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Tech Support Showdown 2010

Your notebook is only as good as the help you receive when something goes wrong.



HP Tech Support Results
Hold Time Minimum<2 minutes
Hold Time Maximum2
Average Call Length>24
Phone Grade 2010B
Web Grade 2010B+
Overall Grade 2010B+
Overall Grade 2009C-
Overall Grade 2008B+


Since last year, HP made a number of improvements to its customer service, including streamlining the phone tree by creating separate lines for consumer and corporate customers. According to the company, navigation time has been reduced by 65 percent. HP has also beefed up its online support with peer-to-peer forums, video channels, and an ambassador program, where their employees answer questions in the forums. 

On HP's home page is a tab called Connect with Others, where there are several search forums for consumers, business, IT, and even VooDoo, a gaming company HP acquired several years ago. In the consumer support forum, we searched for "speed up boot time" and found a number of similar queries; there were none that answered the direction precisely, but other people with questions about slow boot times were answered correctly. 

You can also search under the Support and Drivers tab, where FAQs are organized by topic, such as improving battery performance, installing RAM, and so forth. When we typed, "How do I share my files with another computer?", the first search result was a tutorial on how to use HP's QuickSync software, which worked as well as Microsoft's file-sharing utility in Windows 7.

We also tried HP's Total Care real-time chat support. Although it didn't support Firefox 3 (we used Internet Explorer instead), we were connected to a very polite and easy-to-comprehend Aden after only 30 seconds. We told him that our computer started up slowly, and after correctly diagnosing the problem, he pointed us to another URL for improving the performance of our notebook. The chat session took a reasonable 20 minutes. 

Phone support was much improved from last year. When we called around 10 p.m. (EST) on a weekday, we were connected to a customer representative in less than 2 minutes after only making two key selections. Though the rep was friendly and the line clear of static, when we asked how to share files with another computer he said we needed to check the free online support forums or pay for HP Smart Friends telephone support--a one-time, one-subject service for $59.99, which lasts for three days. Six-month unlimited support costs $149.  

We called again during the week, and were connected to Seha in India in 1 minute and 22 seconds. She was very pleasant and thoroughly knowledgeable, but there was a fair amount of static and some background noise on the line. After we told her that our computer took a long time to boot up, she took control of it and unchecked startup items, deleted temporary files, ran the disk cleanup utility, and even downloaded CCleaner. After running the app, she told us to run it at least once a month. Finally, she noticed that our antivirus protection had expired, and after unsuccessfully trying to get us to buy a subscription for Norton 360, she installed the free AVG antivirus program on our notebook. All in all, the call took 40 minutes, but we were very pleased with the results.

Upon calling one more time at 2:30 p.m. in the afternoon, we were connected to Adrian in just 56 seconds. However, despite having our record on file from previous calls, the rep incorrectly classified our laptop (a Pavilion) as a business notebook, and rerouted our call to India. After a 2-minute hold, Avinash asked for our information yet again; when he couldn't find it, he realized the mistake his colleague had made. However, he was able to answer our question (how to change the power settings) quickly and correctly. All told, our call took just under 13 minutes.  

HP deserves a lot of credit for its technical support improvements. The help was friendly and the advice accurate. Plus, the company went beyond the call of duty by helping us install software that would make our computing experience easier.

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