Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Lenovo are driving me crazy

I follow @Lenovo on twitter and recently saw this retreat from Lenovo (trying to tell us all about how good they are)

RT @shaddih: Less than 18 hours after my space bar broke, new keyboard received and installed #Lenovo support is awesome.

It got me to thinking that my experience with Lenovo customer support has been anything but awesome over the years. I decided that I was going to write a post explaining just what issues I tend to have with them and tweet a link to Lenovo to see if anyone there cares. Following this (as many post ideas do) it slipped out of my mind and I moved on to something else, probably playing portal2. Over the past couple of weeks something happened to jog my memory, and actually take what I believe to be terrible customer service to new heights.

The company I work for deals mainly with Lenovo for our hardware. We're not a massive company but would have around 500 computers across the country, 350 or so being Lenovo laptops, a majority of these being either the Lenovo thinkpad T400 or T410. Before I go on I want it on the record that I'm not a Lenovo hater, I have been involved in the decisions that lead to us going with thinkpads for our employee's and don't believe there is a better business based laptop available. Over the years I've worked off an R51, T41p, T43, T60, T61, T410 and at the moment I’m lucky enough to be calling the brilliant x201t my work machine (a hybrid laptop/multitouch tablet, if this was a tech review blog I'd write a glowing review!). They have all been great performing machines and I can't see us making a move from Lenovo anytime soon.

Now that I've got that out of the way... It's the T400 in particular that has caused us the most grief, I've yet to experience this issue with the similar bodied T410 (which I'm currently rolling out to replace some old T61's) so I guess they sorted the problem. On the T400's the issue is that the tongue inside the USB ports sometimes comes lose and falls out, either on their own or when users are unplugging a USB device. All the users in our company work off external USB mouse and keyboards (both Lenovo brand) so plugging and unplugging USB devices is something many of them do on a daily basis. Without getting technical, because the issue really isn't, the problem is that when one of these plastic tongue's is missing it leaves the 4 metal pins exposed with no protection. The next time someone tries to plug something in they bend the pins, which fold flat and this shorts the motherboard causing the laptop to not boot. Unfortunately it's not an easy fix as the ports are part of the system board which (on a laptop) basically hosts a majority of the computers equipment. From my experience a system board replacement is the fix.

We recently had another one of our T400's experience this issue. We have a return to depot warranty, meaning that Lenovo will fix it but it has to go back to them. From memory our warranty has a 5 business day turnaround agreement (depending on parts availability) from when Lenovo receive the machine. The below communications followed:

  • Tuesday 26/4: called Lenovo to lodge a job, was given a reference number and told that the courier would be in contact.
  • Thursday 28/4: The courier called and said they would be sending out a box and when I receive it I should call them and they would arrange to come and pick up the laptop. I don't see why this should take 2 days to happen! I explained to the person on the phone that the courier has always come with a box and taken the laptop with them and they told me they aren't doing it that way anymore.
  • Tuesday 3/5: I called Lenovo to say that I had not received the box, they said they would call courier but I should also call them to put pressure on them from two points. I explained to the Lenovo support person that I didn't believe that was my job, I bought the laptop from Lenovo, not the courier. I also questioned why the system had changed from the old system of 'a courier coming out with a box and taking the laptop with them' to the new one of 'sending a box and then me calling the courier once it was ready to be picked up'. It was explained to me that often the courier was going out with the box and the laptop wasn't ready to be collected so they needed to keep coming back, this was costing them too much. I went on to ask how a new system which guaranteed that the courier had to go out twice was going to help that, he didn't have an answer.
  • Wednesday 4/5: still no box arrived, decided to skip Lenovo this time and call the courier. They said that the box was sent on Friday and takes 3 business days, meaning it should arrive sometime that day 4/5. I asked them why if I logged the call with Lenovo on Tuesday the 26th that the box wasn't sent out until Friday the 29th, they didn't have a good reason.
  • Thursday 5/5: by 2pm box still hadn’t arrived, called courier who said they we’re going to pass this on to another team who handles box delivery, said they would express one to me if it didn't turn up soon. I asked why it takes 4 days to deliver the first box if they can express them, they didn't have a response.
  • Thursday 5/5: (4pm) box arrived, I called the courier to let them know the box had arrived (as instructed by the notes inside the box) they told me they would email me paperwork now and collect the box tomorrow.
  • Friday 6/5: Laptop collected to be taken back to Lenovo, 10 days after the call was lodged.

The whole process of getting a Lenovo computer repaired under warranty is exhausting, hopefully some of that comes across in this post. I completely understand that we haven't forked out the big bucks on a warranty where a tech comes out to our site and fixes the machine but I don't think we should have to wait 10 days and make 5 phone calls just to get to a point where a tech sees the machine. I also understand that some of the above issues were caused by the courier but surely Lenovo should dictate some SLA's that are a lot more acceptable than this.

