Dell Tech Support Fun

Just for fun, let me show you a fun tech support ticked we have filled out recently. This is mostly taken from the issue tracking system, lightly to remove for personal information, improve grammar and make more readable and comprehensible. I removed all the names, except John Smith which is entirely fictional theoretical user type character. This is how it started:

Ticket #: 3223
Subject: Broken Hinge + Faulty Power Socket
Started: 02/13/09 05:30.03 pm
Resolved: Not Resolved
Contact: John Smith
Priority: high
Status: open
Type: hardware
Description: The laptop has a broken display hinge and a faulty power socket in the back. The socket seems loose and is not charging properly unless the power cord is held in a specific position. Ruled out power cord/power brick issue by using a secondary. It will probably need a new motherboard.
Steps Taken: System is on warranty and Dell will replace these parts. John will drop of the computer on Monday, pick up a loaner laptop and we will handle the communication with Dell.

So far so good, right? A guy broke a hinge, and somehow managed to dislodge the power supply assembly so that it is not charging his laptop. We get the computer, call Dell, have it serviced and we are back in business. Or so it would seem.

Followup for Issue #3223 posted on 02/16/09 11:16 am
John dropped off the computer and picked up the loaner. Noticed that the machine also has a chipped palm-rest and is missing rubber feet on the bottom. Will include these items in the service call.
Followup for Issue #3223 posted on 02/16/09 12:04 pm
Made a call to Dell warranty service. They created a dispatch and will do the following:
- Replace the motherboard (with the faulty power socket)
- Replace the broken hinge
- Replace the chipped palm rest
- Install missing rubber feet on the bottom of the laptop
The technician won't come until Wednesday since their US dispatch center is not open on Presidents Day.

This, BTW was very nice of them. In the past we sometimes had trouble with Dell refusing to do “cosmetic” repairs on warranty. If you call in with a chipped palm-rest or missing rubber feet which do not affect the overall performance they sometimes refuse to service them. However we have noticed that if you throw these little things in with big issues, they are much more likely to fix them. So you call in with a dead mobo and you mention the faded Dell logo on top of the case, the chipped corner of the palm rest, etc… This was standard operating procedure.

Also, it is reasonable to expect their center to be closed on a holiday. A lot of businesses are. Imagine our surprise when the technician did show up the next day. Apparently their US center was not closed – the folks in India simply assumed it was.

Followup for Issue #3223 posted on 02/17/09 10:02 am
The Dell technician in on his way. Apparently our call was processed and the parts will be replaced today.
Followup for Issue #3223 posted on 02/17/09 11:45 am
Dell guy arrived. Set him up in one of the spare cubicles and gave him the laptop.
Followup for Issue #3223 posted on 02/17/09 12:30 pm
The Dell technician finished his work, and left the laptop with the secretary. Picked it up and will test it and notify John that he can pick it up.
Followup for Issue #3223 posted on 02/17/09 12:35 pm
The laptop had all the cosmetic work done (the hinge, the palmrest, etc..) but the power socket issue was not resolved. Will call Dell to investigate.

Yup, that’s right. The guy came in to replace the motherboard and also few plastic parts that had a lot of wear and tear on them. He sat here for an hour, and somehow he forgot to replace the motherboard. By the time he was done, everyone was out to lunch or in a meeting so he left it with the secretary as instructed. If someone was there to test it on the spot we could ask him what the hell was he thinking. But, alas we found out he didn’t do the job some time after he left.

