Before I start, may I say that I don’t typically complain about a corporation’s conduct in public. I’m not Roger Cook. I prefer to rectify any issues in swift, courteous and private manner. However, HTC have proven on numerous occasions they are not swift, not particularly courteous and way too private in my opinion. This post will be a truncated version of an email I sent to HTC last week (mid December 2010) and will contain humour. The why I am putting my musings out in public is to make smartphone buyers aware of the practices that some in the HTC may employ if things do go wrong and you need to speak to their customer services.
HTC (formerly Hong-Ta Corporation) are a Taiwanese smartphone manufacturer who were founded in 1997. They originally specialised in Windows Mobile devices but now have branched out into the Android platform, most famously with the HTC Hero and the HTC Desire.
To give you all a very brief overview of what has happened to get to this point- I bought a HTC Legend smartphone from Play.com in April and it developed a fault with the battery and motherboard earlier this month (December 2010). After much grandstanding, quarreling and general tomfoolery from both sides HTC decided to repair the phone and send it back to me. With four scratches on the aluminum casing.
The first concern of mine regarding HTC’s customer service may sound trivial. HTC have a policy of not allowing customers to know the second name and/or rank of their agents. These actions remind me of the title of a certain house music ditty from earlier this year featuring three Swedes, one American rapper and a terrible beard: –
Joking aside, this tactic is rather annoying as it leads to the customer being lead around in circles by HTC with no one taking control of their case in my experience. So for example, if you wish to speak to a certain agent in customer services you look automatically like a fool as you are immediately asked questions along the lines of “What is their second name” and “What rank do they hold in HTC”- information that you the customer are not privy to. This would be funny (and make a cracking comedy sketch) if you were ringing a freephone number, but you are not, you are paying national rate to compound the issue of look liking a chump from the off. HTC has stated all agents do give out their rank/first name when prompted but in my experience it varies from agent to agent and is an unnecessary annoyance to customers who already may be less than happy with the company.
My second concern is regarding the conduct of those higher up in the hierarchy of HTC, especially management. HTC (to the best of my knowledge) operate one call centre in Bournemouth with their Head Office in Slough not fielding any customer queries. This can lead to (putting it politely) issues with manager’s egos perhaps getting a tad inflated. In two conversations with an escalations manager who I shall call “Mr. X”, as obviously I don’t know his second name, he stated to me: –
*He did not care about my opinion and that what I did in my free time, implying anything (true or false) that I posted on Twitter/Facebook/Blogs about HTC would not matter, a statement HTC have later distanced themselves from. Ironically he then stated that I would not be “fair” to him on this blog if I were to post anything about him on it. You can’t have you cake and eat it can you?
*That if I were to write/email the CEO of HTC (Peter Chou) any complaint would come back to him, effectively meaning he had a monopoly on their mailboxes. I find this hard to believe as HTC deals with customers from around the world and I doubt they would have one man monitoring this massive task. His conduct reminded me of this gem from 1993: –
Cracking record. Anyway, “Mr. X” was posturing much like Batman- only his jurisdiction wasn’t Gotham City, it was Bournemouth. And he wasn’t a crimefighter, he was (somehow) an escalations manager for HTC.
*All complaints about staff came through him meaning he effectively regulated himself, a practice that HTC actually have not denied as of yet. “Mr. X” therefore was not only Batman, he was Robocop as well. Ray Mallon must be quaking in his boots.
*That he had wiped one of the telephone conversations that had taken place between us, HTC dismiss as “impossible” because of the tapes being sealed off to managers. Either HTC or “Mr. X” are telling lies here, to be honest I don’t know who to believe. HTC has stated it does not have a formal policy on the taping of conversations which I see as a bit of a cop out and slightly worrying from a data accountability standpoint.
*He would deny me access to those higher up in hierarchy simply because I spoke too much. I will admit that I do chunter away sometimes (hence the length of this blog post), but this is no valid reason to deny me access to higher ups in the company is it? Being a man who loves a good chunt isn’t illegal in my book.
