Sunday, March 25, 2007

Dell service response dissected

[Image: Dell logo]After my troubles with Dell, I got the attention of some employees. I received two emails to date from Dell representatives. I give them a little extra respect for the fact that they are actively seeking to fix the problem. Here is the last email I received, posted because I feel that it sheds light on some of the inner workings of the company.

My name is John, I work at Dell headquarters in Round Rock. I came across the blog posts you wrote about you latest escapades with our support technicians and our return to depot service. Obviously, what you wrote did not reflect the best that we have to offer in support. You did bring up some interesting points, a couple which I would like to address.

The first is our return to depot service. Please note that any repair service offered by Dell is through third-party service providers, as Dell is not a service company. The phone technicians and online support technicians you speak with are Dell representatives, but the repair center is actually the third party company that owns the support contract we sold you, much as Microsoft is the third party software developer of the operating systems installed on most Dell systems. Our return to depot contract is actually owned by Solectron, who does repair for us and several other computer vendors as well. Why do I mention this? Primarily to inform you that changing computer vendors doesn't necessarily mean you'd be rid of the people who actually caused this problem. There are several service contracts we offer with the purchase of a new system, with a Solectron contract being the least expensive "baseline" contract.
[Image: Dell logo]I now know that Dell didn't work on the computer themselves, but I do still need to say that the service that this third-party did reflects upon Dell's name, so no passing the blame here. They are passing their business to this third-party, so it is in their best interest for the service to be at its best.
When you embark on your college adventure within the next few years, if you choose to go with a new Dell, I would highly recommend puchasing directly from us so that you could select the service plan that best suits your needs. We have many to choose from, including up to a 4-year in home repair service contract from several vendors, depending upon your area. These service offerings are more robust than any of our competitors, to my knowledge.
[Image: Apple logo]With much respect, I will say that my decision to move to an Apple computer is not based entirely on this experience. While this still does not bode well for Dell in any way, I have had it with Microsoft and others in general. Apple computers look nice (which Dells, HPs, Compaqs, etc do not). Apple has a high-quality product that I have only heard good about. I am moving to Linux and Apple, period (and Dell doesn't sell Apple).
This also indirectly responds to the packaging issue you mentioned. It is quite possible that the deficient packaging by the depot rep caused the memory problem. If jostling during shipping was severe enough, it is possible that the system's memory could have slightly unseated itself, causing the memory error you noted. Before the system is packaged, the repair technician runs a boot test with a diagnostic hard drive, and it shouldn't have left their door without it passing this test.
Again, this falls straight back to the fact that Dell is doing business with this third-party company, and everything that this company does reflects upon Dell's name. Dell gets this reputation because it is the way they handle it, not because of another company.
Please feel free to let me know if you need any assistance with this system in the near future. I would be happy to assist you myself to make sure there are no further mishaps. Also, if you have any questions, I would be happy to field them.

Dell Customer Advocate
To Dell's credit, this was one terrible experience, but I have had better from them. I have a desktop that I bought from them which has gone nearly four years with no trouble at all. This time was just so bad that I couldn't ignore it.

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6:45 PM | Posted by mike | 8 comments posted below


You can run Linux on your Mac. The latest Ubuntu beta boots natively on my MacBook Pro.
By Blogger Mike, at 3/25/2007 11:30:00 PM
This is John, the Dell representative you are quoting in this blog.

To let you know, this was in no way an attempt to shift blame, as much as it was an attempt to inform. If you choose to do business with someone else, that is completely your decision, but I wanted to let you know the realities of the business. We use the same service providers in many cases as most OEM PC manufacturers, and as far as I know, Solectron has a business relationship with Apple as well. In fact, all major OEMs (including Apple) use third party contractors for services. Switching computer companies as the result of "Dell shipping back your system still not working" is not really addressing your problem. I was simply trying to let you know this. The truth of the matter is that bad experiences happen no matter where you go, but Dell is the only company I know of that has spent hundreds of millions trying to correct it. Do we still need improving? Sure. Will we continue to improve? We certainly will!
By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3/27/2007 12:31:00 PM
@mike: I will run Linux by choice, but run Apple for portability and compatibility. I live on music; I need iTunes, and Linux doesn't seem to be on the list of options.

@John: Understood, but I am shifting companies because of service received. Hardware repairs, like some of mine, are not the issue, but the service itself. I have a friend who had trouble with his iPod and dead pixels. He was able to get it replaced *three times* with no questions asked. Everyone I have ever heard worships Apple's customer service and their commitment to satisfaction.

