In the Business Intelligence community, we often talk about customers - customer relationship management, customer retention, customer lifetimes, etc. So here is a quick question to ponder: how long is a customer your customer?
I started thinking about this question because of an experience (actually, 2) that took place yesterday while I was (yet again) trying to get something (actually, the same thing) to work on my HP notebook computer. Once again, the machine lost its ability to see the optical drives connected within the docking station, which left me without the capability to load a software program from a CD-ROM.
I went to the HP PC support web site (both times), and engaged the online chat interface, where I was promptly told that because my machine was out of warranty, no questions would be answered unless I ponied up a fee. Of course, I could always search through their "knowledge base," but I didn't need them to tell me that, since I already had and did not find what I was looking for.
So basically, with respect to their notebook customers, HP has decided that their customers' lifetimes are equated with their product lifetimes. After that, if you have trouble with the product, you must re-commit to being a customer (if customer is defined as you giving them money). And that is not even for a guaranteed solution - it is just for someone to talk to you.
As someone who has explored the issues of customer retention and customer lifetime analysis, I have decided that this is a bad policy for 2 reasons. First of all, the fact that the product does not operate as expected indicates a failed technical process - they can't get the product right. After having a similar problem with one of their printers (planned obsolescence), and taking part in a class action suit whose participants were compensated for the known flaw, it seems that the products are not all they seem, which questions the wisdom of buying any more of their products.
Second, and more importantly, though, is the question of HP's expectation of customer loyalty. Customer loyalty is more than just the result of business analytics. It involves taking the right actions, such as correcting failures in their products and living up to expectations of product support.
Perhaps they have used their customer analytics to decide that after one year, a positive customer experience is not worth their effort. Perhaps so. I have decided I am going to spend a bunch of money on a new notebook, but I certainly don't expect to buy another one from HP ever again.