Also, smart guy that he was, he didn’t leave his number or the number for his company. The secretary confirmed that she didn’t even need to sign anything as a proof he performed the service. Also, since our phone system sucks we were unable to figure out what number he called from initially when he scheduled the visit. The story only gets better from here:

Followup for Issue #3223 posted on 02/17/09 12:40 pm
Spoke with a lady from Dell. I don't think she understood my problem. She kept asking me to read off the error on my screen to her (what error?), gave me a new case number and kept insisting that I wait for technician who will call me in 3-5 days (this is a next business day service account). I repeatedly mentioned that the technician already came in but did not finish the job. She got very confused then started asking me for system errors again. I described the power socket issue at least 3 times to her. I finally mentioned that the screen is flickering because when it goes on battery it automatically dims the display, and makes it bright again when it detects AC power. She then proceeded to create a dispatch to replace the display in the system. I hung up. Will be placing another call shortly.
Followup for Issue #3223 posted on 02/17/09 1:20 pm
Placed another call. This time the support guy was more helpful. He gave me a phone number to FedEx where I could call to inquire about the parts that were delivered. He told me to use the dispatch number as a reference.
Followup for Issue #3223 posted on 02/17/09 1:32 pm
Called FedEx and they did not know what I was talking about. They could not look up the dispatch number. They use their own tracking numbers for everything. They also mentioned that the Dell representative should have contacted them directly because they won't release tracking details of their corporate accounts to private customers.
Followup for Issue #3223 posted on 02/17/09 2:15 pm
Placed another call to Dell. Finally got a reasonable person on the line. She checked the status of the dispatch and determined that the motherboard was held back in transit and did not arrive at the pickup location with the rest of the items. The motherboard shipped in the afternoon and was now available for pickup. The technician would have to pick it up, and return to complete the job.
She said she will place a call notifying the outsourced contractor company that handled our case of the error. She also gave me their number so I can follow up on this and schedule an appointment. I am to use my the dispatch number to identify the case to the contractor.
Followup for Issue #3223 posted on 02/17/09 3:47 pm
Tried calling the number provided by Dell. The company on the other side was a Dell contractor service, but they could not find the dispatch number in their system. They could also not find any recent dispatch cases for our company searching by phone number, company name and address. Need to contact Dell and confirm the dispatch # and the contractor phone #.
Followup for Issue #3223 posted on 02/17/09 4:15 pm
Dell confirmed the dispatch number. The contact number they provided was indeed incorrect. They supplied me with a correct number. I asked them to make a follow up call to the contractor but the Dell support tech did could not understand the issue, and got lost while reading the case notes. Will place the call myself on the updated number.
Followup for Issue #3223 posted on 02/17/09 5:05 pm
The number provided by dell was not in service. This is ridiculous.

With each call the Dell people seem to be getting more and more confused. Also, they don’t seem to be able to keep their contractors straight. They have wrong or outdated contact numbers and they don’t seem to be able to contact them directly. It seems that they are completely unable to deal with real life cases such as this one. Anything that is not included in their manual of scripted responses and troubleshooting steps is beyond their capability.

Ok, the 2:15pm entry does show that there are couple of people in that call center who can actually investigate complex issue and do some leg work for you. The rest of them are lazy fucks who don’t want to even try to understand the problem and just want to get you off the line. But this was not over yet:

Followup for Issue #3223 posted on 02/18/09 9:11 am
Spoke with Dell. They insisted that I wait for the technician to call back. They also said it is against their policy to give me the direct number to the contractor. They refused to do anything else, and just insisted that we wait for a call.
Followup for Issue #3223 posted on 02/18/09 12:38 am
Spent over an hour trying to explain this issue to another Dell representative. They could not figure out what was going on, and did not want to investigate this further. They opened a new dispatch for me and will be sending over another motherboard. They also insisted that we replace the motherboard cradle and plastic casing on the bottom of the system as well as the AC adapter. Let's hope the technician doesn't forget to replace the motherboard again

There is a fundamental communication breakdown at work here. Dell tech support drones do not talk to each other, and to not talk to their contractors. Furthermore, they are to lazy to write case notes. Their system is set up in such a way that it is trivial for them to create a whole new dispatch number but almost impossible to investigate a case where something went awry. No one in the call center seemed to know how to really get to the bottom of this and so there is an orphaned box containing a motherboard at a FedEx pickup location somewhere. No one will probably ever claim it because Dell’s system is not designed to deal with problems like that.

