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Dell customer service

I was prompted to write this post after reading the article, “Growing pains hit Dell’s customer service,” at CNet News. I have been recommending Dell products for over five years to my clients. Throughout that time I have seen a lot of changes with the company, which one would expect with any fast-growing organization like Dell.

I noticed the quality of technical support for desktop products deteriorate to almost unacceptable levels within the last year, when Dell started outsourcing many of those calls to overseas technicians. I am in no way prejudiced against this sort of outsourcing. I understand the business needs that lead to choices like Dell’s. The problems I experienced were specifically related to the way in which my calls were handled, i.e. the technician was unable to do more than follow a troubleshooting script and not able to think independently about the problem I was describing, and the communication skills of the technician were greatly lacking with regard to their ability to speak clear and understandable English. That being said, I have seen the quality of support increase over the last few months.

My problems did not end with technical support. I had order delivery problems, including a lost desktop computer that was actually shipped via US Mail with no real ability to track the package and a customer service department who’s response was for me to call my local post office to track down the package. The quality of the customer service team at Dell has deteriorated to what I believe are unacceptable levels. I recently ordered a server that took almost two months to deliver, and I could NEVER get an answer from customer service about the expected delivery date beyond the cryptic information I could look up myself on the website. I was only able to get final resolution by speaking with a sales person.

The last major problem I saw was with the initial release of the Poweredge 2600 servers, specifically with regard to the RAID controller firmware and bad motherboards. I installed 3 servers within a few months of the release, and two of them had serious problems – one required a complete replacement, and the other a replacement of the motherboard within one week of installation.

Not being one to only complain, here are a few of my suggestions to Dell to improve some of the problems I see currently:

  • Better order status information – the current online order status information is woefully inadequate. Delays are not explained clearly, and shipments take between two and three days from the time of the notification to provide tracking information. I can’t believe that Dell isn’t better able to provide tracking numbers for their shipments, when almost every other vendor (even the small ones) with whom I work can tell me the tracking number immediately after shipping the product. Further, if I do call the customer service team, I expect them to be able to tell me WHY the machine I just ordered is projecting a four-week turnaround, rather than just quoting the same information that I get on the site. I understand that certain components get backordered, but I would like the ability to consider changing my order if one particular component is causing the hold-up, if I need the machine faster.
  • Closer relationships with independent technology consultants – the computer hardware industry does not have a lot of room for profit margins on product, especially in the space where Dell has positioned itself. That being said, the key for companies like Dell is volume. A lot of that volume is generated through advertising and marketing, as well as Dell’s direct sales staff, but one thing that Microsoft has learned very well is that you can get past the need for a serious direct sales staff through close relationships with independent vendors. Dell should follow a similar model, not just with regards to certification for supporting its products, but through education and partnering events to roll-out new products to the IT services world. Dell may have a way for large independent vendors to have relationships like the one I describe, and the recently launched Solution Provider Direct, which is geared towards providing “white box” solutions to this channel. I can tell you, though, that having called the Solution Provider Direct folks, they are no where near as knowledgeable or as pleasant to deal with as the other sales staff at Dell with whom I have worked.
  • Bring customer service and tech support back to the US – I know this is a hot-button issue right now in the technology sector. I am not advocating this position just because I don’t want jobs leaving American soil. Frankly, I believe that if we want to keep the jobs here, we have to show why there is a value in paying the higher salaries American workers expect. In the arenas of customer service and technical support for Dell, I believe the value is clear. Customers will respond better to people who do not have accents that make them difficult to understand. Further, by bringing the departments back to the US, Dell will have a greater degree of control and may feel comfortable in better empowering there support personnel to make decisions for their clients. When I first started using Dell products, I called technical support to report a problem and could explain my troubleshooting steps and get the person to replace a defective part in a very short period of time. The same type of call today takes markedly longer – the support person has to get management approval to send out a replacement part, and they are EXTREMELY reluctant to skip any step in their troubleshooting guidelines, even if you can explain that you already did what they are asking you to do with no positive result.

I know this was a fairly long post, but I feel strongly that Dell really has been better than their competition. The problem with the growth they have seen is that they are starting to simply be the least of the evils rather than the excellent provider they once were. I do think, however, that these problems are solvable.

