Now that Mark Hurd has "resigned" as CEO of Hewlett Packard, the world's largest PC manufacturer has an excellent opportunity to strengthen an area of its business that has suffered recent years: Product quality and after-sale service.
Under Hurd's rule, HP always fared poorly in PCWorld's Reliability and Service surveys. For instance, last year we polled some 45,000 PCWorld.com readers, asking them to rate the quality and service of major computer, camera, printer, and HDTV vendors. HP's scores were particularly dismal in the laptop, desktop, and printer categories--just as they had been in previous surveys.
While other vendors, including Dell, have had their ups and downs in our reader rankings, Hewlett Packard's routinely dismal showing begs the question: What's wrong with HP? Each year we've asked the company to respond, and they've always provided a seemingly sincere and humble response: We're working on it. And yet reader reaction year after year suggests otherwise.
Which leads us back to Hurd: Known as a cost-cutter more than an innovator, HP's ex-CEO slashed expenses while receiving outrageous compensation packages. Hurd canned thousands of workers and cut employee pay and benefits of those who managed to hold onto their jobs, TheStreet.com reports.
In 2008 when the global recession was kicking in, HP paid Hurd $43 million. HP CIO Randy Mott earned $28 million that year. Oh, and HP's stock price plummeted 29 percent that year too.
Did Hurd know or care about HP's dreary reputation among PCWorld readers? It's hard to believe that the CEO wasn't aware that readers of a major tech publication were badmouthing his company year after year.
Then again, given the news that Hurd violated HP's standards of business conduct--including an inappropriate "personal relationship" with a marketing contractor--and was accused (and subsequently cleared) of sexual harrassment, he may have had other things on his mind.
Hurd's replacement needs to do better. HP's CFO Cathie Lesjak will occupy the CEO slot temporarily while the company looks for a fulltime replacement.
The world's largest computer maker must win back consumer and business users who have a low opinion of HP's product reliability and after-sale service. Let's hope the new boss will see to that.