Sunday, 31 July 2011

HTC disappointment

I really wanted to like HTC as a company. Their smartphones are attractive and promise so much. Sadly there are some flaws, and when you contact them you realise that their customer services are pretty useless. As ever, there will be evidence to back this up.

When contacting HTC
Some months ago I contacted HTC via their website.

HTC's Customer Services website. Two cardinal faults straight away. 1) No email address offered. 2) The form REQUIRES the serial number for a product - so if you want to contact HTC with a pre-purchase query you are stuffed.

I can't remember the exact query, but I was surprised to get a blank email in response. It was a 'noreply' address so I couldn't respond and tell them. 'Noreply' emails are the third big sin from any Customer Services department. I couldn't be bothered to go through the whole form process again so gave up and forgot about it.

Some time later I ran into other problems with my HTC Desire smartphone. In this case it was a problem with their 'HTC Sense' service. It was one of the reasons I bought the phone. The idea is that you create a HTC Sense account, and can then go on their website and track your phone if it is missing or stolen, put a message on the screen, download all the text messages and so on. Incredibly useful. Except it doesn't work. Even though I went through all the procedures the HTC Sense site still claimed that I hadn't activate the phone locator function on the phone (I had, along with other features that might have been required). However every time I visited the HTC Sense site all I saw was:

Device Finder was not disabled - it had a tick next to it, you liars!

It was like that for weeks. I could make my phone ring but that was all. The finder service was turned on on the phone and I had tried turning it on and off, enabling and disabling GPS etc. There are loads of complaints on various fora with exactly this problem so it seems to be a fundamental technical error on the HTC Sense site, something they have dishonestly promoted as a feature even though it does not work. For example see here, here, here, here, here, here ... and so on. Obviously a fundamental bodge on HTC's part.

I contacted them on 31 May 2011 asking about this. Then after an acknowledgement I got the reply below a couple of days later:

Yes, a completely blank email. No text hidden further down; not white text on a white background; nothing there when you copy and paste the contents into notepad or forward it. Just a blank line. I tried reading the email on the server - no text. I tried downloading it on another PC and email client - still blank. Neither PC or client had any kind of spam filtering, and nor is there any on the ISP end. HTC's Customer Services system really was sending blank messages.

From noreply addresses. So you couldn't email them back and say 'This is all I got, please try again or ring me on this number'. It is as if they are doing everything possible to fob people off. Which is the only way a company gets featured on this website...

I contacted them again the same day, pointing out that I had contacted Customer Services using their form twice, and in each case I had received a blank email in response. I pointed out that whatever system they were using for dealing with queries obviously has errors in sending at least some of the emails - yet since it is a 'noreply' address I had no way of responding to point out that the email was blank. I included a screenshot to show the problem. Then I specifically asked: "Please can someone email me from a normal address with the answer to my query, not the automated system. As you can imagine this is incredibly irritating." Surely that was clear?

Guess what? They ignored my request, used their automated system, and sent me a blank email.

Yes, I could try and do things over the phone, but a) that costs money, b) I hate the music that is played while you sit there for 20 minutes, c) sometimes when you ring companies no-one picks up at all, d) you have no record of what is said, e) you can't include screenshots for clarification, f) you have to read everything out when you already had it typed up, wasting further time.

Despite that I did ring HTC Customer Services on June 6th 2011. I pointed out that their system didn't work - their first response was to tell me to use it again. Then to tell me it must be a problem at my end, somehow my fault. Was I filtering their emails and marking them as spam? (No!) Then to say that they had not heard of this before, no-one had replied saying they got a blank email. "Perhaps that is because it is impossible to reply to your emails due to the use of a 'noreply' address; and therefore people just give up?" I pointed out. I asked if I could be emailed from a normal email address since their automated system was only sending blank content. "That is not our normal process," I was told. True - but the normal process was not working. I was told to wait while they spoke to someone else. I got put on hold. No-one came back. Eventually I hung up.

That's why I prefer to do business by email and avoid ringing companies...

No-one got back to me.

I used their form again on Tuesday June 7th, as follows:
"I have pointed out numerous times that your automated system is only sending blank emails. I have included screenshots. Some of the refs are:
I have also tried ringing you but even after a long phone call this has not been resolved.
Having a system that sends out blank emails and gives no way for a customer to reply is pretty poor. Please can someone contact me via a normal email so that I can reply and sort this out. I bought a HTC phone full of optimism, yet various things don't work as described."
Did someone reply via normal email as asked (again)? No. They used their broken system and I received another blank email on 9th June. Maybe my fourth blank email (possibly fifth, I may have missed one out of this account).

On June 10th I received an automated email asking for feedback on how well HTC had done:

"Subject: HTC Customer Service Excellence
Thank you for using HTC Customer Service. We want to make your next visit even better and would like your feedback. If you haven't already done so please help us improve by taking a quick survey on your experience using HTC Customer Service.
We are unable to receive replies to this email account. Please visit us at if you have any questions or need further assistance."
Was is a spiteful joke?

I filled in their damn form.
"After having used your online form multiple times and pointed out that the HTC replies were only sending BLANK EMAILS so I couldn't read them, still nothing has been done. I have tried this 6 times now (11GBCW24ENA001161 is the latest), same result from any PC I used. I wasted loads of time ringing your phone support and got no joy. The emails you sent out are NOREPLY so I can't even point out the problem without opening a new query. Even though I said I am not receiving the text from your automated system your staff still keep using it, knowing I can't see what they write. I have never come across such a stupid system and as I said last time I will be featuring it on my blogs. Any sensible company would have offered an email address I could use instead, since it is obvious your automated CSM system is faulty."
Then I got two more emails asking me to fill in their feedback form. Aaaaaaaaaaaargh!

