Compaq struggles to support SoHo market

Compaq said today it will continue to charge consumers 50p a minute for support calls, despite ditching its premium rate 0891 support number for its business customers. The company also blasted PC vendors, including itself, for not getting support for the SoHo market right, despite investing $10 million in a pan-European support centre this year.

Compaq said today it will continue to charge consumers 50p a minute for support calls, despite ditching its premium rate 0891 support number for its business customers. The company also blasted PC vendors, including itself, for not getting support for the SoHo market right, despite investing $10 million in a pan-European support centre this year.

Talking at the announcement of a Web-based support service, Compaq's director of customer services, Paul Gardner said that the use of the 0891 number was "still under review." He added that it was being retained to provide "a mild pushback on the customer" so that they check the fault first before phoning.

Gardner claimed that about 50 per cent of all support calls received were avoidable and could have been resolved through consulting the user manual.

"Consumers represent the biggest challenge," said Gardner. "There is an underlying problem that we are selling PCs to people, of which one in four do not know how to programme their video recorder. This is a huge challenge."

The additional problem for Compaq is that SoHo users tend to buy PCs through retail outlets, which are renowned for not being too interested in after-sales support. These are the customers that are more likely to use telephone support, as that is their only point of contact with the vendor.

Gardner admitted that direct sales to the SoHo market would enable the company to react directly to any support problems, but dismissed claims that this is the ultimate answer. "No one has got it right, not even Dell or Gateway," he said.

One unsatisfied Compaq customer dismissed Compaq's stance as "unreasonable".

Diane Blake-Lawson, personal assistant to Deborah Shipley, MP, said that she has had a Presario 4712 for three months, and has had nothing but problems with it.

"No one, not the retailer MicroWorld or Compaq have shown enough willing to sort it out for me. I spent an hour on the 0891 support number but the problem wasn't fixed. I spent a further 30 minutes on a 0990 number talking to a contract engineer and when he came to fix it he couldn't, so now I am waiting for a Compaq engineer. The engineer said he couldn't come until next week until I told him it was for an MP. Now he is coming on Wednesday."

Gardner admitted there are problems with Compaq's current support policy. "We are not there yet," he said, and added that Compaq is at fault with Blake-Lawson's scenario. It's our fault. It sounds like she is entitled to a refund."