Just to rub salt into my wounds, this morning when I went to turn on my x201t I noticed that the spring loaded clip that locks the screen closed (or down when in tablet mode) was broken, it's a return to base warranty too, so I'm about to go through all this again. :(

I'd love to hear from someone at Lenovo regarding this and how they justify (even if everything goes to plan) a customer having to wait 5 business days with a broken laptop from the time a call is logged till the time a tech gets their hands on it. Ignoring the fact I had to wait 10. Surely this isn't something customers would realize when they read through the "return to depot" warranty.

The (disgruntled) ITG

update: two things to report. 1. I received the T400 back today in working order, good turnaround time from when Lenovo actually managed to get their hands on it. 2. @Lenovo on twitter messaged me to say they are listening and asked me for the job reference number so they could look into it, which i have passed on.

In the next couple of weeks i plan to call them again for the broken clip on my x201t, lets see if things have improved or not!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Virus crazyness ... more stupid users

I work in a very small IT team, which has its pro's and con's. The main pro is that I get to do different things all the time which stops the job from getting too boring. I have mates that work at much bigger companies in very large IT teams, for some of them it can mean more money but there is a downside, not only do they have to clock in/clock out, they also often have someone watching over their shoulders, scrutinizing their work. The biggest complaint I get from them though is that often they are pigeon holed into a role, each person has their place, so they get stuck doing the same kind of thing day in day out.

For me this is not a problem, one day I could be interstate helping relocate an office/setting up a new site, the next day I might be setting up some new domain controllers. I could jump from that to a meeting with Business Managers to see how technology can improve their processes and even deal with our suppliers (hardware, network, communications) to nut out the specifics of new service offerings. Sounds great doesn't it? Well, like I said, pro's and con's... The main (small IT department) con I face is that I unfortunately have to deal with the day to day stuff that at a much bigger company would be considered basic level 1 helpdesk. The kind of stuff that a university graduate, someone holding a diploma in network engineering and a fistful of certificates wouldn't normally be expected to do. Don't get me wrong, it's not just me, my boss is on the front line too, setting up user accounts, installing printers, configuring desktop software, a whole plethora of crap jobs ... including cleaning virus riddled PCs.

Recently we've had to deal with quite a bit of infected PC's and that is the focus of this post. Sometimes I try to get into the head of a user, I wonder (assuming I didn't know a lot about computers) what I would do if I had my virus scan pop up telling me my computer was infected. Would I just hit cancel/ignore and keep working away like it never happened? Or would I let the IT team know about it. I'd like to think the latter. In the last couple of weeks however, a trend has emerged that can be easily summed up by this small interaction i had with a user:

     User01 [12:25 PM]:
Hey ITG, Sorry to bug you, but just wasn't sure what the appropriate thing would be to do at the moment with this query - have a virus scan thing that keeps running on my computer which seems to be freezing things up a bit and every time i try and close it down it keeps popping back up? Wasn't sure if it was best for someone to have a quick look or something?

     The ITG [12:26 PM]:
ill give you one guess at what you should do (probably should have done the first time you saw it too) ;)

     User01 [12:27 PM]:
lol - logging an IT request

     The ITG [12:27 PM]:
how about that
go for it
thanks mate

     User01 [12:27 PM]:
no probs

This user proceeded to pop in an IT helpdesk request which explained that her computer had been telling her that it was infected with a virus for the last week or so. Unfortunately she isn't alone.

Some people also get a bit of an attitude towards IT when they have issues, here is a recent virus request that made me wish I had a device to stab people in the face over the internet:

Request Description: For the past week every time I log into my computer and at random intervals throughout the day I get a popup telling me that my computer has a virus, I click clean but it keeps coming back. Often this causes my computer to crash and i need to restart to get working again. This is very frustrating and not an ideal sitution [sic] at all as it is directly impacting on my work and causing me to fall behind in my billing. I would appreciate it if this could be fixed now!

When I called this user and explained she wouldn't have been having this issue for the past week if she lodged a request as soon as she first saw the popup, as expected she got her back up and started blaming everyone else for her stupidity. I understand a user clicking 'clean' or 'remove threat' and going back to their work but you'd assume (clearly I make assumptions way too often) that as soon as it comes back once, or worst case scenario a couple of times, they would let IT know as opposed to battling through it, sitting there, getting angrier and angrier at the issue for a full week!

I also had one user tell me that they needed a new computer as their old one had a virus that couldn't be cleaned and they were sending it back to me to be replaced. I tried to explain to them that a virus is software, and even if it cannot be cleaned I am able to back up all their data, blast the hard drive and reconfigure for them. She responded:

     No, That isn't the case here, my computer will no longer boot up so I know it has to be replaced.

For the record, I've since received this laptop, backed up the users data, blasted it and its sitting next to me being reconfigured as I type this.

There sure is enough of them working at my company so I hope you guys don't get sick of reading about stupid users, I sure don't get sick of writing about them!

Cheers, The ITG.