Printer pain …….

This is nothing to do with coffee. It’s about big companies, poor customer service and even worse training.

We have a printer produced by one of the World’s largest and most respected manufacturers of office equipment. It’s not a cheap one, because we wanted to avoid hassle and have really good on-site support in the event of a breakdown. This week our seven month old, lightly used colour laser printer broke down. To be exact, it started clicking and not printing properly. We called the UK warranty line which is manned, it turns out, by a third-party company entrusted by the manufacturer to look after its warranty business, and reported the fault. This was where the real problems began.

For some reason, the person answering the telephone was unsure of the correct action and promised to call back after consulting his manager. He did not do so. We called again the next day and after further consultation with his manager the same young man, who had overnight completely forgotten the previous day’s call, logged the fault for an engineer to call. The young man was advised to have the engineer telephone in advance the day before he intended to visit to make sure someone would be around to receive him.

One morning, some days later, the telephone rang and an engineer said he would be with us within an hour. Fine, we were in and no harm was done. It’s just annoying that messages never seem to be passed properly these days; people turn up to empty addresses and everyone gets cross. But that didn’t happen, so it was fine.

The engineer, pleasant enough but sadly lacking in communication skills, spent an hour or two wrestling on the floor with the offending printer amid loud bangs and the occasional defiant clicking noises. He was offered light refreshment and chose a cappuccino, which was made with Colombian La Manuela single origin beans and served complete with latte art. Hopefully he enjoyed it, he said nothing. Eventually, he declared the beast tamed and left after proudly presenting a perfect test print.

A couple of hours later someone went to use the printer. Click, click, click, click …….. whirrrrrr ……… and a horrible print appeared. The resulting call to the warranty service people again yielded the pleasant but rather inept young man from before. He had no idea what to do because “We have tried the repairing it option”! He decided to go away and consult his manager, and would then call us back.

The next morning we telephoned again having heard nothing. The young man was not there but his colleague, a manager of something – but not the young man in question it seems – and an altogether far more with it type, simply logged another call. That evening a different engineer telephoned to say he would visit the next morning.

After less than five minutes of investigation, and no refreshments at all, the second engineer declared the black toner cartridge to be defective …… or possibly the imaging unit. He would not know until the parts were swapped out systematically. No problem then …….. well actually …….. you guessed it.

It seems that the manufacturer would no longer allow its appointed agent to order warranty replacement parts, or so we were told. Apparently, we would have to call a different number and request the required parts directly of the manufacturer itself, but should beware as they might tell us that “consumables are not covered by the warranty”. We were advised to “Stick to your guns and they will eventually send the parts”.

Unhappy about being expected to liaise between the manufacturer and its agent, requiring in effect an absurd two-tier warranty call, we rang the rang the number anyway in the hope that the whole issue would be resolved. A lady in New York answered. She was robotic in her dealings; simple questions were met with pre-programmed responses not related to what had been asked, and further attempts to gain answers merely yielded a repetition regardless of any point made. Somehow she was even less responsive than the person answering the telephone for the warranty support people.

After a fairly long explanation about our adventure to date, the lady in NY asked for the serial number of our printer. She couldn’t match it up on her system and proudly declared as much as though the onus would then pass to us. Having been asked what she hoped we might be able to do about the clear limitations of her system, she decided to go and speak with her manager for ten minutes whilst we were left to enjoy the music now playing in the headset for our entertainment.

Upon her return she simply asked for the serial number again and began what threatened to become our very own Groundhog Day. After another cycle of serial number hunting she decided to go and speak to her manager again whilst we were serenaded with more inane white noise posing as music.

Eventually she came back and triumphantly announced that the black toner cartridge we had asked for on the advice of the engineer in order to begin the sequence of fault elimination was only covered for the first three months after purchase. A long conversation ensued in which the full terms of the warranty were read verbatim from the booklet that had accompanied the now defective printer when it was purchased. We were advised that it did not matter what the booklet ‘said’, the three month coverage was what the manufacturer did.

To cut a long story short and to save those of nervous dispositions, it was clear now that the cast of the Muppet Show had, after all, found gainful employment after the demise of the programme. This particular character simply had no idea of the Law and was accordingly educated. She promptly went to speak again to her manager …. who was presumably Fozzie Bear.

Some time later she woke us up by returning to the phone asking for a copy of the warranty booklet. Yes, you have read correctly: The manufacturer wanted us to provide them with details of their international warranty terms and conditions. These were scanned and emailed with the suggestion that our time would be billed according to the amount of it that the manufacturer wanted to waste with their shenanigans.

During the farce, someone wanted to use the printer, which had been ‘fudged’ into working temporarily by the second engineer, or so he said. Even though it had previously done so perfectly, it now no longer printed any blue …. at all. The warranty service agents were called again and the original young man answered. He had forgotten us for a second time, along with his promise of a call back what now seemed like eons ago.