The call center drones create a dispatch number, they push it out to the contractor and sends a request to their hardware facility. The hardware facility boxes up the necessary part, and sends it to the contractor. If at some point in this process someone drops the ball and a box is lost, or delayed they steamroll right over it. It won’t get fixed or corrected unless you call, complain and make them create a new dispatch and re-send the missing parts.

Anyway, now for the anti-climactic concussion. It all actually turned out ok and they finally got it right.

Followup for Issue #3223 posted on 02/19/09 10:53 am
Dell technician called in. He is on his way to replace the motherboard.
Followup for Issue #3223 posted on 02/19/09 11:11 am
Dell guy has arrived. I gave him the computer and explained the issue again.
Followup for Issue #3223 posted on 02/19/09 11:43 am
The technician finished working on the system. I personally confirmed that the power socket issue was fixed. He also replaced the AC adapter and the bottom plastics on the machine. I will notify John that his computer is ready for pickup.

All they really had to do was to call the contractor and let them know the mobo arrived late. Instead they ended up paying more. They had to send out more hardware, and they had to pay the contractor for a second visit. That’s good news for the contractors, but everyone else involved had pretty shitty experience. Dell lost money (not that they would care about such a minuscule amount – but still), and we had piss poor customer experience and lost almost 2 days and way to many man hours dealing with this crap.

As a side note, they sent out the same guy who handled the initial service. I did have a chance to talk to him briefly but he played dumb when I asked about not replacing the motherboard the first time around. Which I guess is understandable – he was covering his ass. I could have argued with him, but there was really no point. It wouldn’t really change anything at this point.

Before you chime in with “LOL, this is what you get for using Dell” let me qualify that, yes, I do in fact know their customer service sucks. Still, we have these machines here, and we did pay for the warranty and the next day service. It’s not like we can switch out hardware support to another vendor for these machines right now.

Anyways, I hope this provided some sort of amusement to you. In retrospect I probably could have made it funnier as a narrative rather than the support ticket copy and paste. but oh well. Also, if the ticket blurbs look like crap in your RSS reader just visit the site directly. There is CSS here to render them correctly.

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14 Responses to Dell Tech Support Fun

  1. Andrei IRELAND Internet Explorer Windows says:

    A Dell technician came to replace the motherboard on my Dell XPS 1330. He did repair it, but he managed to break the wire to the webcam.

    He had to come next day to replace the cable 8-)

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  2. Morghan Phoenix UNITED STATES Epiphany Linux says:

    My system doesnt POST.

    Try reinstalling Windows.

    Umm, if it doesn’t even get through POST it’s not going to boot from the DVD drive.

    Put your Windows CD in the drive and reset the laptop.

    Seriously, are you even listening to me?

    We’re trying to help you here, (something about being hostile, can’t recall the exact words)

    Okay, here’s the deal, I’m fairly certian that all I need to do is pull the cmos battery for a sec and it should fix itself unless I need a new motherboard. Can you just tell me how to find it on this?

    (Insert long description about how to locate the laptop battery)

    No, that’s not the battery I mean, the little backup battery that resets my BIOS when I pull it.

    I don’t understand what you’re asking.

    Okay, can you transfer me to someone who does understand what I’m saying.

    I really don’t think I’m ever buying a Dell again, maybe another Toughbook. This little bugger is over a decade old and the only thing wrong with it is the “2″ key takes a bitt of effort to push. That Dell had a half-dozen problems in the year I had it, enough that I sold it at a major loss with two years left on the warranty/ADP just to be rid of the thing.

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  3. Shawn GERMANY Google Chrome Windows says:

    Do you mind if I ask what ticketing system you guys use?

