When a Leading Brand Stumbles . . . It’s the little things


Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt. ~Abraham Lincoln

There are two things you should never do when angry.  Open your mouth, or post a blog.  It seems that anger intensifies every negative feeling and distorts some of the facts to the point where one can easily say the wrong thing and make matters worse.

So, wise as I am, I have chosen to ignore this sage advice and post this blog about HP printers! I hate HP printers, and I don’t believe I am the only one. Check out this rant from a lawyer about HP printers and their call centres.

Let me give you the back story on this blog posting.  I purchased, about three years ago, an HP Officejet Pro 8500A “All-in-one” wireless printer.  So many neat capabilities; fax, print in B&W or colour, scan, copy, and best of all, work either through a network cable or Wifi.  What’s not to love about all of those? And Wifi was the real sales clincher.

And they all work really well, except the wifi.  It seems that there is a bug in the internal software of these models that when the machine is not used for a little while, it goes to sleep, thus dropping the Wifi connection. Okay, sounds reasonable to save energy.  But it is supposed to wake up when called (sent a signal by the computer through the Wifi) and get into the act of printing.  Only thing is, it doesn’t wake up. Nothing. Zip. No Communicado!

After hours and hours of trying to find the problem, I resorted to rebooting both my computer and the printer.  It worked. Wifi connection restored and printing successful.  Only the next time I wanted to print something over the Wifi, the same time consuming and laborious process was required.  Basically, the claim of this being a Wifi printer was false; it didn’t work.  Now I could very easily put in an ethernet cable between computer and printer and go direct, but then the other two computers in my household couldn’t print.

Okay, it sounds like I’ve got a bad machine and need to swap it out for a new one.  Things happen during the manufacturing process and not all quality checks are successful.  I get that.  But after trolling the internet looking at reviews by users (not the magazine reviews but real users), I found about a gazillion comments on how this HP printer model drops the Wifi connection and doesn’t pick it up again.  I am too modest to print some of the more colourful comments made by those who were fed up with the whole process, but believe me, I am not a lone voice on this one. The basic sentiment? I will never buy another HP printer again!

And, here comes the real interesting part, after trolling all the reviews and comments, of which there are hundreds upon hundreds, not one comment from HP can be found on this “problem”.  Total silence.  No communication to customers who paid real money to purchase this model on the strength of the offering and the positive brand equity of HP.

You don’t drown by falling in the water; you drown by staying there.” ~ Edwin Louis Cole

As one who has written books and dozens of articles on corporate culture and the importance of process improvement and customer satisfaction, I find the behaviour of HP in this case not only appalling, but somewhat sad.  And here is the saddest part.  Hiring a high-profile CEO (okay, three in a row: Carly Fiorina, Marc Hurd, Meg Whitman) isn’t the answer.  The answer doesn’t lie in a grand new strategy or fixing the balance sheet.  The answer lies in listening and responding to the customer, fixing issues, openly acknowledging problems and making them right.


That’s not strategic. That’s not the sexy part.  That’s not front page news.  That’s not Davos material.  No, that’s just good business conducted by good management under the thoughtful eye of good leadership.

When HP decides to abandon the quest for “charismatic” and high-profile executives and gets back to the business of fulfilling customer promises and making things that work like they are supposed to, the stock and fortunes of a once great brand will begin to recover.

What’s so hard about fixing a Wifi problem in a very popular printer?

“The measure of success is not whether you have a tough problem to deal with, but whether it is the same problem you had last year.”  ~ John Foster Dulles

When I started out in business in the late 1970’s, Hewlett-Packard was one of the top brands and also was lauded for its strong corporate culture.  Today it’s on the verge of extinction.  It’s the little things that eventually make the biggest difference.

Tight Lines . . .

John R Childress


About johnrchildress

John Childress is a pioneer in the field of strategy execution, culture change, executive leadership and organization effectiveness, author of several books and numerous articles on leadership, an effective public speaker and workshop facilitator for Boards and senior executive teams. In 1978 John co-founded The Senn-Delaney Leadership Consulting Group, the first international consulting firm to focus exclusively on culture change, leadership development and senior team alignment. Between 1978 and 2000 he served as its President and CEO and guided the international expansion of the company. His work with senior leadership teams has included companies in crisis (GPU Nuclear – owner of the Three Mile Island Nuclear Plants following the accident), deregulated industries (natural gas pipelines, telecommunications and the breakup of The Bell Telephone Companies), mergers and acquisitions and classic business turnaround scenarios with global organizations from the Fortune 500 and FTSE 250 ranks. He has designed and conducted consulting engagements in the US, UK, Europe, Middle East, Africa, China and Asia. Currently John is an independent advisor to CEO’s, Boards, management teams and organisations on strategy execution, corporate culture, leadership team effectiveness, business performance and executive development. John was born in the Cascade Mountains of Oregon and eventually moved to Carmel Highlands, California during most of his business career. John is a Phi Beta Kappa scholar with a BA degree (Magna cum Laude) from the University of California, a Masters Degree from Harvard University and was a PhD candidate at the University of Hawaii before deciding on a career as a business entrepreneur in the mid-70s. In 1968-69 he attended the American University of Beirut and it was there that his interest in cultures, leadership and group dynamics began to take shape. John Childress resides in London and the south of France with his family and is an avid flyfisherman, with recent trips to Alaska, the Amazon River, Tierra del Fuego, and Kamchatka in the far east of Russia. He is a trustee for Young Virtuosi, a foundation to support talented young musicians. You can reach John at john@johnrchildress.com or john.childress@theprincipiagroup.com
This entry was posted in consulting, corporate culture, John R Childress, leadership, Organization Behavior, strategy execution and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to When a Leading Brand Stumbles . . . It’s the little things

  1. alan@landmarkconsulting.co.uk says:

    The good news is you’re not alone. Check out SonyVaioHell,com, and you may feel better about HP.


  2. Indeed it is ‘all the small things’ that make a big difference


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s