Lenovo Direct leaves little to be desired

Published on September 07, 2011 under Business

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For years I've constantly praised the durability and performance of my ThinkPads, and still speak to many as they are the best Windows-based laptops to get. Some might think this is strange since most designers and even developers are on Macs. Call me a "rebel", "stupid", or "different", but I like Windows and love my ThinkPads.

However, this article today isn't about Apple VS Microsoft, or even about the actual quality of merchandise, but more about customer fulfillment, something Lenovo unfortunately fails at. The main reason you might want to read this is simply to avoid the hassle and anguish many others and I just went though. To perhaps look at 3rd party retailers over buying direct from Lenovo.

I just wanted a tablet

ThinkPad TabletI've been shopping, researching, and looking into getting a tablet for a while. I've written articles about the direction I thought tablets should be going and what I hoped for in one. I first thought I might find that ideal setup in a Toshiba Thrive, but instead opted for the new Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet, simply going by trust with my past positive experiences with Lenovo products.

For a month, Lenovo teased eager consumers with the release of their Android tablet, sporting a starting price of $479.99 for the 16GB model. I even took solace in the hope of using a corporate discount I get through my work. When the release day hit on August 23, many were angered to find they raised the prices on the tablets to $499.99 and up. I know it's just $20, but that's still not going to ring well with consumers. Plus they were not honoring any corporate discounts that day.

Disappointed, I decided to hold off on purchasing a tablet and wait to see if they have a sale or at least honor my discount at some point. Thankfully they did the very next day, so I ordered one...only to receive a confirmation that the tablet would ship around September 13. That's almost four weeks later!

I grumbled about this, but was told through peers and Lenovo representatives that they are not solid on their dates, so it could ship sooner. I checked in a week and found they changed the date to "the week of the 6th", but I kept hearing others say they saw their dates moved into late September or early October. Concerned, I checked in with Lenovo and found out my ship date was also moved to September 21st. At the same time, there were people who ordered through online retailers already receiving their tablets. I had enough, cancelled my order, and ended up buying a tablet with the digitizer pen off, for $40 less than what I would have paid Lenovo Direct.

This sounds like a familiar story

Back in 2005, author Jeff Jarvis had a horrible experience with Dell Computers. He bought a computer from them, it had a lot of issues, but even more were the amount of issues Dell had in their customer service and fulfillment department. Jarvis ended up starting a blog just to complain and blow off steam, but ended up with millions of fans throwing in comments and words similar to his own. The growth of his blog ended up hurting Dell greatly, as consumers would find Jeff's blog suddenly appear in Google searches when looking into Dell Computers.

In many ways, this is what I'm trying to do here. I'm honestly telling anyone that while Lenovo ThinkPads are amazing laptops; don't order one directly from Lenovo. Not unless you want to wait a long time. I hope the word continues to spread, and thus forces Lenovo to change.

Lenovo Direct has to change or die

We live in an age of Amazon Prime. An age where online retailers fulfill orders quickly and now a consumer can see product in his hands 2-5 business days from when he ordered said item. You can't tell people they have to wait one to two months for merchandise when online retailers can fulfill orders sooner.

Lenovo made the biggest mistake in thinking the average consumer is the same as an IT Manager who's ordering 500 desktops or 100 laptops. An IT Manager can wait a month or more for product because he's planning in advance and ordering in bulk. You can't just come up with that much merchandise quickly, especially if there are customizations to the order.

Average consumers are not the same beat. A person ordering one tablet that doesn't have much to customize isn't going to wait that long. They want said items in their hand in a few days. I personally think Lenovo built plenty of tablets, but shipped them all out to retailers without keeping some in stock for their own direct customers. That's a bad move and poor foresight on Lenovo Direct's part. They didn't really look to understand the consumer, and thought we were all IT Managers willing to wait.

Now, this doesn't mean Lenovo Direct has to suddenly keep more in stock and be ready to fulfill those orders for one or two tablets of ThinkPads, but they should think ahead as opposed to leaving customers hanging. I love my ThinkPads, so thankfully for them I'm not going to suddenly look into Toshiba, Dell, or Apple laptops and tablets. However, I won't ever order anything ever again from Lenovo Direct. Not everyone is this devoted though, so they might not only lost those direct sales, but customers in general who won't buy Lenovo products for anything.

I mentioned Jeff Jarvis earlier, as I do in many articles, but his words apply here. He said in What Would Google Do? that one shouldn't try to reinvent the wheel when plenty of 3rd party solutions are available. He's right. This is why I look for a 3rd party solution when one needs a shopping cart, and even why I'm redoing my mobile site using jQuery Mobile. Sometimes the outsider has a better solution than the company, and thus the company can benefit more by relying on those parties. Both Apple and Google are seeing this with app developers, and even now I heard HP is doing the same when they stopped making computers and tablets, but are still pushing to grow WebOS.

Lenovo should try to rethink their Direct Sales setup. Maybe find 5-20 retailers they can truly trust and push customers like myself to buy our products from them, as opposed to Lenovo Direct. Maybe toss up disclaimers that Lenovo Direct is for IT Managers ordering in bulk, and we should expect a wait for products. I honestly won't think less of a company for that, not when faster alternatives are shown to me.

Lenovo should also think this way, or rethink their entire Direct Sales setup, especially with keeping stock on hand to fulfill customers like myself.

What do you think? Share with me your own Lenovo Direct horror stories and get the word out.

Tags: lenovo, lenovo direct sucks, poor service, Jeff Jarvis, customer service

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