How to talk to Dell Phone Support

People always tell me that Dell warranty phone support is utterly useless. I disagree. I think they are pretty good dispensers of free replacement hardware. I’m usually able to get a replacement part that I need in 15-20 minutes without doing much silly troubleshooting. If you follow the few simply guidelines below, you will be able to cut through their usual bullshit, skip right to the problem and get your part.

The main idea behind this is to circumvent their troubleshooting manual by preemptively answering all the questions that they might need to ask you.

  1. If they ask you about your problem without taking your name and Service Tag number, give them short, succinct one sentence answer, or just ignore the question and recite your tag number instead. They will ask you to repeat your problem in detail once they take down your data, and check the warranty information. Before they do all of that, they hardly pay any attention to what you are going to say. Also they can’t be making notes in the system before they get your info down. So if you get into specific details right away, you will likely need to repeat them later on so that they can note them down.
  2. Have a good idea what is your problem. If you have no clue what is going on, there is really no way to speed this process up. You will need to sit through the bullshit troubleshooting session, reboot several times, and etc. Troubleshoot the problem yourself before you call.
  3. Run the Diagnostic CD that came with your system. It usually takes a while (around an hour to run all the extended tests), and they will definitely ask you to do it. The CD is not the be-all and end-all of Dell support, and the techs know it doesn’t detect many issues. But if you get lucky it will give you an error code that you can recite back to the phone support person. If you have a good error code that indicates hardware failure, they will skip all the bullshit, and dispatch parts and/or technician to you right away. If you don’t get an error code, at least you can tell them you have run it
  4. Troubleshoot the problem ahead of time. If you suspect it’s a memory, start pulling out the chips, swapping them around and etc. See if the memory runs in another computer (if possible of course). See if you can use some spare memory on your system – and etc. Try to isolate the problem. The difference between doing this, and following the troubleshooting steps over the phone is that you probably know what you are doing, while the tier 1 tech is just following a script.
  5. Explain all your troubleshooting steps in details. Try to cover as many steps as possible. Essentially you want to bombard them with information so that they put down the manual. Most of the phone drones have at least remedial technical skills, and they should be able to follow your logic. So if you present them with a logical progression of facts leading to a reasonable conclusion they will probably agree with your diagnosis.
  6. Do not tell them what parts need to be replaced – let them decide that. The reason is twofold. For one, they might sometimes give you more than you need. For example you just need a new memory chip, but they are willing to throw in a new mobo for a good measure. Sometimes that might be a good deal. Second, if you let them have the last word, they will feel like they are “solving” your problem. If you tell them what to do, they will be more inclined to ask follow-up questions – either to avoid appearing clueless on the tape in case they get reviewed one day, or just to spite you (no one likes a know-it-all). I usually leave them with something along the lines of “I suspect that the problem is XYZ, don’t you think?”

Of course if you have no clue what the hell are you doing, then this won’t be much help. But if you can troubleshoot on your own, it will definitely cut down on the amount of time you spend on the phone with Dell or any other similar vendor. :)

[tags]dell, dell phone support, phone support, troubleshooting[/tags]

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16 Responses to How to talk to Dell Phone Support

  1. Pingback: Jatecblog UNITED STATES WordPress

  2. Matt` UNITED KINGDOM Mozilla Firefox Windows Terminalist says:

    I haven’t had the dubious pleasure of a conversation with Dell’s phone people, their email tech people seemed OK though – tried a few things to make sure the stuff was broken, sent a replacement CD drive. Job done

    Apart from that the replacement didn’t work straight away, then randomly did at the point when “still not working” would have mean I had to send the thing in to have the mobo replaced, since then no trouble, so I think maybe the screw holding it in was a little loose until I’d removed + replaced the drive again

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  3. Luke UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    Was it desktop or laptop?

    If desktop, then maybe the ribbon cable was loose. Some people do not connect them properly because they don’t want to bend the pins.

    If laptop, the modular devices usually just snap into place.

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  4. Matt` UNITED KINGDOM Mozilla Firefox Windows Terminalist says:

    Laptop, and the modular device did indeed slot into place, but it had a little screw to hold in its slot, forgetting said screw or it being too loose could mean the drive slipped out slightly and triggered off some “no device detected in the modular bay” error message on boot

    (Having built a computer recently I know that a loose screw isn’t too big a problem for a desktop CD drive – probably has 2-4 screws anyway :wink:)

    Oh, btw, I don’t seem to be getting any email notifications for new comments on anything on this site – I checked this post to find out if I this was still happening (I mentioned it a while back)

    It says I’m subscribed just below this box, and the subscription manager has all the posts I’ve commented in on the list (I used to receive updates on the other posts so I’m sure my email info is right)

    The “block all notifications” thing is still asking if I want to, I don’t know if it would change to “do you want to allow them again” if that was turned on, but it looks normal

    any idea?