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  4. Mart SINGAPORE Mozilla Firefox Windows Terminalist says:

    My Dell Inspiron at home is 2.5 years old and is still chugging along smoothly. My recently acquired Dell Latitude given to me at work always some some funny Windows freezing issues and the WLAN device locking up sometimes.

    :P

    Anyway, nice story! Worthy of TheDailyWTF!

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  5. jambarama UNITED STATES Google Chrome Windows Terminalist says:

    Wow, that’s bad. I’ve not had an experience with dell support that bad before. Typically I’d slap in a blank hard drive, they’d replace the whole thing, and I’d put the real drive back in. You should send this to someone at Dell. Seems like they should want to work on their system.

    BTW the support tickets looked fine in my rss reader (google reader).

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  6. freelancer SWEDEN Mozilla Firefox Windows Terminalist says:

    We had a few broken Dell laptops at my old high school once, and a technician came to fix them. Turns out he had brought the wrong motherboard, the wrong size screen and the wrong power adapter, and therefor couldn’t fix anything. I don’t know whose fault it was, but needless to say I wasn’t impressed.

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

    @Morghan Phoenix: LOL! Classic!

    You see, I figured it long time ago that these people have no technical knowledge. So I just let them lead me through the motions, and when they ask me for something really silly I just tell them I did it and that it didn’t work.

    But this issue was not technical in nature. I figured they should not have major issues picking up the phone and calling their contractor and straightening the whole thing out – or barring that, giving us the correct number to the said contractor. But I was wrong. :P

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

    @Shawn: Yeah, we use an early incarnation of SITS which is very tightly coupled to a much bigger house built intranet system. Or rather, SITS is my attempt to use what I learned building that ticketing system, and re-write it from scratch as an open source project.

    Which doesn’t help you much because at the moment it is vaporware.

    I would recommend Trac as a good alternative. Very configurable, and very simple to use if you get over the fact that the administration options must be done from CLI. I’d highly recommend it, with a small caveat – it’s a pain in the ass to set up in a windows environment. If you do have a liux box running somewhere it will take you 3 minutes to set up.

    @Mart: Actually I still have several Inspiron 4000′s that are chugging along just fine. They are probably 6-7 years old at this point. Despite the popular belief, some Dell systems can virtually run forever despite their shit hardware. Others drop like flies – it all depends.

    @jambarama: Heh, I did that before too. Whenever they insist they need to replace hard drive, I’d just stick one of the old and flaky drives that I determined to cause issues and let them replace that.

    Nowadays, I don’t think we would be allowed to let Dell walk out of here with our hard drive unless we blanked it out using software compliant with the DoD specs for secure electronic data disposal.

    @freelancer: Wow, that’s pretty bad. At least the guy that came here did have the parts for the correct model. Just not all of them. But yeah, their coordination is crap.

    @Andrei: LOL! Too funny! Though I have to admit I did something very similar once. I was fixing a laptop for a friend/family member. It involved replacing a mobo that I just got off ebay. I mixed up the screws, and ended up using the wrong one in the wrong place. I used a really long one, when I was supposed to use a short one and it went straight through the motherboard. I essentially drilled a hole through it with the screw.

    Fortunately, when I tested the machine everything worked fine. Apparently I didn’t drill through anything important. :P

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  9. Matt` UNITED KINGDOM Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    “The socket seems loose and is not charging properly unless the power cord is held in a specific position.”

    I’m pretty sure I’ve had this exact same problem before… twice in fact. From what the tech they sent out said, it’s fairly easy to break the power connector over time if the adapter plugged into it gets jiggled too much or puts pressure on the board. Example being if you pick it up with the cord plugged in and lift the front side first so that that the plug in the back of the laptop turns into a little lever pushing against the desk and the mobo.

    I’ve always had decent support from Dell… sometimes takes a few emails back and forward to get stuff fixed, if I was pressed for time that would probably piss me off, but they’ve always ended up replacing the faulty parts.

