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Previously on Thinkpad Galactica

Filed under: Uncategorized — mgrusin at 10:02 pm on Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Summary: New Thinkpad comes with a minor factory defect, but getting it fixed escalates into a surprising amount of trouble. All turns out well in the end, though. The whole story after the jump.

12/24/06: Receive shiny new Thinkpad T60p.

1/23/07: Finally realize only one speaker is working (the left one). Call Lenovo. They are very apologetic, arrange for warranty repair.

1/25/07: Empty box arrives. Pack up computer. Call DHL to pick up box.

2/1/07: DHL picks up the box after several no-shows.

2/7/07: Wrong computer returned (DHL’s fault, dropped off wrong but identical box). Mixup cleared up several hours later.

2/7/07: Dead speaker now works, but has obvious problems (consistently pops loundly on mute/unmute, and doesn’t work at all at a specific volume level). Only the repaired speaker has these problems, the left one works fine as it always has. Since the same thing happens in both Windows and Linux, signs point to defective hardware. (Wish I had noticed this before the first service call, but the dead speaker masked the problem.)

2/9/07: Call Lenovo. They are very apologetic, promise to escalate to next level.

2/12/07: Empty box arrives. Pack up computer. Include very specific note about problem, including the instruction to not return it until the problem is solved. Take box to DHL (not messing around with pickup again).

2/13/07: Tracking shows computer arrives at Lenovo service and leaves six hours later.

2/14/07: Repaired computer left on doorstep while I wasn’t home (the first one properly required a signature.) And for some reason, the box is unsealed which is very disturbing.

2/14/07: Power it up, but my heart sinks when I hear the same “pop” from the speaker. Absolutely NOTHING has changed on the computer. There’s a generic “Repair Action Report” included, but nothing indicating what was or wasn’t done and why. I’m livid; I need this laptop operational NOW.

2/14/07: Call Lenovo. Very apologetic. Promise to escalate to next level. I say that’s what was promised the last time. They suggest I speak to a manager. Hold for 30 minutes. No managers available, told manager will call me personally in 24 hours.

2/15/07: 24 hours, no call from manager.

2/16/07: Call Lenovo. Ask to speak to manager. Hold for 5 minutes. No manager available, told my case is now on “hot line” status, they will be calling me. Say they were supposed to call me in 24 hours but didn’t. Now told that they’ll call within 72 hours. Ask for number for “hot line” people. Told that they have no contact information for them. Ask what to do if they don’t call within 72 hours. Told to call back and they’ll escalate it again.

2/16/07: “Repaired” speaker fails (I can’t make this stuff up). At least I don’t hear the pop now! (But the problem is still very apparent on headphones).

2/19/07: 72 hours have gone by without a call. Call Lenovo. They put me on hold briefly, then say the person in charge of my case is “unavailable”. I ask for contact information, they say they don’t have it, only his name (“Kier”). I ask what to do. They say to wait for his call. I say he hasn’t called in the timeframe(s) I’ve been given, what if he never calls, am I just stuck? Sounds like it. I ask for suggestions on what to do. They give me the number for the repair center, saying I could call them and see what happened during the repairs. (Aside from the fact that this is someone else’s job, they’ve “repaired” my machine twice and obviously couldn’t fix it, so calling them doesn’t seem like it would be productive.) Am told that when a machine gets sent in for a third time is when it is escalated. (I was previously told this would happen the second time, but once is too much: this should have been caught at the factory.) I mention that I bought a Thinkpad because of its reputation for build and service, but so far I haven’t seen it. Apologies, etc. but they’ve done all they can do (?!). Am now thinking of an end-run to corporate, but I see that the gentleman in charge of American operations recently resigned…

2/21/07: Write letter to the interim head of Lenovo’s US operations, hoping that he’s interested in the state of his company’s service system, and hoping he can get things moving from the top (since I seem to be stuck trying to get things moving from the bottom).

2/27/07: No response to letter and no call from Lenovo. Call Lenovo. Tell another person the whole story. Put on hold for 10 minutes. Person assures me that someone from the hotline will call today. Gets cell number and email to be sure they can reach me. As of 10PM still no call, message or email, but they may have a different definition of “day” than I do.

2/28/07: A CALL FROM IBM! (and within 24 hours!) They say that two parts were ordered for my machine, and one is still on backorder. This is complete news to me, if anyone had ever bothered to tell me, either in the first place or during one of my calls since, that they were waiting for parts and (I’m guessing) returned my laptop for me to use in the meantime, much of the above wouldn’t have happened. They say the case number is the same as before (but still give me a new one), give me a new phone number to call (woohoo!), and say they’ll call me when the part is in. My confidence is still low, but at least there’s some movement. Surprise me, IBM!

3/2/07: SUCCESS! IBM did surprise me (in a good way). A very helpful IBM field technician named Steve called me, said he had received the parts that had been ordered for my machine, and scheduled an appointment to replace the T60’s mainboard at my location (!) I was surprised because nobody had informed me what to expect (par for the course), so I expected to send my machine in again (which I was nervous about given the previous events). Steve came over with a new speaker and motherboard, a toolkit, and a field ESD mat. I demonstrated the problem, and he astutely theorized that the click was actually blowing out the right speaker, which certainly fit the chain of events. He quickly disassembled the machine, swapped the CPU to the new motherboard, and put everything back together (no extra screws). It took about 45 minutes, and when he was done the audio worked PERFECTLY. I was extremely impressed. Thank you Steve (we had a great geek talk while he was working), and thank you IBM for escalating this to a tech who could fix the problem. (Additionally, the same day I got a phone message from IBM executive services following up on my letter to corporate. I will call them back to tell them that I’m happy with the resolution, but also that there are deficiencies in their service process).

3/7/2007 The nice gentleman from IBM corporate has called me back several times but I haven’t been available during business hours to talk to him. Finally catch his call and give him a quick synopsis of the issues and outcome. I say that by far the main problem I encountered was communications with the customer. He is very apologetic and says he will check with the people who worked my case and try to determine why they repeatedly failed to contact me. After I hang up I wish I had also added that they should look into a different carrier than DHL.

I’m VERY happy with the final result, but this still took much more time and stress than it needed to. Lessons learned:

  • These things come with problems from the factory. If I ran the zoo, that would be the first place I’d work to improve things (inspection should have caught this problem).
  • The front-line repair system should have caught the secondary problem (loud click) while testing their repair of the first problem (repair speaker).
  • I don’t know if it was DHL or the front-line repair people, but someone is sloppy when it comes to return packaging and shipping (my guess is both of them). DHL shipping was very fast, but the handoffs were repeatedly a PITA.
  • Both the front-line and escalated service divisons need to communicate better with the customer. If the front-line tech had told me that they were waiting on parts (they even sent a repair report to list such things which wasn’t used), or the escalated system had called me (as they were supposed to) and told me the same thing, I would have been happy to let them do their jobs. As it was, I thought they had abandoned this customer.
  • There is a severe communications disconnect between the front-line service system and the escalated system. I had no way of reaching the escalated system directly when they didn’t call me (it took two weeks and four calls to get a response out of them).
  • The on-site repair service is definitely worth it if you can afford it, but it would be nice to see that level of customer care extended to all issues at all levels.

The great thing is that the issue is solved, and I now feel that the laptop is finally mine and I can commit to fully moving my work over to it. Thanks for listening, flame off.

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