The whole story was relayed again and he said “Xxxxx (the manufacturer) don’t cover consumables for more than three months”. There was an explosion; he was read the warranty terms, advised of the Law, told the difference between after-market consumables and those supplied as an integral part of the initial purchase and warned not to dare say anything else that might be construed as nonsense! Accordingly, whilst we held the line, he telephoned the second engineer and was told this meant it was definitely the imaging unit that was defective … and maybe the toner as well. As a result, the young man decided to contact a manager at the manufacturer himself and then to call us back. Upon being reminded that he had never yet called us back, he declared that we had previously spoken to someone else, not him, even though it was him and we all knew it. Unless of course there are several copies of each Muppet character …………. or is that the Cylons in Ballestar Galactica?

NY lady called next to ask for a proof of purchase, which we forwarded. She explained her manager had agreed in view of “the document” we had in our possession that they would replace the parts. She had to be updated about the faulty imaging unit but seemed to take that in her stride to the relief of everyone.

Then, amazingly, the young man actually rang back, to say that the manager from the manufacturer who he emailed had responded stating that of course the warranty was valid and offered another telephone number for us to call. Of course that was not necessary now because NY lady seemed to have some momentum by this time.

Later on a rather cryptic email in block capitals referring to “your order” arrived from NY lady. The suggestion was that something would be shipped shortly and we would be advised when that happened.

So there you are …. watch this space …….. and make what you will of this episode. I like to think of it as progress. We live in a time when people are dumbed down to the extent that they act rather like computer terminals and the computers, that now slightly outrank their operators on the food scale, seem to have taken charge using the wisdom of the systems input by the former cast of the Muppet Show.

Rant over.

Update – 7/12/07:

After several days of fairly cryptic emails all in block capitals from NY lady, the imaging unit finally arrived today. The original problem looks to be okay at the moment, but the issue that began when the second engineer came remains; it still doesn’t print blue. We currently await another visit from an engineer. Deep joy.

Another update – 11/12/07:

Following a rather frank discussion about us no longer being the ‘go-between’ amidst the manufacturer and its service agent, the first engineer called again today. If you remember, he was the one who had a cappuccino. When offered a ‘drink’ this time, he eagerly asked for a ‘coffee’. He must have liked it then! Back to the printer. It seems that the faulty imaging unit managed to damage one or more of the toner units, so more toner is on its way and yet another imaging unit is here awaiting its arrival in case the now broken toner has managed in turn to befuddle in some way the first replacement imaging unit. Still with me? Anyway, it seems the intention now is to change the imaging unit and the two faulty toner cartridges at the same time so none can upset any other! Sounds like a plan ….. though we still don’t have a properly functioning printer in the mean time.

Yet another update – 12/12/07:

The promised toner units did not arrive today. We were told they would come via courier overnight and they did not. The service agent was called and advised the cartriges were “on order”. During the conversation the young man (yes him again) first told us they would be arriving directly from the manufacturer, then contradicted himself by stating the parts would come via them once the order reached their office. Previous parts have, after all, arrived overnight by next day courier service as promised, so this looks like another administrative error by the collective cast of Muppet-esque characters. Either way we were left waiting all day after being told to expect a package. No-one has yet been able to shed light on this latest cock-up but the very flustered young man has promised his “currently unavailable” manager will call as soon as he “gets back”. Yeah right, just like he did last time ….. we won’t be holding our breath.

Perhaps we should have held our breath after all. The manager did call back and was very personable, if full of excuses and stories of how they are only following orders from the manufacturer. It seems that there was never any chance of the parts arriving today after all. Logistically, for this firm at least, it simply could not happen. Of course the engineer now denies ever saying the parts would come today. A further frank discussion took place and our patience is being tried to the limits. It seems the parts will arrive later this week, perhaps. Our trust in the manufacturer’s after sales service will take some time longer to recover and I suspect we will never buy from them again. We would have been better off throwing the whole unit back via the online retailer, who would have replaced it, and let the manufacturer sort out what to do with the old one without bothering us further. Lesson learned.

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6 responses to “Printer pain …….

  1. Bad customer service is pretty much the one thing (okay, that’s an exaggeration) that can make me really, really lose my temper. Well done for sticking to your guns and not letting them fob you off with some ridiculous excuse.

    Are you sure you wouldn’t like to name & shame the manufacturer?

  2. Not yet …. though you never know. The ‘Manager’ called again on Friday. It seems the cartridges will be arriving by courier on Monday or Tuesday or ……..

  3. Good Lord Cakey thats a hell of a rant!

  4. Any progress, Cakey?

    I’ll be buying a colour printer soon, this has made me a whole lot more nervous about the experience. I don’t know who has best customer service…I wish I did, I’d buy from them (this is what we want from modern-day consumer magazines – who’s most reliable, who has best customer service).

  5. Hi TJ. The cartidges are here but we were having a change of ISP today and the printer has been neglected. I’ll report back on it tomorrow.

    I’m not sure whether the problem is an intentional lack of customer service or employing dumbed down people on first level support who are incapable of employing logical thought.

  6. Finally, the second new imaging unit was inserted at the same time as the new black and cyan toner cartridges and it seems finally to be working properly. What a nightmare that was, but good news at last …. we hope! 😉 🙂

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