Sunday, 12 September 2010

Philips - putting barriers in place

Past experiences with Philips
In March 2009 I had the misfortune of trying to use Philips' Customer Services department. A product bought from them had failed (surround-sound speakers) and was within the Philips warranty period. They made it difficult to contact them, sent me round various departments, had contact forms which did not work, did nothing when I contacted them (so I had to keep getting in touch every nine days to complain again). In the end it took two months and a huge amount of effort on my part before they would honour the warranty. Even then I was unhappy with them - we should all be concerned about waste of the Earth's resources. Yet when I asked Philips about getting the speakers repaired, even if I had to pay, I was told that Philips no longer repair faulty products - that it is cheaper to buy new. However environmentally it is a disgrace - if a product breaks after a year Philips expect you to throw it away and buy more, even if the fault is something that is easy to fix. Electrical goods have some of the most damaging manufacturing processes and include many toxic substances; recycling can not deal with the sheer amount of goods that Western society produces then discards. Any decent manufacturer would have the ingenuity and inclination to design their products to be easily (and cheaply) repairable, and would either have their own repair scheme or would enable repairs to be made by small local companies. Philips are a big let-down here, and I am very disappointed. On top of the fact that it took two months before it was resolved, during which time I had no sound from my PC, limiting its creative uses massively.

Current experience: Philips projector breaks
So has Philips improved at all? Sadly, no.

Around 20th August my Philips Bsure XG2 home cinema projector stopped working. It has always been looked after with great care - the only time it is moved is to perform recommended maintenance such as cleaning the dust filter. When it refused to turn on my assumption was that the bulb needed replacing, so I ordered another one on 27th August, at a cost of almost £200 (yes, accessories for some Philips products are that expensive).

The bulb came and was put into the projector, only to discover that the same fault remained (noisy fan, no picture, temperature warning light). Therefore it was clear that it was a problem with the projector itself.

That shouldn't have been a problem in an ideal world. It should be possible to contact Philips Customer Support, discuss the problem, and get an estimate of where the problem might lie and if it is fixable. If so to then arrange for a paid repair at the nearest Philips repair centre, and just keep the bulb as a spare. However, if for some reason it is not repairable, then the bulb needed returning to the seller as soon as possible for a refund - otherwise I would be left with a £200 bulb and no equipment to use it in. It should be clear that a timely response from Philips would be necessary...

First I tried to find details of my nearest Philips repair centre on their website. However their website had no such information - it just seemed to be designed to persuade people to buy Philips products, and the required support information was not there. I had to use a form on the site to contact them (there was no email address) - the form was extremely dodgy and took six attempts (tried in different browsers and sessions) before it finally sent the details off. The other times it just crashed.

Confirmation of my first contact with Philips, 1st September

Then next day I got an email back off Philips, saying that Philips Customer Support can't deal with a straightforward support issue for a Philips Product - instead to ring a phone number and speak to staff in another Philips department. They did not take ownership of the query or pass it on.

I rang that number immediately (2nd September). The Philips staff at the other end said they could not give me contact details for their repair centres, but would pass my details on to it. I explained the urgency - how I just needed to speak to someone to get an idea of whether it was a fixable problem since if not I needed to return the projector bulb or risk being £200 out of pocket (in top of the money that would have been wasted in buying a Philips projector).

After that: nothing.

On 8th September I rang again, rather angry at the waste of time and hassle that I was going through. I was told that the support centre would be contacted again and asked to get back to me urgently, and that I would get a copy of the email.

I did not receive an email. No one contacted me.

On 9th September I rang again. (I should add that the support phone number obviously goes to a non-UK support centre). By now there had been over 30 minutes of phonecalls and waiting - the calls were recorded. This was when it became clear that Philips do not even have a UK repair centre for this product! I was shocked that they only keep a repair centre open in Austria; nor will they advise on anywhere in the UK where the projector could be repaired. (Bear in mind that this was not a cheap product - the projector cost over £1,500 to purchase, so this level of aftercare and support is rubbish).

Now it is the 12th September. I have been unable to watch films or use the Xbox that is connected to the projector for over 20 days. Philips have made it hard to contact them, then ignored me when I eventually spoke to someone. There is currently no prospect of getting the projector fixed in the UK (if at all), and I could be left with a £200 useless bulb on top of that since it is too late to return it.

Next steps?
I will give them another day or two and give a preliminary crap rating - which is likely to be high based on the runaround I have been given.

