by Randy Cassingham
This is a condensed version of my original "Dell Hell" story, which is still at its original location on the This is True Dell Hell page (opens in a new window). The version here has the basics, but if you "need" more info, including the all important "lessons learned" (and some reader horror stories), you should read the longer version there.
- - -
I've recommended Dell computers for many years, but my confidence in them was shaken when I got a new laptop in Fall 2004. I run my computers pretty hard since I work 10-14 hours/day, seven days a week to publish on my many web sites, so I get a new one every three years or so. This time I decided to switch to a full-time laptop; I gave my desktop to my new assistant and ordered up a new Dell Inspiron laptop.
After finally getting it all set up the way I wanted, all was well for a few days until I came into the office, pushed the power button to get started ...and nothing happened. It was the Tuesday before I was to leave the country -- early the next Monday. "No problem," I thought: the one time I needed service Dell was there for me, and I did pay extra to upgrade my service contract on the laptop.
After spending the requisite hold time and doing everything the tech asked me to, including taking the computer half-way apart, he declared what was obvious to me from the start: a tech would have to come out to fix it. I told him time was short as I was leaving the country. He assured me the tech would call by noon the next day and make an appointment to come out. I was relieved; I canceled a few appointments so I could be home, but by 3:00 or so the next afternoon it was pretty obvious that no one would call. I got back on the phone and back into the hold queue. I was finally told there was no way a tech could get to my house that day -- and there never was a chance of it. I asked to talk to a supervisor; I needed to get the thing fixed! The customer service rep promised a supervisor would call back the same day. My wife was dubious: call customer service, she said. I did ...and was told there was an "issue" with the motherboard of my computer; replacements were not available. Uh oh. I again asked for a supervisor, and was again told I could expect a return call the same day.
Good for them: both supervisors actually called back that evening. But a funny thing had happened in the meantime: a courier arrived with replacement parts. "Huh?" the first supervisor said: his system didn't show that any parts had ever been shipped to me! Great system you have there, guys. "What's in the box?" he asked. Hell, I don't know. I opened up the box and tried to describe each part to him, but one thing became apparent: no motherboard. (After describing the huge variety of contents, he remarked that I had "almost enough to build a whole computer." Well yeah, but would it work?)
|By Popular Demand!|
Michael Dell's Address:
NOTE: Dell also has a escalation procedure for "Unresolved Customer Service Issues". They require that you have already gone through the customer support process (and thus have a "Case" or "Reference" number, and your original order number (which I suppose means you can't use this process for used computers). And get this: they promise a reply within 1 business day! It's hard to find on their site, but here's Direct Access to Dell Escalation.
When the second supervisor called and I told him the story, he declared I was absolutely not given an "unrealistic expectation", I should have had a tech the next day ...except that there was this "issue" with the motherboards. Great: does that mean I have a lemon? Oh no, he assured me; it's just that replacement motherboards were late coming from the overseas factory. He said it was unlikely that I'd get my computer fixed before I left on my trip, and apologized. *sigh* I at least got the number of the actual tech that would be coming out.
Because of the out-of-stock motherboard issue, I ended up having to do my overseas travel with my old, slow, backup laptop. When I got back the motherboard was here waiting, so I called the local tech. He said sorry, but while I was out of the country my service ticket had expired and I'd have to call the service company back to reactivate it. After three days of voice mail jail with them, I gritted my teeth and called Dell again, wading through their menus and waiting on hold. The customer service rep said yes, the ticket was expired. Could they just reactivate it? Nope! Their solution: start all over with tech support. No, I said, I'm just not going to go through all of that again. Surely a supervisor can simply get the old one reactivated, or at least copy the notes over to a new ticket. A supervisor will call you back "today", I was told. That was November 3, 2004. No supervisor ever called.
So I got even.
I publish This is True, a newsletter with a six-figure distribution. I told of the problems I had, and noted that I was now really screwed, since the time limit to return it for a full refund was now over. (Greeeaaaat!)
By morning the phone calls started. One from a Dell exec who happens to be a True reader, and another from a Dell exec who got a copy of the issue forwarded from a relative who's a reader. I also heard from plenty of readers who had their own "Dell Hell" stories, some of which are included on my full Dell Hell page. But my giving Dell a public relations nightmare at least got me satisfaction -- though I never did hear from any PR folks there, only mid-level execs who cared enough about the company to want to work to make it look better. The top execs ignored it completely.
Now, you can certainly find horror stories about every manufacturer; no one gets it 100 percent right 100 percent of the time. The problem is, you shouldn't have to have a newsletter with a six-figure audience to get attention. It worked for me, but not everyone has such a resource.
So yes, first of all, publishing my mini-rant in This is True did get some attention from Dell. Two Dell execs called and apologized profusely, and I gave one the other's name so they could coordinate their efforts. The exec I worked with says they try very hard to satisfy customers with problems that haven't been solved by tech support. The hard part is finding out who is having problems. They said they actually have employees who surf online forums looking for horror stories, and then contact the person and help them. And, apparently, they have the authority to actually help. Tip to Dell: if you want to get horror stories, how about activating a site at DellHell.com -- which Dell owns! -- to solicit them?
I asked one of the execs what people who don't have a six-figure circulation newsletter should do when they're not getting help on a big problem. The reply: Dell is working on a better process to help escalate the biggest problems to someone with authority to intervene -- but it doesn't exist yet. And, as I summarize this for CrankyCustomer.com in January 2006, I haven't heard any change in that status. Kudos to them for being honest about that, but it's sad they got too large too fast to have that in place already -- or add it since.
As for me, he promised to replace my computer and "do what it took to make me happy". Is it because I have a large publication, or because someone with authority heard me scream? My guess: a little of both. I've shipped back the bad system and his assistant walked the order for a replacement through the system. The replacement system is far, far better than the old one.
If you're having a bout of "Dell Hell" yourself, you can briefly summarize it as a comment, but we will not approve any comments that are not factual or have any slander against Dell. Because after all, the truth is condemning enough.
Yes, I still buy from Dell, but I'm very careful, and I use the "Lessons Learned" that are published in the full version of this story.