You say you have spent millions on support, why not spend a little more and hire some people in the US, people who natively speak english that can be understood.
By Anonymous mike, at 3/27/2007 09:49:00 PM
This is John-

I can assure you from my own personal experience that all is not roses in service no matter which OEM you choose. Simply google "your favorite company here" sucks, or "your favorite company here" problem, and you're going to find people complaining. Honestly, we're the only ones doing anything about **that** problem that I know of. I speak english very well, as do those in our call centers in OK City, Twin Falls, Andalusia AL, and even our center in Panama (they use US dollars and english is their official language there).
Also, comparing a **thrice repeated** dead pixel problem on an iPod and a complex software/hardware problem on a component swappable fully customizable computer system is a bit like the "apples to oranges" comparison from proverbial wisdom. Were this a monitor problem, that would require less troubleshooting, but a computer problem? Let's be honest here...
Regardless, if you choose to go elsewhere that is certainly your prerogative. Speaking from experience you are as likely to have a bad experience there or here as anywhere else.
By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3/29/2007 06:57:00 PM
I understand that not all people are satisfied, but the point of my mentioning such experiences as my friend's is that it was done with no questions asked at all. Every person I have ever heard recommend a computer says Apple.

You, happen to be an exception. You work in the US, as do those you mention, but try calling your own tech support, it often end up in India where you talk to people with a thick, incomprehensible accent.

Unlike Apple, there are places that you can easily take your computer. Sure, there's Geek Squad, but they and many others have questionable service. Apple is one of the few companies I feel I can trust to do what they said they would.

The only reason I do any business with Dell is the fact that I have had this computer for years, and because it is under warranty, otherwise, I would do everything myself. I would rather have a self-built computer with no warranty than live with the service that I have received to this point.
By Anonymous mike, at 3/29/2007 08:39:00 PM
I appreciate your perspective and your input, which is why I am here talking to you and trying to address any technical problems you may have. First and foremost that is my priority. Given some of your comments though, I wanted a chance to at least provide some perspective.

If you live in major urban centers like New York, Tokyo, London, and even Austin, Apple has stores. To suggest their support is ubiquitous is a little misguided, however. I don’t think you would find Apple stores in rural Arkansas or South Dakota. I know you won’t find Apple entering into a dialogue with customers and others in blogs or responding on the web to individual issues.

As for your statement that everyone you know recommends Apple, you must have a very single-minded group of friends. All the people I know collectively can't agree upon much of anything when taken as a whole, let alone a computer manufacturer to recommend. You might want to check these links out, which I found after you made that comment;

"I recommend Dell" (74,600 hits at the time)

"I recommend Apple" (7,840 hits at the time)

"I recommend Mac" (3,030 hits at the time)

While this may not be completely scientific, it does put a bit of perspective on web traffic containing those three phrases, and what that reflects in the attitudes of those in forums and blogs.

I would also like to make a general comment about our support. We do realize that we have made mistakes. You might find this interview by Fortune magazine with Michael Dell somewhat interesting.

We know we have corrections to make, but we're making them. It's why we've invested an additional $150 million in the last couple quarters to hire more technical staff, retrain current staff, and put to use new technologies. We are not there yet, but we are certainly on the right path. A few examples: we reduced the number of toll-free numbers by 83 percent, making it much easier to contact Dell to know what number to call. We've reduced the number of phone queues by 38%, making it
much less likely to end up in the wrong place. Technology support transfers are down 62% since the start of last year, and we've seen a 10% increase in customer satisfaction for technical support where we've implemented these changes. Dell Connect (our online remote resolution tool we announced just last year) has now seen more than 3.2 million sessions, and nearly 94 percent of customers said it makes troubleshooting easier.

My goal here is not to convince you completely, but to at least provide a different perspective for you to consider.

Of course, if you need any assistance whatsoever, feel free to let me know.

Dell Customer Advocate
By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4/04/2007 03:18:00 PM
About the Apple Stores: sure, there isn't an "Apple" store, but I have a few around me that work on Apples exclusively, so that particular rebuttal doesn't necessarily gain any ground.

As for the "recommendation" thing, there are plenty of things to throw that way out of perspective. For example, the shear number of people who use PC's. It is expected that Dell would have more of such statements simply because of the size. My point in my original statement was that Apple was the only company that I have heard all good about. I have never personally heard anyone say "I love Dell." Maybe satisfied, but never enough they would advocate the brand over others.

I will admit here that I have no reference for this past experience. Being a teen, I haven't often needed to contact support of any kind, so I would have no idea how bad it was before. I realize that there is progress, and there isn't any over-night solution to problems.

I guess my goal has been accomplished here. My intent from the start was to get notice of the problem, and that did happen (although conversation wandered). I simply wanted to say that the experience was anything but pleasant and the fact that one of my online requests got cut off was the last straw for me.

If it means anything at all, I have realized in the past few days that Dell is the most reasonably priced of the computer companies. When I buy a new computer for Linux sometime later this year, it is looking like it will be from Dell as the prices are lowest. Dell seems to be good with desktops, but I can't say much for their laptops. But on the subject, is it possible for you to explain this problem I noticed before (why the price difference)?
By Anonymous mike, at 4/04/2007 08:47:00 PM
That's interesting, Mike. If you notice things like this, I would recommend either purchasing it separately, or contacting a sales representative. I am actually going to forward that concern to the teams responsible and see if we can't get that corrected. Any other such discrepancies you've noticed, feel free to forward to me.
ATTN: John
By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4/05/2007 11:17:00 AM
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