Did Poor Customer Service Doom Dell?

Will bad customer service come back to haunt Dell?

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The outsourcing of customer service is a topic of much consternation, silly sitcoms be damned. The horror stories of customer service call centers are to numerous to detail here, so much so in fact, it seems people have learned to expect a level of dissatisfaction when dealing with them, especially in regards to the tech sector. So far, most of these stories haven’t had much sway on how customers are serviced. That, however, may be about to change, now that Dell has had to deal with Bill, who, among other duties, advises Fortune 500 companies on how to spend their IT budget.

It’s safe to say that, after Bill’s atrocious experience with Dell’s Customer Care service, he won’t be recommending these products to the companies he advises ever again. At his blog (via the Consumerist), Bill recounts his Dell customer service with an incredibly detailed post that features phone calls, their duration and the discussions that occurred. To say Bill’s experience with Dell Customer Care was poor is something of an understatement.

Some history: Bill ordered a laptop from the company in question and when he received it, he discovered he had paid for a very expensive brick instead of a working computer. Naturally, Bill took his complaint to the proper Dell channels, and from there, his adventure began in earnest. In his post, Bill documents each and every phone call he had with Dell Customer Care, and truthfully, it reads like a manual on how not to provide good customer service. Some highlights, with [sic]s intact:

Wed May 18th – 1 Hour 15 Minutes (Computer troubleshooting)
Tried to troubleshoot battery, powercords, monitor, hard drive, etc to get the laptop to turn on.

Thursday, May 19th – 36 Minutes (Call #1)
Total hold time 32 minutes
Total time speaking with person 4 minutes
I call into Dell “Small and Medium Business” support. After a very long wait, I am greated by “Mr.Tom” (from India) I am told that theirsystems are down due to an upgrade and that they cannot help me. Please call back later today. ….. This is just sad, a COMPUTER COMPANY that is doing an upgrade in the middle of the day!

While this sounds all too typical, Bill’s experience continues with perhaps the funniest aspect, upon reflection:

Friday, May 20th – 18 Minutes (Call #2)
Total hold time 11 minutes
Total talking time 7 Minutes
I wait till the afternoon and call customer care small and medium business directly. I am greated by another Indian, don’t remember which American sounding name he game himself. I attempt to explain to him the situation, and he literally starts to raise his voice and tells me that I have to call tech support. I explain that I called them and they told me that I had to call customer care. I then ask to speak to a manager. He says “NO”. Then he says, he has to follow procedure, I have to talk to tech support. I say again, “I want to speak to a manager immediately”. He screams “NO” and hangs up the call.

Does that particular technique appear in the Dell customer service handbook under “how to deal with persistent customers who have legitimate beefs?” Unfortunately for Bill, his excursion continues for over 400 minutes, and it’s filled with FedEx disputes, “managers” who make him wait in silence, apparently hoping Bill would hang up, and finally, the satisfaction Bill initially sought out to begin with. Unfortunately, for Bill to get to this point, he had to endure what should go down has an example of how not to deal with paying customers who aren’t pleased — with legitimate reason, mind you — with their level of service up to this point.

However, Bill’s ire doesn’t just stop with a blistering blog post. It’s safe to say Dell’s (lack of) service left an impression:

So, here I am. I have a minimum of 404 Minutes – just shy of 7 hours trying to get my issue resolved adequately. Worse yet, I am still missing a laptop and was not ONCE offered a replacement or asked if I wanted to purchase a new laptop.

Dell, you really screwed up on this one. Not only is my company a decent spender, I make recommendations to Fortune 500 companies on a regular basis on the best way to allocate their I.T. expenditures. You cannot possibly expect me to recommend you to anyone in the future -this mistake may in fact cost you millions.

The thought’s closing statement was highlighted in red, just to emphasize the level of dissatisfaction Bill experienced. The question is, will Bill’s ire work like a strong viral marketing campaign, only in reverse? Will his word resonate throughout the business sector he advises or will Dell dodge yet another bullet from the bad customer service gun?

Did Poor Customer Service Doom Dell?
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  • http://thewebsensesolution.com Jon

    I’ve worked in big box retail and we sold dell computers. Our claims department handled defective returns that would get sent back to the vendors. I will never forget 1 month into the new year, we were told by claims to stop sending them any more dells because we had reached our yearly return quota (IN ONE MONTH!).