If they don't resolve this quickly I will also post up the details of the speakers problem too (I have all the screenshots and emails showing how poorly they treat their customers) and will rate them on both experiences. They could then join Royal Mail as the company to get crap-rated TWICE - quite an achievement.

Update 17 September 2010: Despite the original queries by email and phone, and new email of 12th September (which informed them of this website), no-one in Philips replied. There were no unaccounted-for missed calls, and no emails from them. I rang them again today for another ten minute phone call (five of which were spent on hold). I was told (again) that someone would get back to me.

Update 26 September 2010: It has now been over a month since the projector broke. Philips have still not spoken to me about the problem and given an estimate of time and cost to fix, so for all that time I have been unable to use the living room as a home cinema and entertainment room, since there is nothing to connect my Xbox to. Central Philips Customer Services have ignored my most recent email of 12th September about how unhappy I am and why (it included a link to this blog post), so they obviously don't care what customers think once they have got their money.

I have received a phonecall once on 21st September from the staff Philips directed me to, apologising for the delays, but not from the projector repair team who I urgently needed to speak to (over a month ago...) It is increasingly looking like Philips are just hoping to ignore me, leaving me with no option but to try and get the projector recycled (oh, just noticed, Philips don't recycle them either) and waste all those resources, time and £1,700. That looks like the sum of the 'Philips experience'. The irony is that their stupid slogan is: "Our Mission: Improve the quality of people’s lives through timely introduction of meaningful innovations". It should be: "
Worsen people’s lives through faulty products and our refusal to make it easy to get them repaired."

I have just sent another email to Philips. What do you do when Customer Services fail you? Go above them. However the Philips website is high on gloss, low on utility. For example you can find out who is on the Board of Management or Group Management Committee but there is no way of contacting them to point out the failings of one of their core departments, and the inevitable bad publicity that will arise from it. I very much doubt that Philips will be helpful enough to provide any details though.

Update 30 September 2010: Thanks to everyone who has emailed details of problems you have had with Philips, or said you will avoid Philips products in future. Your support means a lot! I contacted some 3rd party, UK-based repair centres and they replied within a day with clear guidelines on costs and timescales for repair, some of which even offered to arrange for collection of the projector. The contrast in experience by trying to go down the 'official' route is rather sharp.

Update 3 October 2010: Along with the other emails backing me up I received a long and detailed axample of someone else's experiences which were very similar to mine. I have decided to post the text in its entirety, since the sender went to such effort to record every transaction. Many thanks! I hope you get somewhere with your repair, I can only recommend trying a third party company and never buying from Philips again.

"My Philips projector broke too so I thought I’d contact them to see if it could be fixed. That my first mistake. I should have just gone to an independent repair company. My second mistake was assuming that ‘customer care’ meant anything to Philips. My third mistake was to assume that because a customer care line had stated office hours, that there would be anyone there during those hours to answer the calls.

Here’s the sorry tale of trying to get an answer to a simple question from Philips.

Tue 14th September. I use their website to send an online enquiry (note – no direct email address available from Philips) regarding my projector. As I couldn’t find projectors listed within their general categories I choose ‘home entertainment’ as the nearest match. I get an automated reply back, which clearly isn’t based on the information I submitted as they’ve put “Dear Mr. / Mrs. [surname]”. I am neither a Mr or a Mrs, and chose another title from the options. Why haven’t they used it? Maybe a minor point, but it didn’t start me off in a good mood.

Thur 15th September. I got an email from “Luke, Philips Customer Care” saying “Unfortunately, this department does not handle queries regarding Projector products. Please contact the following number to speak to the Philips Projector Department 02079490069.”

Hmm, I thought. Why can’t they just pass on the email? Surely it’s not that difficult to transfer an enquiry? And what were the office hours of this phone number? Also, why should I have to ring them, when I’ve already made the enquiry by email, AND, ticked that I wanted to be communicated with by email? And, it’s not a free-phone number.

A little disgruntled I went back onto the Philips website to see if I could find more info about the projector team. Didn’t find anything, but, a pop-up box asked me if I wanted to try online chat with a member of Philips to answer my question, so I did. That didn’t help in any way as the person was unable to explain why the email enquiry could not be simply emailed from the home entertainment team to the projector team. The person I was chatting with, Frank, seemed to have a poor grasp of grammar and spelling, and was not particularly helpful eg
[from live chat:]

“Visitor: Not sure why Philips is putting the onus on the customer to do the running round, phoning a number, even if it is a national land line. The support pages do offer the option of using email to contact customer services, so I did. Now I have to phone.

