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August 12, 2006

Customer Service

Early in 2005 I purchased a very expensive Hewlett Packard iPAQ as part of a package which included a GPS Navigation system and all the software to enable me to drive anywhere in Europe. The iPAQ provided me with a diary to keep me on the straight and narrow (paperbased diaries don't work for me - I forget to turn the pages regularly!) and to help me find places when I drive alone. I don't believe in clipping the map book to the steering wheel and reading it while I'm driving. Into the iPAQ I placed all my address book, all of my contacts and, of course, the full system for the GPS. I even bought a 1Gb memory card to facilitate that.

Then the little plug in the base of the thing stopped making proper contact and so first the GPS would lose its signal and "freeze" - irritating to say the least. Then it would not "talk" to my desktop so the diary information could not be updated. Finally, having tried all the local repair facilities, I managed to contact Hewlett-Packard.

Now I have a number of their products in use and generally I have found these products to be pretty reliable and useful. The iPAQ has become an essential tool in fact. So I expected to get a reasonable level of service from them. I should have known better. Read the fine print comes to mind. First, their "Customer Service Centre" has just relocated. I don't know where to, but they were obviously still relocating when I phoned, because for one whole day only their answering service worked - I left more than one message on it. Next day I got through, case number issued, credit card walloped, collection address arranged. Initially I was told it would be the same day! But, no, I should have known better, optimism triumphed over experience. It wasn't collected, not that day, not the next. On the third day I rang again. After some difficulty I got through, only to be told - "sorry we couldn't process your credit card." Right, so we fix that one. When will they collect? Today or tomorrow! When did they collect? Ah, well you see you didn't give us the Post Code. So we fix that one. Do they collect? No, so we arrange another collection - and bingo, this time the man from UPS turns up and collects it.

Two days later I get a phone call from the people who I'd arranged to leave it with originally, to say it's been returned to them. Apart from the fact it's now in the wrong place, I think, great, I wasn't expecting it back for several more days, they must have fixed it. Things are looking up.

Now I have my iPAQ back except - everything in it has been erased. Everything. Diary, address book, notes for things I am working on, navigator system, maps, everything. Gone.

The repair sheet tells me they have "Reflashed the image ROM". Why? It was the bl**dy PC connector jack which was faulty. Do they offer any apology? Of course not - it's in the fine print of the warranty that it is the customer's responsibility to ensure their information on the thing is "backed up". Now mine would have been, except for one small and possibly significant point which they seem to have missed - the thing went in for repair because it wasn't possible to connect it to the Desktop to do just that! The simple conclusion is that customer care is not a major concern to them. Oh, and the warranty is worthless.

OK, so the Navigator can be reloaded, but it's a long and tiresome job and takes several hours to load all the maps and the operating system. Then I will have the irritation of sitting in my car while it tells me to "go online and get a validation code" from the software supplier, which will mean going indoors, logging in, finding their site and applying for a new code. Then back out to the car to insert code and try to get the damned thing to function again.

Am I a happy camper? No way. Do I think I have had reasonably good service from this supplier? Not from where I'm sitting! Will I recommend their services or their equipment to anyone else? Very, very unlikely!

Posted by The Gray Monk at August 12, 2006 09:25 AM

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