18 Responses to Dell customer service

  1. Morten February 21, 2004 at 1:48 pm #

    Hi Jamie,
    I just had my Latitude D600 repaired as the Blue Tooth card did not work. I called them last Sunday here from the UK, and although it took quite some time to get re-directed through to their call centre in India (had to listen to a few tracks of some Indian pop artist…), it went well. It is correct that they have a procedure to follow in order to fix the problem over the phone, but once they are through without having solved the problem, they immediately initiate an on-site repair. They came Wednesday morning and changed motherboard and Blue tooth card in 30 minutes.
    The lady’s accent did not bother me, but mine may have bothered her :-) .
    Cheers, Morten

  2. mirrorgrinder March 20, 2004 at 1:08 am #

    After one week of hour plus phone calls, Dell’s response to my broken video card (lasted 2 weeks) was for me to purchase an additional monitor, plug it in and then diagnose the problem with them over the phone. This with a three-year supposedly in-home warranty. They also refused to allow me to speak to a supervisor. I have since cancelled all my additional orders for Dell desktops and am returning my MP3 player as well. I grew up in Hawaii and certainly don’t care about accents, but I don’t care to be sold a worthless warranty and be treated like garbage to boot. Avoid Dell Hell!!!

  3. bbaker April 23, 2004 at 9:11 pm #

    I HATE Dell………..they sent me the wrong computer…someone else’s order. I never opened it after I opened the packing slip. I have 23 pages of e-mails going back and forth and the India business……no understanding and rude. I finally sent it back as per instructions and cancelled my order. NOW they tell me I had to write a certain number on the box…after telling me NOT to write on the box!! I am absolutely abhored by this service and I still have to wait for my credit card refund. I am sick over this. I am a handicapped senior citizen. I don’t really need this aggrevation.

  4. Jim August 11, 2004 at 7:56 pm #

    It’s hard to fathom how far Dell’s support has fallen in such a short period of time. It’s absolutely laughable. You could staff their support centers with robots and it couldn’t get any worse.

  5. Parviz August 29, 2004 at 1:52 pm #

    Hi,
    I am trying to cancel an order with Dell but they refuse to cancel or give me their email. Would anyone has their customer service email? Thanks
    Parviz

  6. Vikram Jha September 25, 2004 at 5:36 am #

    I have sworn never to use Dell again. A laptop I bought recently did not work properly from day 1. The keyboard and mother board had to be replaced within the first week. 6 weeks after installing the computer, I still cannot get an internet connection. I have been on the phone daily-alternating between software and hardware support with no resolution. I have now asked Dell to take the laptop back and refund my money. Its been an appaling display of poor customer care.

  7. Sally September 25, 2004 at 5:45 pm #

    I have some problems with Dell, an Insperion 9100. More than one of my calls have been directed overseas. India. Many of the calls I’ve made (no offence intended) I simply can not understand the person I’m speaking to. They will not get you a supervisor or personal in management.
    Technical support will not give any telephone numbers I’ve repeatedly requested nor will they answer direct questions about this computer.
    So what does a person do? Speak to a Laywer? All I want is some answers and some satisfaction. If in fact the product is bad I want them to take it back and reimburse me what I have paid.
    I was exicited about getting my Dell laptop. Now I wish I’d never heard of them.

  8. Karen October 13, 2004 at 3:17 pm #

    I have needed to call Dell technical support for some time now but have been putting it off as my last experiences have been terrible. I am very anxious to buy a different computer to alleviate the trouble I’ve been having. Mostly the previous problems were with being disconnected by the technical support team. I’ve held in a queue for 30 minutes only to be disconnected. I’ve been transferred from tech support to the wireless division and have been disconnected. Plus two other times during various call routings around India and the Philippines. Basically, I fear that ever time I call, I will be disconnected. So today I mustered up my courage to try yet again and here is what happened.
    Call 1 – Dialed the tech support number on my invoice (800) 624-9896. Went through the automated greeting to home computer mobile devices. Waited in queue until I was transferred to a recording that said “you have reached a non-working number…please call (800) 822-8965. I was then disconnected!
    Call 2 – Dialed tech support at 800-624-9897. “Keith” answered and declared that he couldn’t hear me. Announced two times to take him off speaker phone (he wasn’t). I kept saying “hello, hello, can you hear me?” And he just kept saying he couldn’t hear anyone and that he would hang up. He did and I was then disconnected!
    Call 3 – “Kelly” answered Dell tech support after 15 minutes holding in queue (not bad this time). Verified a few things and determined my call should be transferred to Wireless Support. Before she transferred me I told her of my concern of being disconnected. She said she would call in one hour to ensure I’d gotten through. (I cannot verify this though as I was on the phone for a long time with Wireless, but did hear call waiting one time).
    Call 4 – routed to Wireless Support (we’re not allowed to contact them directly). Was on hold 50 minutes in queue, then “Victor” answered. Victor was not very knowledgeable at all and was obviously reading from instructions. I think I knew more than he did and I’m an average user. After working with him for awhile, at the 1 ½ hour mark, the line went dead and I was disconnected! I had also told Victor of my concern of being disconnected and he said if we were disconnected, he would call me back. He didn’t. Also, during our call, he had me disable my home networking file and printer sharing. Something he told me to do disabled my email! It wasn’t until I “undid” that action that it worked again. Thank God or I would have had to call again!
    At this point, I’m very unhappy. My wireless card is not properly configured. It worked fine prior to Dell having me wipe my computer clean and reinstall everything awhile back for a separate issue. I have the utility CD, I’m sure this is pretty easy to fix, but I have lost all faith in Dell Tech Support being able to fix this problem and I don’t have the time or energy to call back. I work from home and have spent an entire morning dealing with this problem. OK, just adding to the commentary on this website.