Frank: yo have to undesrtand that email service will not be able to solve all queries, especially the more technical ones that would require a hands on trouble shooting.”

So I gave up on that route too. I thought I’d try submitting a basic enquiry about Philips repair centres via the online form again, selecting the generic contact, not a particular department. I tried THREE TIMES and each time the request was rejected to ‘Bad request.’ So I gave up on this.

I thought I’d try ringing the projector team then. No hours for this team had been provided in the email from Luke from Customer Care and so I rang at 19:45pm, but it transpires this was outside their office hours which are “M- F 8am-7pm and Saturdays 9-5.”.NB – this is very important later on.

So I decided to ring the main customer care number given in Luke’s email:
“Our Customer Care Centre can be contacted on Tel: 08003316015 Monday to Friday 8:30am till 8:00pm and Saturdays 9:00am till 6:00pm.” NB it’s important for later on to know that this is stated in the email signature as ‘Customer Care Centre’.

I spoke to a female (who’s name I didn’t catch). She didn’t know who Luke was, she was on reception and could not answer my question as to whether Philips had any UK repair centres. She explained that the Philips projector people are a separate team. I explained I can’t ring during those office hours. She said I’d have to go back online then. But the online form won’t work!!! Wasn’t hugely impressed with this level of customer care. Why didn’t she offer to pass on my query, or take my number and get someone to call me? As a last resort I hit ‘reply’ to Luke’s email to ask some questions. I never got a reply.

As I work till 6pm most nights and have various evening classes and other commitments on most nights of the week it was going to be difficult for me to ring the Projector team in the evenings, so I thought I’d try Saturday. What a fool!

Sat 18th September
Rang the Projector customer number at 11am. Note, this is WITHIN their stated open hours. What happens? An automated voice says: “Our offices are currently closed. Our opening hours are M- F 8am-7pm and Saturdays 9-5.”
Now, I’m not sure which clock and calendar they are using, but generally, in the UK, 11am on a Saturday morning generally falls into the 9am-5pm hours.

To say I was pretty cross would be an understatement!

So, I decided to ring the original customer care number to see if they could put me though, or explain why the team wasn’t there.

Derek answered. He could not help me as he explained the projector team is an EXTERNAL company that Philips contract to provide the service. His suggestion? Just keep trying. Yep, that’s right, I should keep ringing a UK landline number, at my expense of time and effort. Gee, that’s really good customer care. He claimed they only have this one telephone number for this company.

With other things to do with my time on a Saturday I gave up for a few days.

Thursday 23rd September
Got home early so that I could ring the projector team in their office hours. I rang at 18:25pm. But guess what? Yes, I got the same “our offices are currently closed” message. I began to think I was in a different time zone. I double checked my watch. I double checked the calendar. I was pretty sure that 18:25pm was within the office hours of up to 7pm. Fuming by this point I decided to ring the Philips Customer Care number again. I got through to a female (didn’t catch name) who said she’d try the number for me. She put me on hold then I got redirected to the number that is not answering! So I had to ring the main Philips number AGAIN! This was really getting beyond a joke.

I asked to speak to a senior customer services manager. Was told “I understand where you are coming from but there is nothing I can do”. Why not? Apparently this Customer Care number given on Luke’s email to me (the original reply from Philips) is actually a Technical Support customer care number for the home entertainment section, NOT a generic Philips customer care number. This was NOT stated AT ALL in the email signature, or in the email address of Luke [a generic Philip’s email]. The female said she would put me through to the main Philips switchboard. So she did. And guess what? Yes, it was closed!! Their hours are 8.30am-5:30pm.

To rub salt in the wound I then got an unwanted unsolicited item of junk email from Philips, despite having ticked the ‘do not add me to the newsletter’ box when filling in the online form. Not impressed.

Fri 24th September
I decided to give it one final attempt. I had tried Saturdays, evenings, now I would try a morning. I arrange to get to work a bit late and stayed at home to make the call to the projector team at 08:30am. I got through! I was speechless for a few seconds.

Apparently they do have the facility to arrange repair, they take details of the projector and the fault and then get back to customer by tel, email or fax. I left my email and said this was my preferred method of communication as I was not at home during the day, and do not have a mobile (yes, that is true!) and also left my telephone landline.

I also raised the issue of the out of hours phone message being on when it’s during their stated office hours. She was not aware of this and said she would look into it.

