Did Poor Customer Service Doom Dell?

    June 1, 2011

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?