  9. Marshall January 5, 2005 at 4:34 pm #

    I work computer support at a University and this past week I’ve probably spent over 15 hours on the phone with Dell for 3 different computer problems. The problem is that they don’t know anything about computers. I service them every day so I try all the normal things that are in the Dell script. So I spend the first 30 minutes of every call just convincing them that what they are asking me to do is not going to help because I’ve already done it. Dell should consider hiring people that know something about computers as their technical support. Just an idea.
    -Marshall

  10. STEVE January 22, 2005 at 5:45 pm #

    Tell everyone you know how they screwed you (6:18pm EST Sat Jan 22 2005)
    I ordered a pc system I saw on the internet. When I couldnt place the order over the net I called a salesman. We looked at the internet offer to gether and he said he could offrer that too.
    Big mistake!!
    The salesman lied, among other things Dell charged me for a service contract that I didnt order and sent a crt monitor and not the flat screen on the advertised deal. Customer service doesn’t understand English, That is, they speak it, but work from a script so that everything comes back to a circle of the customer is always wrong (even though the salesman’s voice mail box is full so no one can reach him and then he doesnt work there any more.)
    I have never had a worse experience with any purchase of anything.
    They dont answer their mail. The folks that answer the phone are absolutely inept and rude. Dont buy from them!!! Steve

  11. charles balasalle February 5, 2005 at 10:43 am #

    i had received a new desk top from my son 12/02. my son lives in boulder colorado.
    i had problems with microsoft outlook.(it was installed by dell) i called yesterday and paid $39.00 because of the age of my system.
    i had to give my ifo to a person abroad first.
    she informed me that i should have to wait for three clicks and somone would help me. i waited 10 mins. i then had to call back and give them same info all over again. i then spoke with a very knowledgeable tech person from ottowa canada
    he could not help me he told me to do a norton virus full san that would take at least a half an hour. call back if it does not work. it did not work no viruises. he gave me a case #. the first person gave me a
    express service check #( what a joke) the next day i called and now i had to give all the info again to an outsorceman and i gave him all the same info. he put me on hold for 10 mins. and then told me that he needed two more pieces opf info. it seems my son’s phone was. not the same. (my son moved and has a new phone number) i told him i still have the invoice that was sent with my new desk top.
    boy talk about cuctomer service. they are purposes stalling me because my 39.00 payment is only good for 72 hours i called dell today and waited 20 mins for and answer. again i got an outsourced person and because i did not have my son’s old phone number because that was on the orginal order. i just blew 39.00!!.
    will writing a letter to michael dell help?? i don’t think so!!!!
    at least writing this e-mail to you gets something off my chest.
    charles balasalle

  12. Kerri March 20, 2005 at 8:22 pm #

    I have a Inspiron 1150. I have had to call Dell Customer Service a few times with problems. One reaccuring when the machine just shuts off. Everytime I call I am speking to someone overseas reading a troubleshooting script. I have never been one the phone with a representative from Dell for less then 40 minutes. Who has time to be calling them as much as I have??? It’s crazy!!!
    Glad I got the warranty. Lord only knows what I’d be going through if I didn’t…???

