My Experience with Lenovo Premier Support

Tags: software, musings

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I recently had to contact Lenovo Premier Support because of a hardware defect and wanted to take this opportunity to chronicle my impressions. In the spirit of giving positive feedback whenever possible, I hope the post provides a counterpoint to the usual support horror stories. I’ll try to be entertaining nevertheless!

TLDR: Lenovo Premier Support was a worthwhile investment that I would recommend. The support engineers and technicians were highly competent, efficient, and polite. I should not be wearing headphones.

A Nightmare After Christmas

I had just handed in a large grant and was looking forward to a day of coding, a rare leisure these days, when I noticed that my trusty Thinkpad X1 Carbon was discharging despite being plugged into an outlet. I replugged everything, and the usual charging light started to blink, so I was satisfied for the time being. That turned out to be a mistake, for after some time, the laptop was complaining about critical battery. I got suspicious and tried some meagre debugging:

$ cat /sys/class/power_supply/BAT0/status

Oops. I rebooted into the BIOS, let the diagnostics run there, but to no avail—while the charging LED was changing status whenever I plugged and replugged the cable, the diagnostics tool did not indicate that any charging was taking place. I tried a few other things:

  1. Resetting everything using the ‘pin-hole’ at the back of the laptop.
  2. Disconnecting the battery briefly using the BIOS and then restarting.
  3. Expertly twiddling the charging cable when plugging it in.
  4. Various incantations, dances, and bargaining with the universe.

In the end, I was forced to conclude that something was broken and it was beyond my ken to repair it. At least, while riding the despair train, I figured out that the laptop would charge a little bit if the secondary USB-C port was used. However, this port only supplied about 15 W, whereas the original charger can supply up to 65 W, so it was pretty clear that this was a workaround at best. Indeed, I could verify that the laptop was charging over the secondary port, but as soon as I turned it on and did something non-trivial, the battery started discharging again. I thus concluded that I could partially use the laptop if I rationed the battery power correctly, but of course this situation was not ideal.

The Support Call

Since my fiddling and debugging meant that it was already after hours for the support hotline, I slept the sleep of the bootless and vowed to contact them on Saturday morning. When I bought the laptop, I sprung a few extra bucks for Lenovo Premier Support, with the usual understanding that a useful SLA can prevent a lot of headaches later on. Calling in the support, I hoped, would turn out to be the equivalent of Gondor lighting the fires. I was not disappointed!

  1. Saturday morning: Having tried the local telephone numbers to no avail,1 I just called the US number and got redirected to what I assume was a support centre in the UK. I had an nice chat with the support engineer on call here, who essentially made me tell my story. The purpose of this was to ensure that this was not a case of PEBKAC. I am still impressed by the politeness and efficiency of that chat—the engineer was clearly not just following a support script, but actually listening to my descriptions. He quickly concluded that a replacement mainboard would be required, and started taking down the details for a my support ticket, which would be handled by the local Lenovo unit on Monday morning. I was told I would get an e-mail notification, but since this had not arrived even 30 minutes after the call, I used the provided ticket number to verify the ticket’s existence. Thus satisfied, I waited for Monday.

  2. Monday morning: I called the local Lenovo support hotline and was quickly connected to another support engineer. After providing my ticket number, we first verified the contact data. It turns out that the English-speaking engineer had made some transcription mistakes when it came to the e-mail address—this explains why I did not get any notification.2 We again discussed the problem briefly, but the engineer concluded that I had apparently done my homework. After verifying the address, I got told that the replacement mainboard would be shipped via UPS and that they would probably ship it directly to my home address. The idea was that a service technician could then just come by and install the parts. I would be notified about all steps of the process.

  3. Tuesday morning: I got a shipment notification by UPS. The parts were scheduled to arrive the next day.

  4. Wednesday morning: I received a call from the local service technician. He mentioned the status of the parts and the idea was that he would swing by in the afternoon to install them, provided they arrived until that point. Being a ‘galaxy-sized brain,’ I used my noise-cancelling headphones to work and missed the UPS courier narrowly. A re-delivery would be attempted the next day, so I notified the technician via SMS and sulked a little bit, appalled by my own idiocy.

  5. Thursday morning: The parts arrived and actually contained two mainboards of the same specification. Maybe to make sure that everything else would work? I notified the technician and we scheduled the replacement for the afternoon.

  6. Thursday afternoon: The technician arrived 30 minutes earlier than originally scheduled. He felt pretty chagrined about this,3 while I was elated. Very politely, he offered to wait until the specified time, but I think he saw the way I looked at the laptop—similar to how Gollum looked at The Ring—so he got to work. After about 20 minutes, the repair was finished. We quickly verified that charging works via the BIOS, and, after thanking the technician profusely, offering him various beverages, the keys to the kingdom, my undying gratitude, offers of fealty, etc., we went our separate ways. Interestingly, the replacement mainboard caused some issues with the EFI bootloader, but nothing a quick bootctl install would not fix.4 I could finally work, code, and much more.

Lessons? Lessons!

Defects and backups. The timing of the defect was perfect: the grant was submitted, and I had a virtual workshop to attend; this could be easily managed by a tablet device or a smartphone, if need be. Hence, in some sense, if the defect had to happen, it happened at an auspicious time, and the outcome could have been so much worse. I have backups of everything, using and Borg, but what use is a backup, Mr. Anderson, if you have no computer to read it? My tablet turns out to be a sort-of-but-not-quite replacement, at least for brief stretches of time: with an external keyboard and some additional software, it can connect to compute servers and permit me to continue writing. However, a ‘proper’ machine would have been nice, but I had just given away all extraneous machines since I was moving for my new job. Keeping additional backup hardware is quite costly and is not easily compatible with being a ‘mobile academic.’ As much as it pains me to write this: for future defects, I’ll probably have to bite this particular bullet.

Lenovo Premier Support. In all honesty, I can say that this was by far (!) the best support experience I ever had. Everyone was polite, efficient, and professional. The problem was diagnosed very quickly over the phone, and the waiting times for the hotline were either non-existent or so brief that they did not even register for me. I have already provided stellar feedback for everyone involved, but in case someone from Lenovo is reading this: your Premier Support Team is clearly top-notch and worth their weight in gold!

That’s all from my end. I know that this post is a little bit different from the usual content, but I believe in talking about positive experiences, since there appears to be a shortage of them in a world full of hot takes and clickbait.

Until next time, may your hardware never experience any defects!

  1. The phone system mentioned that it would automatically redirect my call to an English-speaking 24/7 call centre, but instead my call just got dropped. I have since tried to raise this ‘bug’ with the support team but have not heard back anything. I was always wondering whether these sort of redirects are tested—probably not well enough, it seems. Admittedly, that’s a minor hiccup, though, because it’s not like I can’t dial another number by myself. ↩︎

  2. Moving forward for Lenovo, it would be so much smarter if there was a two-tier process for providing your data. What I am thinking of is a ticket system where you get to fill out your contact data by yourself, and the support engineer handles the Lenovo part of the ticket. ↩︎

  3. Insert cliches about German punctuality, or as we like to say ‘Pünktlichkeit,’ here. ↩︎

  4. It really pays off having a lot of USB sticks from in-person conferences, containing various and sundry versions of Arch Linux. ↩︎