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

    @Matt`: You are correct. I actually took the damn thing apart before I called Dell hoping I could “reattach” it on the spot. No ball. The damn thing is held in place by the flimsy little snap-in “claws” that hook into the motherboard. It is actually not supported by the mobo cradle, or the plastics. You hit it once or twice the wrong way and it get’s loose. Once it gets loose you can sever connection quite easily.

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  11. Ryan UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    We have about 1900 desktops and laptops, all Dell. We are leasing most of these and we have gotten an extended warranty on these. We don’t have to go through *quite* as much crap with them because most of the tech dept are “dell certified” so we can request our own warranty parts.
    There are a few things that i don’t like about this arrangement however. We have to pay to join the “Warranty Parts Direct ” program, we have to take these insane tests for different lines of computers, such as laptops, desktops, servers, printers etc. that we pay *per test* in addition to the fee to enroll. These tests have to be re-purchased if you fail (no one has failed one yet though) and they expire yearly, along with the enrollment. Currently we have a server with a bad fan, that we can’t get a purchase order approved, to buy the test to take the test, to request the warranty part. Also, for the same political reasons, we can’t have one of their on site techs come out and fix it.
    Aside from those issues, we log into a website, enter the service tag, enter a brief description of the problem and after approval from Dell, the part gets shipped overnight in most cases.
    This is a life saver, esp. considering that there are only two laptop/ desktop techs for the district.
    I have my gripes with the system and have had almost the same problem that Luke has described but with getting the wrong mobo sent out, send back, having the same bad mobo come back to me, sending it back again, getting my part request denied because i have requested the same part for the same computer three times, then finding the only other model in the district using that service tag and finally getting a working mobo.
    Also worth noting is that almost all the parts send by dell are refurbished.
    I have only gotten one other bad part in two years using this however.

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  12. mikev80 UNITED STATES Google Chrome Windows says:

    I’ve become a great fan of their chat service…much easier to communicate and comprehend without saying, “excuse me, can you repeat that?”

    You can really tell they don’t have any technical know-how’s when they ask me to swap out the memory chip and reboot, and I respond, “okay, I just did that” 10 seconds later. If only my hands were that quick and XP booted in under 10 seconds.

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

    @Ryan: Oh wow. Nice to be able to order the parts yourself, but these exams sound like a major pain in the ass. We only have around 50 machines in total and so far it has been ok for the technician to come in and fix it.

    @mikev80: Never tried their chat support. I may need to try it one day and see if it’s less annoying than the phone support.

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  14. vacri AUSTRALIA Mozilla Firefox Debian GNU/Linux says:

    There is a fundamental communication breakdown at work here. Dell tech support drones do not talk to each other, and to not talk to their contractors. Furthermore, they are to lazy to write case notes.

    When you’re talking a large call centre with people dedicated to the phone, you’re talking huge call volumes and people on the phone fairly constantly. It’s not like a small shop where people can chat about the day’s calls. The case notes thing is unforgivable though – even a few lines is very helpful to the next poor sap who gets the case. I used to work in customer support centre for a telco and I was considered unusual for leaving detailed, useful case notes. I actually got in trouble with my second, stupider team leader because I *fixed* people’s problems instead of fobbing them off and keeping the KPIs ticking over.

    The thing to remember about large call centres is that the poor sap on the other end of the phone isn’t there because he’s passionate about the job and really wants to help you, it’s because he can’t get a job elsewhere and has to eat. The smarter ones move up and out and the chaff stays. It’s a crummy place to work, particularly if you deal with the general public.

    At the telco I lost count of the number of customers who ran businesses from residential class lines and “lost thousands an hour” because the SLAs are looser on residential lines… and if you’re making that much an hour, you can afford a business class line. Sorry, it’s just a hobby horse of mine – people expect world-class performance at bargain basement prices. Ultimately, if you want good service, vote with your feet and pay for it, because it’s far from cheap.

    Regarding Dell, they seem to have improved over recent years and their reliability now seems appropriate for their price point.

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