Interview with Kathy Wright, Manager of HP Global Digital Support [Full Transcript]

Just an idea: Have you ever considered implementing a system similar to what many airlines have, with a general complaints, feedback, and help form that always brings a response? 100% of the time.

  • We have feedback on our website, so when you go on HP.com there should be a “feedback to webmaster”. There’s also a “general contact HP” option where you can email the CEO directly, or you can contact someone within HP asking when will you have something, or a product, so we have emails in place that you can do that, then of course with the forum we also have a general HP section. So there are people there that categorize them and make sure they get back to the right folks to bring it in to HP. Now on your point of the callback, let’s say a customer coming in through the assisted channels, meaning a phone, chat, email. If that customer, for whatever reason doesn’t get their problem solved, like your case, there are levels of elevation set around that and pretty good processes for that, so they will call back the customer in 24 to 48 hours. In terms of making sure we get back to everyone, we do have automated responses, but we are looking at some programs over the next year and considering how we can respond to a lot of the customers’ that when they’re coming through the survey for example, if you have a problem, we’ll have an option saying “somebody call me back- I can’t figure this out”. We’re looking at programs for ’13-14 to see how we could get back to each and every customer that asks for help. I really just want to share the numbers with you for a second so you understand the magnitude of what that would mean for us: We have a LOT of customers who come in through the website. On average we’ll have 40 million customers interacting with us per month just for support. It’s pretty huge, and it’s worldwide, so we’d have to really set it up on a language basis. It’s a good undertaking for us, and we are thinking about it. We just haven’t implemented it yet.

One more from my own experience: I got one of those elevated agents, and they said “when can I call you” and we set up a time, and we talked, and he said “you know what. I feel bad for you, so I’m going to give you a free extended warranty on the next HP product you buy”. Why would I want to buy another HP product if you weren’t even going to fix this one? Why are you charging me to repair a product that you built poorly? To simplify it. Why would they offer something on the next product when my concern is on this one? I’ve heard of other customers who received the same exact line. Why are agents so limited?

  • I don’t have a specific answer as to why they would choose to provide something for the next product. Maybe they thought it would help you in purchasing a future product. I’m not really sure why they would offer that. I think that’s a little out of my realm. It has to do with some policies. It doesn’t sound like it’s the best answer for the customer, so I will ask that question for you. I’m going to try to find out why and follow up. It’s unfortunate because I can understand exactly what you’re saying. I’m a customer of HP like you are, and I don’t think I would be satisfied if you told me you would give me something on the next product.

What are HP agents empowered to do, and give by level, if you know?

  • I’m sure there’s some sort of standard in place of what types of offerings a level one agent can provide. I can probably say that each level has a different offering they can provide. The first-level agents probably wouldn’t necessarily have the ability to be able to kind of free reign on providing something that would help the customer the way they would like to be helped. I’m not quite sure what they’re entitled to offer. I know that, when you think of it as a balance of the satisfaction and the cost. We’ve got 150 million in warranty customers at any given time for HP. that would be pretty hard to provide free reign for all those agents. They probably want to put in some sort of relevancy to ensure that they’re providing the right offers. It depends on your product, what they have available to them.

I’m also a mac user, and I have Applecare and whenever I call them they usually fix issue on the first call. I don’t have to wait very long (unless it’s a holiday) and they offer to repair or replace whenever the issue is severe enough to warrant it. Why is it that I have to go through three agents (if I’m lucky) to find someone with enough power at HP to grant me a repair? “It takes over 1 hr to get any kind of help from HP no matter what the problem. When I ask for a US rep I’m told they cannot transfer me, but when they want to charge for the support they can transfer to the US ASAP. (21:16) Why can’t that first agent do anything? Why can Apple do it, if you can’t?

