started it up, the screen acted weird – little tracer lines coming off to the right of the words as it started up. When the regular background screen w/ icons came up, all the text was ghosted and really hard to read. In my ignorance, I thought perhaps the battery was in too low a state of charge and once it got charged up the screen would self correct (I had it hooked up to AC at the time). After dinking with resolution and appearance settings for a while to no avail, I decided there was a problem and called Lenovo Tech Support and that is where this surreal odyssey began. Note that I didn’t begin my log until about the third phone call, so the first few times are approximate.

8:00 am – Tech Support (1-877-453-6686). I spoke with a very helpful person in Tec Support who informed me that since it was a “brand new out of the box machine” I needed to call Sales. They gave me the number to call.

8:10 am – Sales (1-866-428-4465) I spent a few minutes on waiting to get to speak to a human. After explaining my problem to them, they informed me that I needed to call Tech Support…. I explained that Tech Support had just sent me to them and they explained that I needed a case #.

8:20am – Tech Support (1-877-453-6686). No waiting and a very helpful guy said yes I can get you a case # and dutifully gave me case #WN033531. I thought I was getting warm….HAH!

8:35 am – Sales (1-866-428-4465). Spent a few more minutes waiting to get a human. After I gave case # the person at the other end said he would need to put me on hold for “3 to 7 minutes”. Twenty minutes later he came back and tells me I need to call Tech Support because there are no notes on the case #. I inquired about just shipping the machine back to them for a credit and was told I would have to pay a 15% restocking charge. I am pretty sure I yelled at this point something like “I have to pay you guys $150 to take back a machine that doesn’t work!”.

9:10 am – Tech Support (1-877-453-6686). Kelly (I was starting to take names at this point). She was quite helpful and apologetic and made an offer that I thought was “we’ll send you a rebuilt one from here if you send us the broken one” – I later found out I had misunderstood her. I stated that I had spent $1000 for a “new” machine and expected to have a functioning – and new – machine. She “put in lots of notes” on my case number and said that should get me set up with Sales. I listened to her type for quite a while. She sent me off with what we thought would be sufficient info to get the problem resolved at Sales.

9:15 am – Sales (1-866-428-4465). Got right in this time. The person at the other end brought up my case number and then said that he would have to put me on hold for “2 minutes”. A few minutes later he came back and said he would figure out what I needed to do and call me back. I inquired about how long I would have to wait and he said “within an hour”.

9:45 – Sales called me back. The rep on the other end stated that he had spoken to a Michael Shefield in Tech Support and that there “was no such case number”. Needless to say, I blew up at this point. When I asked him to confirm the number of the folks he spoke to (1-877-453-6686) he said that “wasn’t the right number”. I pointed out that indeed I had spoken to Tech Support already several times this morning at that number. He seemed confused and offered to conference call with Tech Support. What he actually did was transfer me to Tech Support to a very helpful guy named Fredrick/Fred.

10:00am – Tech Support (transfer from Sales). Fred offered to send a box to return ship the damaged machine and they would fix it (this is apparently the offer that Kelly was trying to make earlier but I didn’t understand that they would just fix my machine and send me back the same one – not a used or rebuilt one). However, Fred wanted to figure out how to make it clear that I didn’t cause the damage – it came out of the box that way. So he put me on hold for a few minutes. He came back and very apologetically said that he wanted to try Sales one more time….. He did offer to conference call with me to make sure I got taken care of.

10:10 am – Tech Support (Fred) and Sales (Farros) – Fred conferenced us in to Sales. This took a few more minutes of hold music….The first question I got from Farros in Sales was “had I talked to Tech Support?”. Since I had Fred right there on the line, I was able to clear that up quickly enough. He asked to put us on hold for “1 to 2 minutes”. Fred dutifully stayed on hold with me for what turned out to be more like 10 minutes. While on hold, Fred & I even bonded a little joking about the bad classical music and how they had little stutters in the music to taunt you that someone might actually be coming back on the line. We joked about whether this was a bad Saturday Night Live skit or a Twilight Zone episode. I asked him if “Sales” was just a company in India hired to not send machines to customers and he said “I don’t know”… and then stuttered “wait – I mean I am sure they weren’t hired for that, but I don’t know who they are”.