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  5. Luke UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    Oh man… I have no clue what is going on with the email notifications. They seem to be working fine for me. Hmmm…

    I will look into that.

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  6. Spandipalex UNITED STATES Internet Explorer Windows says:

    As a former Dell agent, I agree with most of this post. I love nothing more than when the customer has tried to troubleshoot the problem on their own. My favorite calls were the “I think I need a new video card because of…. and the customer has used intelligent troubleshooting steps to find the problem. We aren’t big fans of the 5 hour phone calls either.

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  7. Luke UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Ubuntu Linux says:

    Spandipalex I see your IP is from US, so I’m assuming you worked in a US based call center. I haven’t gotten talked to a US support person in a while – and I do make 1-2 Dell support calls a week. Most of the time I get to talk to the people from India with heavy accents, which is ok. Most of the time I have no trouble communicating with them but I noticed that on average they seem to be less skilled, and tend to stick to the script more rigidly.

    Then again, when I called tech support for problems with a Dell printer (yeah, we do have one at work) I got US based support, and the tech sounded like he knew what he was doing. So I’m guessing that the printer support is a different branch than the Inspiron/Latitude group that I usually call.

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  9. I can’t believe such a damning article was written without having used the product.

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  10. Karen D Erridge UNITED STATES Internet Explorer Windows says:

    How do I get back to my FILTER on my computer? I clicked on something on the filter, because couldn’t Type anything on facebook, now on my pictures don’t tell me what they are? Thanks! Karen

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  11. Luke Maciak UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Linux Terminalist says:

    @ Karen D Erridge:

    I’m sorry, but… what?

    Karen… I don’t even…

    Karen, I have absolutely no clue what you are talking about. Not even remotest clue.

    Look at it from my perspective Karen. You come here and post a comment on a blog post I wrote back in 2007 about Dell phone support issues to ask me a random question about something on your Facebook?

    Karen, why are you asking this here? Did you even read my post above?

    Also, Karen, please for the love of all that is holly, look at how you phrased your question. You essentially told me that you clicked something somewhere and now some other thing does not work.

    What filter Karen? What pictures? Pictures on your Facebook? Pictures on your computer? Pictures on all websites?

    What do you mean by “don’t tell me what they are?”.

    What is this FILTER or filter you are referring to? Is that a brand? Is that an acronym? Is that a plugin? Is it some sort of Facebook feature? I don’t know.

    Also, what is Type? Is that even a proper noun or did you just randomly capitalize the word type – as in, I couldn’t type anything into text boxes on Facebook.

    Karen, I am not a mind reader. I have no clue what you did and where you did it. I sort of need some context here.

    What line of work are you in Karen? If I came to your office and asked you for help because I did a thing to that thing and now it’s different would you be able to help me?

    I wish I could help, but I am at a loss here…

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  12. Pingback: How to ask questions « Terminally Incoherent WordPress

  13. :) I think you meant “love of all that is holy”… unless you think that Karen has a thing for Holly, in which case thats hot.

    Otherwise I have no idea. :P

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  14. Mariane ICELAND Mozilla Firefox Debian GNU/Linux says:

    How comes when I write a perfectly normal reply to this topic I get a message saying:
    “Hmmm, your comment seems a bit spammy. We’re not real big on spam around here. Please go back and try again.”

    this is my 5th attempt :(

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  15. Mariane ICELAND Mozilla Firefox Debian GNU/Linux says:

    Ah, OK, it didn’t want my real email address. Fine. Here is my original comment:

    Dell won’t even let you send an email to support if you bought your computer outside of the US. They tell you to contact the support in the country where you bought it. So if you don’t speak the language of this country you’re screwed. I didn’t care about the original language of this computer because I knew I was going to reinstall it straight away. I never dreamed that I would be barred from English-speaking support sites if I bought my laptop in another country.

    Phoning abroad and waiting one hour on the phone is not an option. Too expensive. So for me Dell customer support cannot be contacted at all, full stop.

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  16. Luke Maciak UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Windows Terminalist says:

    @ Mariane:

    Sigh… The spam filter has a mind of it’s own it seems. Sorry about that. Maybe you had a funky email address or url that was similar to what spammers commonly use and it triggered it.

    Anyways, the last two comments went through. :)

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