Major Manufacturers Slip on Service / Quality

Desktops - More Service Snags

HP and Compaq aren't the only companies with iffy service scores. Dell, Gateway, and Sony received ratings of Fair for service. Dell and Sony (and Compaq) markedly trail their competitors on hold times. Just 45 percent of Sony customers and 48 percent of Dell customers reported waiting on hold for 5 minutes or less. The May 2004 issue of Consumer Reports showed poor marks for HP and Compaq service issues.

Independent retailers easily top the class on this measure: Over 86 percent of their customers said they waited on hold for 5 minutes or less. Independent retailers (also known as mom-and-pop shops or white-box makers) received impressive service marks, while Compaq, HP, Dell, and Sony trailed in a few support measures.

The Dell phone experience leaves some longtime fans steaming. "It's ridiculous," says Steve Heck, a technology manager for an industrial firm in Blairsville, Pennsylvania. Heck owns a Dell desktop and two Dell laptop PCs. "I try to avoid calling [Dell] at all, because the automated telephone system is so bad," he says. Heck reports that a customer can spend hours trying to get to the right person.

Timothy McLendon, a veteran technician at Service Zone, a facility in Lake City, Florida, that handles calls for Dell, says one problem is rapid turnover of staff: The average tenure there is three months. Many reps are males between 18 and 25 who view this as their first job on the way to some other technical career, says McLendon. In the first two months, he says, many reps raise their hands, on average, once every three calls to ask for help. "On a scale of one to ten, the technical skills here are about a five," says McLendon. "In many cases they're lower than that. Reps get two weeks of training, but there's no way they can learn everything about all of Dell's systems in that time. ( From the December 2002 issue of PC World magazine )

Like Glen Ashman, an attorney based in Atlanta, other HP and Compaq owners have had their share of problems. The HP and Compaq brands rank in the cellar for users' overall satisfaction with product reliability. Some HP and Compaq customers also reported being disappointed at shortcomings in the knowledge and sincere effort of technicians.

PC users of machines from major manufacturers shouldn't expect to see a turnaround in hold times anytime soon, says Roger Kay, vice president of client computing at market research firm IDC. PC makers don't want to relinquish any more of their slim profit margin to pay for support costs.

PC World Reviews Computer Manufacturers
from the Jan. 2005 Issue,aid,112915,pg,8,00.asp,aid,112915,00.asp
By Laurianne McLaughlin
From the December 2003 issue of PC World magazine