To be fair, following those comments someone did ring me back. However they had not heard of this problem before and passed it on to their technical staff. I have heard nothing since.

Problems with HTC smartphones

  • Their Weather widget (which ties in with the clock app too) only includes some cities and towns. None of the ones anywhere near my home were options, so the only options were to choose somewhere a huge distance away where the weather would be different anyway; or leaving GPS on all the time, which drains the battery and has privacy issues to do with everything being tracked by Google via their 'Google Location Service'.
  • Some app icons disappear from time to time and get replaced with the default Android ones. The only fix I could find was to delete the app shortcuts and put new ones there, but that is fiddly and should be unnecessary.
  • There were problems with a number of other HTC widgets and apps, e.g. their 'Peep' app, which often failed to format things correctly. See here, here, and here. I had this problem with direct messages, where the top comments are just in black, not boxes, and have no pics.
  • You have to have a Google mail account to access many features, even just to download FREE apps from the Android Market. Even a Google Applications account is not enough. Also the phone is then tied to that account for good so if you later change accounts you have to wipe everything from the phone and start again. That is a huge disappointment but is mostly an issue with Google and Android as a whole. However there is no reason why HTC couldn't disable the feature whereby the phone is locked to one account without a hard reset.
  • HTC give very little information about the structure of files on their phones. Admittedly the mess is probably caused by Google, since they allow apps to choose their own locations. Install a PDF reader and two e-book readers and already you will find about 5 different folders and locations where content can be stored. It quickly becomes a mess. Where should you put Word docs, TXT files, pics, RTFs, PDFs etc? HTC could have done more to at least help new phone users understand where they should add files, and how to get and back up applications (.apk files) without having to do it all through Google's store.
  • HTC's phones are basically multifunction computers. Yet they provide no way of turning off the phone service altogether to avoid call interruptions, but letting you keep using it as a PC over wi-fi with sound. If you switch to flight mode you can't then browse the Internet.
  • HTC Sense: not only does it have problems finding phones even when they have the correct settings selected, but features such as being able to copy SMS messages off the phone don't work at all.
  • HTC Sync: this is the software HTC provides for synchronising your phone with content on your PC. Yet once it is installed there is no option not to have it run every time Windows starts. Since I only use it c. one in ten times that I start my PC it is irritating and unnecessary extra junk. I had to use a registry edit to stop it running automatically, yet that should be a basic option in any software.
  • Annoyingly there is a separate 'credentials password' for connecting to some services. HTC should have let you instead use your existing phone security options such as the screen lock swipe system. It is a pain having yet another password.
So what do HTC earn for all this?
  • 1 crap for HTC offering features that don't work.
  • 1 for general failures such as no email address to contact, silly requirements on contact forms, noreply addresses etc.
  • 1 crap for using a faulty customer management system.
  • 1 crap for repeatedly ignoring the customer even when they pointed out that they couldn't read the emails sent by the system, and requesting someone to send a normal email.
I have contacted them linking to this blog and looking forward to another blank email.

Update August 2nd 2011: Reply from HTC! And yes, they sent another blank email, even though I had included a link to this blog post showing them that their CMS does not send out working emails! Idiots. See pic below.

Mmm, nil points HTC.

Update August 13th 2011: They sent another automated email asking for how good their service had been. I spent time filling their form in, explaining where they had failed. Then when I submitted it I got the message below. Yes, I checked the serial number three times. It was correct. It is a good example of how irritating it is when companies use automated forms that require certain fields to contain data. As soon as their form breaks it means you can't do anything and all your time is wasted. What a shit company.

HTC's current score:


Anonymous said...

Agree hands down. I was initially quite proud of my Incredible S and thought it reigned superior over Iphone until problems appeared. My phone hang for no reason and the Customer Service told me to install a backup app that she claimed can backup ALL DATA that I painstakingly keyed in. Trusting her professionalism, I installed the app, and following her instruction, I ticked all the boxes and then proceeded to reset my handset. After the reset, I proceeded to retrieve the backup data and found to my horror that there was no backup for my long contact list! I called and asked the CS again and she acknowledged that there's no backup for contact list in that app. I asked her why didn't she highlight that essential point to me before I reset my phone. She said because I didn't ask! Really incredible! Incredible S = Incredible Stupidity!

CCS said...

I should add that they still keep sending me surveys with the same problems; I fill them in, and they then send me a blank email again. So nearly seven months later they have paid no attention to this issue at all.

CCS said...

AND they still haven't added the features to HTC Sense which they were selling the phone on the basis of!

CCS said...

HTC Sync no longer works either, for synchronising your phone to other software such as your PC address book. Even though it is running on the PC the phone just claims it can't find HTC Sync. There is no point contacting their crappy customer services after the unresolved problems above, I would just receive more blank emails.

CCS said...

Just spotted another HTC idiocy - to install HTC Sync they tell you to "disable your anti-virus software". No properly-written software would require such a bad security move. Sophos Antivirus doesn't even have an option to disable it, you have to kill the process in Task Manager, and if you kill the most likely-looking one 'svchost' it crashes the PC; the task you would have to kill is ALMon, and then it isn't clear how you restart it, leaving many people unprotected until they reboot. Terrible security practice, they should just write basic software that doesn't act like malware.

Anonymous said...

I have to say this so like my dealings with this company. if things go wrong you should dump your phone.the chances of them repairing it is very slim.I had my HTC xe in for repair twice and it's still not working properly. there customer service is a joke.they have nothing but contempt for there customers