  • http://www.northforkmedia.com Webdoc

    Dell, if they are doomed, certainly deserve it for repeated rank stupidity. My laptop purchasing experience was a small mountain I had to climb. I chatted with sales people online who did nothing more than post links to products on their web sites. They didn’t know that the model I was interested in had 3 USB ports. They didn’t try to ask for the sale even though I was sitting there with money in hand. I called the 800 number in one of their catalogs and instead of getting a person who was ready to take my money, I got a telephone system. Again, money in hand and no one to take it. I finally used the online configurator to get my machine, and I am happy with it. It’s got a truly beautiful RGB LED display and it’s nice and snappy. But if I hadn’t been after that particular display, Costco would have gotten my dollars for sure.

    Oh, and now they send me catalogs…but they don’t know which market I am in ’cause they are sending me small business Vostro catalogs instead of high end designer/enthusiast catalogs.

  • Alan

    I’ve had excellent results with Dell Customer Service on two separate occasions. Maybe they simply need to strive for more consistent quality in their customer service. It’s time to do more onshoring of this critical business function.

    • no dumbo


  • http://deleted tom

    10 days ago I ordered my laptop.
    Called them dozen of times.

    outsourcing is cheap and rife

  • Frank

    Bummer about his service, it isn’t acceptable and he’s certainly not alone.

    I’d say the real issue here is the casual racism. Not every person who answers the phone with an accent is an “Indian.” You’d think an individual like Bill, who thinks his opinion on things is worth so much money, would have better control over said opinions….

    p.s. What exactly is an “American” sounding name? Pretty sure William is French in origin…

    • no dumbo

      frank another dell plant

      • Jean paul

        Yeah and although it may not be politically correct to say it certainly is not trying to be a racist. The Dell Call center is in India so yes they are Indian. Not casual racism but a fact. Liberals are so annoying.

  • http://www.newrichclub.com Help Desk

    I work for a huge corporation running their help desk and ordering all the tech supplies for the entire place. We are the Second largest employer in the city I live in. Over the past 9 years that I have worked in this position, Dell customer service has declined so much that I don’t even deal with them anymore. We would rather pay MORE somewhere else to avoid having to do the “DELL DANCE” of ridiculousness that is bound to happen. I can’t believe this place is still in business, and I am waiting to watch this come back and bite them because they sure deserve it. I have been letting them know about the problems for years and they don’t care. They don’t even care enough for a big business account, how can they possibly care about an individual. They are too big to care, but remember, the bigger you are the harder you fall!! I hope society doesn’t just put up with this. Go to your local business and deal with them, keep your own town thriving, and appreciate the excellent customer service that money can’t buy!! I have moved everything we purchase away from Dell because of the unbelievable bad customer service. It isn’t just that it isn’t there, it is really really bad. Even at the corporate level. I have been on those phone calls, I had one that lasted THREE HOURS once waiting to call in a warranty for a printer, who has time for that? It was so bad that we got some of our employees trained to be Dell Printer Specialists, but even that didn’t make it much better, they had a shorter wait time on the phone that was about it. So now we just don’t buy from them anymore. I am happy to never ever do business with them ever again, and I tell everyone I know, and I deal with businesses all over North America. I would suggest if you own stock in Dell, quick sell it now, because Dell is going down … down…. down…. !!

  • Willee Rose

    I will NEVER purchase anything Dell or from Dell again. First purchase was a Samsung TV which I love. It took a couple of months for Dell to post my e-certificates. When they did, I purchase a laptop. The nightmare begins and continues to this day because they refuse to restore my e-certificates despite the fact they have take possession of the returned laptop. I returned the laptop because it did not function as represented. It has been over a year. They shorted my credit card and started billing my card for printers and items I never ordered. I had to close my credit card to stop them. they billed $1.08 as a “pre-approval/ space holder” they assured would be credited, but never was. I have prevailed on all disputes against them with my credit card, but the hassle and upset is bad business and should be illegal. End result,about a year later…they still have not restored the $340. of e-certificates they owe me on the purchase of the TV. The various phone personnel are mostly nice, but they constantly pass the ball, no one can do anything while they mislead and wear you down until you give up and end up paying full price for something I would not have purchased had it not been for the e=certificate credits – That have never been restored.

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