Wed 29th Sept.
Not received a reply. No phone messages. I thought I’d ring again – it was 18:13. Yep, you’ve guessed it. The automated message “Our offices are currently closed. Our opening hours are M- F 8am-7pm and Saturdays 9-5pm”. You couldn’t make it up! So after being told their line is closed when they’re meant to be open, they haven’t done anything about it. Which leads me to conclude that either they couldn’t be bothered to fix it, or, they deliberately turn the message on early so that they can work shorter hours.

Saturday 2nd October.
Still no phone call or email from them.

So, after a total of 1 online form request, 3 failed online requests, 1 online chat and over 10 phone calls I have got absolutely nowhere.

Just typing this up from my notes has taken an hour of my time. My next steps are to find an address for head office and write to the chief exec – in my experience that’s the only way to get rubbish service dealt with. Great that your blog exists because these companies don’t care a damn about their customers until it gets in the public domain."

Update 9 October 2010: Someone at Philips rang me on Tuesday 5th October, and said they were looking into the repair options and would get back to me that day or the next. They did not ring back at all. So all I know is that Philips no longer repair their own top-of-the-range equipment, which makes a mockery of the principle that you should buy the best in order to be guaranteed a quality service. Apparently they direct people to independent repair centres in the Netherlands or Austria! However the Philips member of staff was not even sure of that. So yet another weekend with no films or Xbox. Thanks Philips. It has been around 40 days since I have been able to do either of those things, and no resolution is in sight.

Update 17 October 2010: Still nothing from Philips until I contacted them again. They said they would get back to me, and had spoken to staff in Holland this time about getting the projector repaired. Despite two requests, Philips refused to provide contact details for anyone on the Board of Management or Group Management Committee so that I could inform them of the problems I was having. It appears to be an attempt to cover up the poor service. I have now requested the details from Companies House which will apparently include a financial cost. I also received an update on 14th October from the other person trying to get a projector repair.

"Tonight I rang the number Philips gave me for projector repairs. It was an automated message saying "Our offices are currently closed”. It was 6:32pm - their message said they would be open until 7pm... So, I rang the general Philips switchboard, saying I wanted the name, tel number and email of Senior Customer Services Manager. I was left on hold for 5 mins.

The next day I got the email below - it makes no grammatical sense in many places, and note that there is no reply email address to respond to them.

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Call #
Date: Fri, 15 Oct 2010 16:38:28 +0200


We were contacted by another customers' service of our company regarding your case.
The reason was that you can't get with us on the phone.
I tried to call you but there was no reply.
I checked your case and the service center should have received your request.
If you have any further question you can always contact us.

Kind regards"
Update 18 October 2010: Brian Desmond from Philips rang to say their repair agents are Teleplan. Teleplan had changed their email addresses so Philips automated emails to them weren't getting through. I would be contacted by Teleplan.

Update 8 November 2010: the projector came back. Philips covered the cost. I was told by Teleplan that one should not use bulbs from dodgy companies (not that the bulb was in any way related to the problem in this case). The twist is that the bulb was sold to me by Teleplan a couple of years ago...

Philips' current score:
They get a crap for refusing to provide contact details for anyone on the Board of Management or Group Management Committee, preventing anyone from going above Customer Services when the CS department is clearly failing. Another crap for failures to reply, and one for dragging this out for so long. A crap for no longer repairing their own top-of-the-range equipment, and having such a low consideration of the environment and the need to make everything repairable. Another crap for their website - no details of my nearest Philips repair centre on their website, no details of how to contact senior staff - it is just designed to persuade people to buy Philips products. They get a deduction of 1 crap for not charging for a repair when they got round to it three months later (though at first they did try to charge almost £100).


Anonymous said...

Mmm, sounds like the experience I had with Philips too. Took ages to get anyone to respond.

Anonymous said...

I just had to laugh at this experience with Philips. I too have had a problem with a 'Net Tv; that died aged 10 months and sat with the repairers for the last 3. Despite numerous phonecalls / emails and letters, including one to the Chief Executive, i have received no communication from them. After the 3 months of being sat with the Philips repair agents, my TV was returned 2 weeks ago in the same state and to date, I have had no contact regarding a replacement. I have been advised by the store that sold me the TV that they are chasing Philips for a replacement but surprise surprise, Philips are not returning their calls. This company allegedly prides itself on their Customer Care ( as per their flashy website) Total B****cks if you ask me. They may produce a good looking product but if it goes wrong - beware - They don't want to know!!!!

CCS said...

I hope you get it sorted!