  • I’m not sure why Apple could do it and we couldn’t. I don’t know if I have an exact answer on that, to be perfectly honest. I can tell you that the first line agents you mentioned are thoroughly trained. We do have a very large breadth of products, and in some cases they’re trained across all those products, and in other cases they’re very targeted around a subset of products so that they can really dive in to help customers. We do have a lot of satisfied customers, and I do mean a lot. The vast majority of our customers are pretty satisfied when they either come into a contact center as you mentioned, or when they’re going through a repair experience, whether that’s with us or a partner, or if they come via the forums or the website. The customer satisfaction levels are good for the industry, I think fairly good actually and I think sometimes they may not know the answer, or maybe they don’t know the answer, or sometimes they don’t have the whereabouts to give you the answer you’d want the first time.

My repair went off without a hitch, but I’ve heard a few customers talk about troubles on that end, like this one. “My laptop (an envy 14) has been sent to the repair shop 6 times in 18 months. It’s practically lived two months of its’ life in a repair center”. Why in these situations don’t you just replace the device? At some point shouldn’t you be willing to incur the cost of replacement?

  • We have policies and procedures in place that are customer-focussed for repair, and I think that a lot of times we have a pretty massive supply chain and so we do look to make sure we have measurements in place internally and we’re held pretty accountable for those on the customer satisfaction level, and we’re also held on first-time repairs, first-time call rates, so we do take it very seriously. I think that not every person will be satisfied, so we need to take that into account.

What are your plans for improvement over the next couple of years and over time? What’s in the works beyond what you’ve mentioned so far?

  • I can tell you about a few things we’re planning. So, first and foremost, when we started this you asked if we were really taking this seriously and looking at improvement, and we are. Over Fiscal year 13 through 15 what you’re going to see is a lot of momentum in the digital space. Expansion of forums, new different ways that we use digital support to talk to our customers. The ability and the tools and features for product support for, let’s say notebooks and desktops. There will be a lot of new things that will happen there for the customer. One of the larger items in the digital space will be looking at how we revise and built out a brand new web experience for the customer which will bring together consumer and commercial support, those two segments of customers that we help. There’s a lot of new features making it a lot easier, and all of that’s based on the insights that we gain from our customers, and all the survey results that we listened to. And then, on the assisted front they’re really looking at addressing some of the policies, and the ways we interact with our customers in the assisted channels and then how we handle cases. So there will be a lot of good things there for the customer as well, when it comes to chat and the tools we use, and also how we engage with the customer via our assisted channels. There a few very good things coming from HP support, so I’m looking forward to the next year. Hopefully we’ll be seeing less and less of the comments you brought up from customers. I’m really hoping that these are good things. They should be because we listened to the customer and we’re responding to things they’ve asked us for.

That sounds great. Have you seen Microsoft’s new chat support interface. It offers a choice of agent based on their speciality, the ability to have those agents call you directly instead of waiting on the phone for 30 minutes.

  • Yes, I’ve seen it, and though I’m not sure we have all of those features planned, there have been a lot of serious discussions about initiating some callback functions so like you mentioned, you can schedule those, and we’re working on our chat too.

Thank you. It’s been a pleasure speaking to you.

Conclusion

No doubt HP has some good looking plans for the future with their support system, but I think they need to recognize that there are at least a few minor kinks to be worked out. Their reasoning seems to be that amazing support is a hard goal for any company to achieve, but Apple has managed to do it, and HP could too. I finally understand what a momentous challenge achieving that is though, and I give HP credit for their future plans. From the sound of it, and from the facts, it appears that the wide range of products they offer, and the lower price range may be the biggest thing that’s holding their support back, because they don’t have the financial resources to provide specialized American support for every product, and it would be nearly impossible anyway for their support employees to individually master each product. Maybe as HP transforms further, they’ll focus their product line enough to fix these kinks.

We also managed to confirm that some big things are coming in 2013 to 2015 and those new support options should make a big difference, coupled with the transformation of their company. How has your experience with HP support been?

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Michael Sitver

Michael Sitver is a technology insider who has been blogging about technology since 2011. Along the way, he's interviewed founders of innovative startups, and executives from fortune 500 companies, and he's tried dozens or hundreds of gadgets. Michael has also contributed to works featured in Newsday, The San Francisco Chronicle, and the associated press. Michael also occasionally consults, and writes for Seeking Alpha and Yahoo News.

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