  13. pruppel April 4, 2005 at 6:23 pm #

    Since Dec.04 I have been trying to get firewall
    protection install. This was part of free trail.
    I kept getting turned down by Mcafee.Something to
    due wrong screen man. tried many times to get it resolved.The part that makes me mad I am covered
    for three other services by then.I since paid for
    all sevices in full and have coverage.THEY KEEP
    ASKING FOR ME TO ENTER MY CORRECT NAME SO THEY CAN ENTER THE FIREWALL PROTECTION

  14. delltechsupport April 10, 2005 at 2:57 am #

    if only you would be knowing how large the volume of calls we have everyday.. you would realize why.. DELL choose to transfer its tech support overseas.. because.. americans are ot very adept with computers!..
    people are calling to ask how to do this.. where is the power button??.. can you imagine that buying computers and they don’t know how to use it!!..
    if you think DELL tech support is crazy.. wait till you hear the problems and the question that they would ask.. and then try to assess who’s crazy and stupid..
    after trying to answer all those stupid and bogus question.. we now know.. why tech support is not in the US!!!
    :OD

  15. Steve S. April 13, 2005 at 8:43 am #

    I work in call center operations and know how customer service is supposed to work. Dell is absolutely the WORST company to deal with. I will NEVER EVER EVER buy anything from Dell again and will tell everyone I know to do the same. First, they do everything possible to make sure you never try to contact human customer service (they refer you to all kinds of web pages and they run you through all kinds of automated phone systems ["press 3"]). I have no problem with them using people from India, it’s that the customer service people just read scripts – they don’t seem to know a thing. Do yourself a huge favor and STAY AWAY FROM DELL!

  16. Jia April 22, 2005 at 12:09 pm #

    Dell is absolutely horrible. I do not recommend this company to anyone. They are rude, incompetent, and money hungry.
    I do not have anything negative to say regarding the outsourcing but I am entirely dissatisfied with the American sales representatives, managers, and supervisors, primarily in Texas. I have been tossed around from person to person after receiving my laptop and have yet to resolve my problems. Initially, the slaes representatives were very friendly but as soon as I received the product and needed to speak with someone regarding my purchase, they NEVER replied to my e-mails nor returned my phone calls. It has been a month and I am still awaiting a response and the printer that I never received. I wish to return the product and have NOTHING to do with this company.
    Again, I cannot stress enough how disappointing Dell has been. No customer should ever be forced to go through what I have had to endure.

  17. Dell Rep May 4, 2005 at 7:11 pm #

    How is a company supposed to sell a complete computer for $299 and make a profit when they have to pay their reps $15 an hour???? Or go overseas and pay them $1 an hour. If you buy a “good” dell system ($5000+) and get a warranty /service contract you will always get an american and we will make sure your part is recieved within 4 hours that same day. Again, if you want dell to fix your problems quickly you need to pay for it upfront.

  18. kelley May 24, 2005 at 12:59 pm #

    MY EXPERIENCE WITH DELL HAS BEEN TERRIABLE!!!!!
    I purchased a $3000.00 computer from DEll only to recieve $0.00 worth of computer support. I only call them when it is completely necessary because of the nightmares I must endure when dealing with them. I wont waste the time to discuss all my problems with them, but will discuss the fact that I paid $52.00 to have them NOT help me remove a virus from my computer. After being on hold and disconnected atlease 5 times and explaining my issue 5 times I was sent to someone who actually spoke english, I was so releived, but that was short lived when I was transfered to a SO called technician that I had to spell Trojon 7 times, I mean come-on spell Trojan 7 times to tech support person that is suppose to be skilled in helping people remove these viruses, that did not show me much hope.
    After being on the phone with the SO called technician for 2 hours I finally told them I needed to go cause it was almost 1:00 am in the morning and I felt I was getting no help any how. I explained to him numerous times that I have already done half the things he asked me too and not to mension the fact that he would have me try the same thing over and over agian, I could tell he was just reading form script. Neadless to say I simply looked up on the internet for FREE and found detailed instructions on how to remove the virus. I have now spent another 2 hours of my time trying to get the refund of $52.00 for SO called tech support. LOL. only to be pushed around to people who I have to repeat my inforamtion to 10 times and then be transferd then disconnected. I will NEVER buy a Dell product again, and will never recommend it to anyone. And the idea that you have to buy a $5000.00 computer if you want to get good service is such a bad thing to say, no matter what you purchase you should recieve the same amount of service that the weathly or businesses get. IN MY OPINION