My two poor conversations with “Mr. X” were not isolated incidents however, it seems as though the majority of managers at the Bournemouth call centre are incapable of being even slightly receptive to customer’s needs. Their arrogance reminds me the character portrayed in this video: –
That’s right, they reminded me of Craig Boombastic, a respected and revered member of the community;). If you do not encounter arrogance you’ll probably encounter the fact they do not answer the question in a way that would make David Cameron/Ed Miliband/Nick Clegg proud. I do get the impression HTC’s customer service training process doesn’t errmm actually include a lot of customer service training.
My third concern is with a communication aspect of HTC. Sometimes they do ring you back granted, but it’s usually only if they have a tale of woe to tell you or a higher power has forced them to do so. An example of this is when I was trying to get some sort of apology for the utter bunkum that “Mr. X” spouted. A manager lower down the food chain promised me a call back one Monday to rectify the situation as I had rang late on Friday. I was not contacted on Monday by anyone from HTC despite this. I rang HTC again to see what was going on, and was told a “Mr. Y” (remember a second name is too much to ask with HTC) would ring the next day which he didn’t. In fact “Mr. Y” did not ring me on Wednesday either, only sheepishly responding/apologising on Thursday after I had filled out a customer survey in which I vented my dissatisfaction. “Mr. Y” stated that he was the highest power a complaint could go to in the UK, effectively trying to claim the title of Batman/Robocop/He-Man from “Mr. X”. To sum up, in my experience if you have an issue with HTC you will have to try to get in contact with someone at their Head Office in Slough. This may sound easy enough, but given HTC have a habit of rarely picking up their phones in their Head Office getting anyone in a supervisory role to hear your frustrations is about as easy as tracking down The A-Team in the year 2011. If you fancy trying your luck the number is 01753 218960.
Confusingly, I believe the commenter on this thread who goes by the name of “MR X” is in fact “Mr. Y” at HTC for those keeping score at home.
I’m sure there are customer service agents who work for HTC UK that are reputable but they seem to be confined to the lower reaches of the organization. As I’m a kind soul I shall give some recommendations to improve customer services to round off this rant positively (if anyone from HTC is reading this): –
*Allow customers to know agents’ second names, to make communication easier and quicker.
*Accept that HTC on occasion may not always be correct, even at management level.
*Do not give out time scales for callbacks unless you are positive you can fulfill them.
*Have two customer call centres so customers and management know there isn’t a farcical culture of self regulation at HTC.
*Answer their phones promptly at their Head Office in Slough- it is their European headquarters after all.
From a customer service perspective HTC UK have proved to me they are not “Quietly Brilliant”, they are “Quietly Incompetent”.
UPDATE- The matter has been (somewhat) resolved via HTC giving me a refund directly actioned by big cheese Jeff Chou. This is after a “Mr Z” at HTC said they would not be giving me a refund “under any circumstances”. I would advise anyone reading this to think long and hard about buying a HTC handset, especially in the Android realm given the stiff competition from Motorola, Samsung, ZTE and LG. HTC are in my opinion the Lancia of smartphone manufacturers, great products but sadly lacking in PR/customer service.
FINAL UPDATE- After a “Mr M” (a ravishing young gentleman called Ed Mayes) took it upon himself to gain an apology for HTC’s conduct this week, he was successful. HTC Head Office apologised to myself and have put an a very comprehensive apology in writing.
This was after HTC’s Bournemouth Office decided (in my opinion) that they could not contact their own Head Office for a reason that is still unknown to myself. This whole issue reminds me of the this classic moment from Alan Partridge: –
I’m not sure what was in the metaphorical drawer to make the HTC Bournemouth Office not want to contact their own Head Office, but I would hope it was in slightly better taste than Alan’s collection of Top Gear magazines;). Joking aside, I am baffled as to why it has taken around ten relatively intelligent people in an office six weeks to use a telephone to ring their peers.
I shall reiterate my opinion that HTC need to reform their customer services to two dedicated call centres to avoid a culture of self regulation which I believe to be rife in the Bournemouth Office at managerial level. I shall also state HTC need to train their managers better to avoid such cases as mine, apologising quickly instead of backing their peers in their office at length and constantly stalling.
I have offered to take down this blog post but bizarrely HTC lead me to believe that “any publicity is good publicity” with their constant idiotic/silent/bait and switch tactics in the past few weeks. Therefore I am keeping this blog post online for perpetuity as I believe customers signing up to lengthy two year contracts need to know what type of customer service they may encounter in the unlikely event of their HTC smartphone needing repair.