The wrath of customer reviews

As a shopper for an all-in-one printer, comparing these two printers below on a retail site, the Epson Workforce is the easy choice – as customers on Amazon rate it at 4 out of 5 stars as opposed to the HP printer at 2.5 stars out of 5. Given the similar price and supply availability, this decision is a “no brainer”.


However, as a product marketing manager, responsible for the HP C4280, I would really want to understand the nature of  its  failure to earn a better reputation with its customers, before giving up on it and returning to the drawing board for the next model.

From the graphic above, a screen shot of our V2P Accelerator, the most noticeable diversions in reputation for these two competitors are in Functionality and Support scores, while customers expressed disappointment with the Reliability of both machines.

45 of 83 reviews (54%) explicitly addressing the functionality of the HP printer, expressed a negative sentiment about it. What’s even more telling is the intensity of the sentiment expressed – these customers’ negative sentiment intensity is an average of 0.073 which is nearly unacceptable. My hypothesis is the HP marketing organization has created unattainable expectations through its marketing communications. Let’s look more closely at what is causing this uproar:

Many customers point at software compatibility issues. I will only quote reviews from those authors who have identified themselves.

“This product does not work with VISTA. Their software upgrade that is supposed to fix it also does not work. ” nitropolo13;

“This is printer is a money pit. It constantly prints documents in color, no matter how I configure the software.” mcduck_rules;

“The software does not work and is not fit for purpose. If you have more than one user on xp it will insist on installing multiple copies of printers, each time corrupting you initial installation requiring the lengthy install and uninstall.” andrewmanly2;

“the software keeps trying to reinstall itself repeatedly! I have to keep task manager open to keep stopping the installs.” lequiqui;

“The c4280 is an exercise in frustration, at least with Windows Vista. Vista keeps forgetting the printer and then HP reinstalls the printer automatically so you end up with multiple copies in your “Printers” list. Prepare to spend lots of time waiting for HP to reinstall the c4280 several times a week. Oh, and HP installs all kinds of software on your machine — just nothing to resolve this problem.” dtfroats;

The software issue is, statistically, the most acute cause of “pain” to customers. Product managers should be able to produce a downloadable “fix” to remedy the problem and if the availability of such a fix is well communicated to the HP support organization and to existing customers, the reputation of the printer could improve significantly. In my view this is a low hanging fruit – fixable, low cost of distribution and a very high impact on Product Functionality Reputation.

Reviews related to the HP’s Product Support damages this product’s reputation even further – 16% of all customer reviews explicitly complain about their support experience:

“Spent an entire day with HP tech help trying to get the drivers installed correctly and when I did get them installed the print options menu was incomplete — I spent another day dealing with HP on the phone — it’s as if I don’t have better things to do – by massthreat”

“HP’s customer service is a disgrace. – by”.

“HP tech support is non-existent, I have spoken with customer reps in Canada, Philippines, and India and none of these people have used the printer or have a clue about the problem. The web tech support is also useless.This is the last Hp product I will own. – mcduck_rules”.

“I spent over 6 hours on customer support to try and fix the problem and I was told it wasn’t fixable. I climbed the customer service ladder and was finally able to speak to an English speaking “Case Manager” who clearly told me that “. . scan functions on any printer have a tendency to malfunction for various reasons. .- by philbechtel

“I called HP – and they have the worst customer service department I’ve ever dealt with. I spent hours and hours on the phone with them, and all they knew how to do was read instructions out of a book. – by nbasile”

It is hard to come up with any specific conclusions except that the cost of supporting this printer must be horrendous. I would love to run our analysis engine over the transcripts of the service calls and the email communications to extract the roots of the problems and recommend possible solutions, but these transcripts are not available to us.

By the way it took me about 15 minutes to conduct this analysis using our V2P Accelerator.

This entry was posted in Product Management and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.