Lenovo does the right thing, but gracelessly

I know you have all been waiting with baited breath to see how my attempts to get Lenovo to honor an extended warranty are going.

Well, the story is over. And I remain oddly unfulfilled. Here’s what happened.

The Monday after my post blasting Lenovo for a) refusing to fix a defect under warranty and b) ignoring a legal claim, I got a nice email from the social media dude. I guess this is both good and bad. Good that Lenovo cares about its reputation online and bad because they had failed to respond to “traditional channels” — a legal demand letter. (Could social media end up supplanting consumer protection in the legal system?) The social media guy put me in email contact with a problem resolution person.

If their website had a link to reach the problem resolution people — or some other way to contact them, I might never have had to initiate a small claims case. But that’s water under the bridge.

Tuesday, a box arrived. The return address wasn’t to Flextronics in Memphis, where regular depot repairs go. Instead, the address was to a “SWAT team” at Lenovo’s HQ in NC. I thought, “Whoa! People who really know ThinkPads are going to look at my machine. That’s going to be worth the trouble I’ve been put through.”

The day the machine arrived, I spoke to Lenovo who confirmed that I had not damaged the machine — the source of my dispute with them which they used that as an excuse to not fix the ThinkPad. The problem resolution rep asked for all the documents I had concerning my communication with Lenovo — I had everything, names, dates, unanswered emails to Lenovo executives, printouts of the problem record — and expressed “shock” that it was classified as user damage. He said that his tech was quite clear that this wasn’t a result of user damage.

The next day, I received a message that the repair was delayed due to parts. 48 hours later, on Friday, the ThinkPad was returned to me. I plugged it in and  noticed immediately that the fingerprint indicator light didn’t come on. This indicator tells you you can scan your finger to power on, boot and log into Windows. So I powered it up with the power switch, only to discover that the trackpad and Bluetooth were also dead.

Crestfallen that the SWAT team didn’t know enough about their own machines to realize that in repairing an Ethernet clip they had broken three other things, I emailed the problem res dude, who immediately sent me a FedEx label.

Lenovo got the ThinkPad back on the following Monday, told me parts were backordered but somehow got me a fixed machine by today, Friday.

In addition to the six weeks I couldn’t use the machine due to a flaky Ethernet connector, it took Lenovo two more tries and two more weeks to repair the connector and undo the damage they did to the machine while attempting to repair it.

I have client data on my hard disk, so I sent the ThinkPad in for repair without the disk. I’ve always kept the hard disk when I’ve sent in laptops for repair. Flextronics never once complained about not having a hard disk in all the years I have taken this precaution. But for some reason the SWAT team needed a hard disk. So they put in a 320GB disk and returned the machine to me with the new disk installed. I was told I could keep the disk for my trouble. Gee, thanks.

So, I am writing this post on my T410 — and glad to have it back. But my PC days might just be over. My MacBook Air is such a fantastic Windows machine that I just don’t think I’ll ever go back to a PC. (Even Linus Torvalds is gushing about the MacBook Air.)

On balance, Lenovo did the right thing. But they were graceless.

They were impossible to deal with until I made noise online. They ignored a legal process to the point that, if I had gone to court, I feel certain a judge would have awarded me treble damages to teach them a lesson. They finally fixed the machine, but screwed up the repair and had to do it again.

Contrast this experience (struggle? campaign? death march?)  to my first service experience with Apple. My MacBook Air developed an odd space key behavior about 20 days after I bought it. I took it in to the store — and left 40 minutes later with a brand new machine.

My question is simple: what happens to the people that aren’t persistent like your intrepid blogger? The ones who, when summarily transferred to the billing department for payment on what should be a free warranty repair, just pay up? The ones who don’t use blogs and social media to express their issues?

Bottom line from this experience? I believe Lenovo  has a policy somewhere that gives its service people incentive to “find” more billable repairs. Many people will just pay up, not knowing they have other options. Until you start SCREAMING AT THE TOP OF YOU LUNGS LIKE THIS, Lenovo folks don’t return your calls or emails. Worse, Lenovo seems to specialize in being unreachable. (You can probably tell that of all the things that  happened in this story, what most incensed me was the fact that “managers” were supposed to call me and just plain didn’t, even though they updated the problem record to say they did.) In short, Lenovo — in a garish quest for margin — is playing the percentages.

I’m saddened by all this. When IBM had this PC business, they were bureaucratic and process-bound. But they returned calls. And if IBM got a legal document, they knew what to do with it. Lenovo has clearly joined HP and Dell at the bottom of the PC customer service pile.







2 responses to “Lenovo does the right thing, but gracelessly”

  1. Paul Tremblett Avatar
    Paul Tremblett

    As much as I belly ache about OS-X Lion, I have to say in all honesty that Apple can’t be topped when it comes to hardware customer service. My MacBook Pro recently flaked on on me the day before I desperately needed it at the Naval Weapon Station in Charleston. As I was leaving to drive to Charleston, I phoned the Apple store in Charlotte to make an appointment since that was on my route. The tech told me he’d have me in and out in a half hour. I left the Apple store 25 minutes after I walked in with the problem resolved and a new battery since mine showed up as “questionable” in the diagnostic. This was not the first time I have been treated like this at an Apple store. I had a similar experience in Arlington a couple of years ago. Yes, Apple really does understand customer service.

    1. Alex Neihaus Avatar
      Alex Neihaus

      Hi, Paul.

      I hear you — the word-of-mouth on Apple service is unbelievably good. I wonder if they do it because they can afford it. IOW, they have margins that support making customers happy.

      In the brutally competitive PC hardware business, I’d bet Lenovo doesn’t have that kind of headroom on the bottom line.

      Still, my complaint boils down to the unpleasant assertion that Lenovo was attempting revenue enhancement AFTER they’d sold me an extended warranty.

      That’s just too rich for me.

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