Sunday, February 06, 2005

Carly Please Listen


HP just lost a $10,000 sale from me. I tried to order from you, I really did. I tried four times. I needed three high-end media center PCs for the company I work for, Orb. But your direct to consumer web and phone ordering service is fundamentally broken. So I am buying from Dell instead.

First I tried to order from your website. You wouldn't let me. I went through a lot of effort to configure the systems exactly the way I wanted them and then when I went to "check-out" of your online store a message informed my that the purchase could not be completed online and that I had to call your 800 number.

So I called. My first disappointment was that there was no visibility from the folks at the 800 number into the order I had just created online. That makes sense though, your online system never even gave me a chance to enter my personal information before rejecting my order. But it was a disappointment.

So I went through the entire process again, over the phone. Your inbound telesales people are very nice, by the way. But they have no power in your system as I was to learn...

Having configured the entire system, the order taker pushed enter and got a message that the purchase had not been approved by my credit card company. This is strange, I thought, I have no balance and a $35,000 credit line. It must be that there is a fraud alert on my card. Perhaps I could call the credit card company, clear the fraud alert, and have HP put the charge through again? Sorry, said the telesales person, you'll have to start the entire order over again when you call back...

OK, well let me charge this to a different card then! Sorry, we still have to start the order over again from the beginning... So I was frustrated, but I did want to purchase from you, so I went through the entire configuration process again. This time I used my platinum American Express. This time we received a different message at the end:
Thank you for your recent order with We review all orders according to industry standard practices. We randomly select orders for further review for quality purpose and to ensure the integrity of our order processing system. You will receive an email message containing your order status by the end of the business day.
While this was frustrating, I knew that this was not a fradulent order, so I felt confident that the order would be processed by you. Imagine my surprise later that afternoon when I received a second message informing me that you could not process my order! In the meantime I had called my credit card company (the first one) and discovered that indeed there was a security hold on my card. It was released and they assured me that if you put the order through again, that it would clear. So I called you up again, went through the entire order again and... once again was declined by your company. I asked to speak with a supervisor but was told that none were available (it was, by that time, 10:12 EST so I guess they had all gone home).

This time I called the credit card company very frustrated with them (they operate 24 hours a day by the way) and asked them to explain what had happened. Apparently your system is designed to send a $1 charge through when the order is first created, to "test" the card. Then, when the order is complete, the full charge is sent through. Your service (despite being a telesales operation) is identified on these transactions as an Internet transaction (and thus high fraud risk). This rapid series of transactions - the test and then the full amount - trigger my bank's fraud algorithm and have a security hold placed on the card. A simple phone call to the bank can then release the hold and allow the transaction to go through... but of course your system doesn't allow the transaction to be processed a second time.

Here are some suggestions:

If you are going to run a telesales group, have it work with banks differently -- perhaps you are saving money having these transactions processed through the same mechanism as your online service, but you must be losing more than just me as a customer by doing this...

Give your telesales staff more power! They should be able to keep an order open, process different cards against the same order, rerun a card after a security block has been cleared... while they were very nice, they couldn't do anything for me that I couldn't do for myself on a website (oh, if your website had been working and let me place the order in the first place...)

Tell your supervisors that they need to stay around as long as there are still customers on the phones.

Oh, and one last thing. Dell turns out to have a more powerful computer for less money and a bigger flat panel display as a free add-on to my order... so you aren't even competitive on price.

wishing you and HP shareholders the best,


dan said...

This is incredible. Really incredible. I never would have gotten as far as you did. Would have blown a gasket first.

Geoff said...

Great article will they listen?