10:25am – Tech Support (Fred) and Sales (Farros) – Farros finally came back from hold and offered to let me return it without a restocking charge and then they would forward me on to Sales and they would let me reorder a new machine. It was starting to sound promising. Farros put us on hold for a few more minutes and connected me to a woman in Sales. He explained to her what he had said he was going to do (return, reorder) and we thought we were on our way. She explained how she was going to send a return authorization label via email and I could ship it UPS. The label would allow for free shipping. At this point Fred left because it looked as though everything was in order. The woman put me on hold again for just a few minutes but came back apologizing that she had given me bad information. The new plan was that they were going to file a damage claim with UPS and that would take four business days. I was livid. I pointed out that they could get denied from UPS and that after four business days I would be right back where I started. She said “we would not do that”. I am not holding my breath.

So here I sit with a dead computer and no resolution after almost three hours on the phone. I was bounced back and forth eight times between Tech Support (apparently onshore somewhere with what seems to be helpful folks who have limited options to help me) and Sales (apparently offshore somewhere staffed with folks that talk to their supervisors for everything and give a different answer every time they come back off hold). I can tell you when I was given the option of what the resolution would be after they filed a claim with UPS I emphatically said refund vs. replace computer. Frankly I will never give another dime to a company who thinks this joke of a system can be called “support”.

Stay tuned I may have a few more chapters to write…

NOTE: Like most PC’s this came double boxed. Because of a dent in the outside box, they unwrapped it at UPS and determined that the inside Lenovo box was in perfect shape. This is NOT a shipping problem and if it was it’s a problem between Lenovo and UPS, and should not be affecting my sister.

8 thoughts on “Customer Service – Saga #1”

  1. I really should have included part of her cover email on that story:

    “See attachment – it is a good thing that we have a heavy bag so I can take out my aggression (that and drinking early)…….”

  2. When I purcashed my Lenovo in Australia I had great sales guys but it then was manufactured in Singapore and for some reason they did not ship it. It had been built and I even got an email for the extended warranty telling me to register with the serial number etc just like I had already recieved it but 3 weeks later and a number of calls to the sales people it finally arrived and even then the DHL tracking number I was given never worked on the DHL website. I am however happy to say that even though I reformated it with vista 64 (only option was to come with 32) it has been a great machine. I hope you have some luck. Not sure about USA but in Australia if an item does not serve it’s proposed purpose, eg. your pc does not even work, you are entiled under consumer code to a full refund so don’t take that 15% bull. Also check with your credit card company as I had heard once about a guy who had bought something that was DOA and the retailer would not accept it back, the credit card had a warranty on items purchased on it and I he called them and they handled the whole return etc which meant that they heavied the retailed to swap it for a different item. Good luck

  3. That sucks! Even if your credit card company doesn’t have a warranty on purchased items, you can still do a chargeback (i.e. have the credit card company cancel payment to Lenovo)… Even if you don’t actually do a chargeback, threatening to do so can sometimes get you a better response quicker. The reason for that is that companies can’t get too many chargebacks… If they do, the account that they use to process credit card sales can be closed. A company tends to go the extra mile to avoid the scenario.

    Good luck!

  4. Kathleen,

    Apologies for your sister’s trouble. Your blog post is certainly articulate and well reasoned on the matter. I’ve responded in our forum, where you cross linked to this blog. I’d like to help get this resolved for your sister as quickly as possible. Can you send me a private message in the forum with the order number?

    Best regards,

  5. Mark,

    Thanks for your help. She just sent an email in the forums, hopefully that worked out.

    I’ll post here how the resolution proceeds.


  6. A vendor should never leave the customer hanging while they argue over whether the delivery company will pay for damage. That’s a debate between the shippers and the vendor, and the customer should not be affected by that.
    Sometimes Lenovo’s new model of service sucks (call support, then you have to wait for a call-back, which you have to respond to in twenty-four hours or they close your case out), at other times they reflect the service that was the reason you buy a ThinkPad in the first place. DVD drive not working? We’ll send you a new one, then you can ship back the old one.
    When it comes to a whole system, of course, especially if there’s a customisation, if you’re looking for a complete replacement, you can’t avoid the rebuild time.

  7. Customer service must always be punctual in answering phone calls. Every consumer that is calling at the customer service must be treated well by the agents. They should avoid to keep them waiting even for a second.

  8. Customer service must always be punctual in answering phone calls. Every consumer that is calling at the customer service must be treated well by the agents. They should avoid to keep them waiting even for a second.

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