Why buying Palm isn’t going to help HP

About a month ago, HP agreed to buy Palm, primarily for the company’s mobile operating system webOS, which is replacing Windows 7 on the company’s touted forthcoming tablet.  A sexy mobile OS is great and all, but my recent interactions suggest a deeper problem for HP that it has to fix.

At NLTV, every year I find myself with a chunk of money in my budget I need to  spend before the end of the fiscal year and, come July, the money vanishes. I get to buy cool, big-ticket items like new high-definition video cameras.

This year, I was in the market for a new, powerful workstation that could handle high-def video editing in Creative Suite 5: a $1,500 Nvida graphics card, high-end Intel i7 processor, lots of disk space and memory. I expected to spend $5,000 or $6,000. I figured I’d look at HPs, since I’ve been happy with my new HP  laptop as well as the system and service I got when I needed a workstation to run a live-video-switching operation on.

Since I need a pretty specific configuration, I figured I get in touch, let the sales folks know what I needed and let them tell me what was possible. So I went looking for a phone number.  I work for a local government, I headed to the government section of the website. It was a few clicks deep, but I found a number for the switch board. I called it and pushed a few buttons to move along. HP’s system transfered me — the phone starting ringing as it sent me elsewhere — and then it hung up.

Strike one.

I called back, went through the same phone tree and was transfered me again. This time it didn’t hang up. So there’s that. But I did get to enter into a conversation with a gentleman who tried to determine where I was calling from (they had an old address for the city) so he could direct me to my sales rep. This conversation took 12 minutes; my phone timed it.

Strike two.

And at the end, he said he couldn’t give me a direct number to my rep, but I could call a different switch board and ask for her by name. Then he transfered me. To her voice mail.

I left a message and got a call back a few hours later when I was out of the office.

She had gotten my message and, gosh, wasn’t the Iowa rep anymore. And, gosh, she could only quote on servers and networking. So I had to call a different person, whose information, including a long phone extension that I couldn’t keep up with, she rattled off quickly and just once.

That would be strike three.

And this is HP’s sales department. I have a hard time imagining service would be smoother.

So I won’t be buying an HP, and I imagine there will be others similarly dissuaded.