Your customers have choices.  When your rules and systems make it harder to do business with you, they will do business elsewhere.

Customer service case in point: Experience with Help Desk of HP

Do you remember when the purpose of a Help Desk was to help you? A telephone call away, one quick question to a knowledgeable individual and your problem was fixed.Today, I am convinced the purpose of a Help Desk is to drive customers away.

My story begins when I noticed a little light was blinking on my  HP 1600 printer.  I knew something was wrong, but  couldn’t find the service manual.  We had the printer several years and I admit my filing system isn’t the best.

I started my quest by looking on line to see if I could find information about what the little light meant. No such luck. It wasn’t there. Obviously the owner’s manual contains such proprietary information (such as how to install, operate and troubleshoot the product) that Hewlett Packard is unwilling to share the information publicly.

The next step was to call customer service. I pushed the following sequence of numbers  1, 4, 2, 2, 2 2 in response to screening questions, most of which were irrelevant.  I just wanted to know what the little light meant. I waited patiently (10 minutes on hold) for a customer service rep, whose native language was clearly not English to ask a series of stupid questions before she would answer mine. I told her my name, phone, email address, the model of the product in question, but unfortunately I couldn’t give her my serial number. That was the sticking point.  You see without it, she couldn’t tell me what the little light meant.

Obliviously this information is so proprietary, it can only be shared with someone who could prove they owned an HP 1600. Why would I care if I didn’t have one?  But without the serial number, we were going nowhere. In case you are curious, the serial number is conveniently located on the bottom of a printer which probably weighs 40 pounds.  Quite honestly, I was in no mood to lift it.  I just wanted to know what the little light meant. I finally gave up, hung up and called a friend who owned the same priner. She had a better filing system and found the information in less then a minute.

So this is the new reality.  As companies get bigger and their customer service and support more cumbersome, consumers are going elsewhere to find information.  If they get used to finding information elsewhere, perhaps next time, they will go elsewhere for their products as well.  I am pretty sure I will.

The next time I need a printer or any product which may need support down the road, I am going to call the help desk, before I buy!  How about you?

Final Lesson – Your product is more then features and benefits.  It is a complete customer experience which often includes service, warranty and support.   In the long run, it is how well you deliver these elements which grow your brand, reputation and repeat business.