In the past I often defended Dell support on the grounds that while they are technologically inept, their warranty support is actually useful for part replacement. My usual experience with them was rather positive and it would usually go like this:
- I call dell and tell them what is wrong, and explain the troubleshooting steps I already did
- I kill 20 minutes browsing Reddit saying “Yep, tried that – didn’t work” every few minutes as they work their way through the script
- I confirm my address and finish the call
- Next day a tech drone comes in and replaces my parts
Every once in a while there would slip up, and the whole process would be delayed a day or two. For the most part though this pattern was rather consistent. Until this last problem which turned into string of failures on their part. I’m putting it here as a reference. I’m angry at them not because I had to wait over two weeks for them to make good on the “next business day” warranty. I’m mostly angry because for two solid weeks no one at Dell was able to give me anything even remotely close to a problem resolution. Their answer to everything was “wait a day or two and it will be resolved eventually”.
I don’t know – maybe I’m wrong about this. Tell, me – when a customer calls you because you failed to deliver agreed upon service on time because you fucked up and had to re-create his order not once, not twice, but three times do you tell that person to wait some more? You would think there would be some channel through which you can go and say “Hey, we really fucked up on this one, can we do something to make this customer happy?” But no. Both their tech support and their customer service department are handled by outsourced call centers in India and they don’t seem to have any power or capacity to deal with cases like this one.
Here is the story as it unfolded.
Thursday, March 18
I called Dell with a hardware issue that rendered a laptop inoperable. It was one of those retarded Studio laptops with a power button on the side. The wire that connects the power button assembly to the mother board snapped and the whole poorly engineered contraption had to be replaced. The call was dealt with pretty fast. I made sure the guy took down the address where I expected the service, and asked him to put extra directions in the notes section because everyone gets fucking lost in my office building. There are no suite numbers and we have this thing called “the ground floor” labeled as G in the elevator. So if you take the lift, you need to press 2 to get to my floor. But if you take stairs, it is technically 3 flights up. I can’t tell you how many times I had to go and fetch some 3rd party vendor or contractor who was wandering around on the wrong floor.
It was going great up until I was told I should expect the technician within 2-3 business days. I figured this was a mistake, so I reminded the support guy the laptop was under their “Next Business Day” warranty. As I mentioned earlier, I dealt with Dell for a while and they usually were very good about sending out the parts and dispatching the technician the very next business day.
I was told that sometimes the parts take more than a day to arrive at the that handles the on-site service and so they are required to say this just to cover their bases. They make every attempt to make the service be handled the next business day, but sometimes things out of their control happen and the service hits a snag. I was told that the technician should be on site on Friday, or at the latest on Monday. Fair enough.
Friday, March 19
I haven’t heard from the technician, so I around noon I called Dell. I was told that unfortunately for some reason the part did not get sent the same day. Apparently even though I called early morning EST time, the dispatch got swept away to their afternoon batch which is usually handled the next day. This meant that the dispatch was being processed and the replacement parts should arrive at the vendor on Monday.
Fine. This sucks, but there is nothing you can really do about the force of nature that is the weekend.
Monday, March 22
No word from technician. I called Dell around 11am, only to speak with a very confused tech who could not find my dispatch number. After putting me on hold repeatedly for about 20 minutes he finally figured out what happened. Apparently one of the parts that was needed for the service was not in stock so some genius went and canceled the dispatch. From what he was telling me I figured out that the cancellation pretty much made my whole case look like resolved from his end, and it was unlikely anyone would do anything to investigate it, or even let me know what happened. Good thing I called them then.
The guy apologized profusely and promised me my machine would be serviced at the latest on Wednesday.
Tuesday, March 23
I figured that I’ll call Dell and check up on the status of that elusive missing part that got my dispatch canceled the last time. If it happened once, it could happen again so I decided to keep pestering them until they get it right. Turns out that no one canceled the dispatch this time, because there was not in the system at all. After spending some quality time on hold, I was finally told that they were experiencing some problems with their system the other day, and my dispatch was not sent out. He re-created it for me, and made sure it was properly sent while I was on the phone.
Quite annoyed at the situation I asked to speak with a manager. I asked him to make sure my case is expedited. He explained there was nothing he could do. I asked him what he can do for me as a very dissatisfied customer. He apologized, and asked me to wait until Thursday. If the service was not rendered on that day, he would then escalate the case. He also promised to schedule a follow up call with a senior technician to make sure the service was adequate.
Thursday, March 25
I haven’t heard from the technician until noon, so I called Dell up. They confirmed the parts were sent to the vendor and proceed to conference me in to a customer service rep from that company. The nice lady looked through their logs, confirmed they do have the parts and that they were sent out with the technician in the morning. She also said that their logs indicated the tech tried to call me 3 times to schedule an appointment but couldn’t get through – which was bullshit. I gave them the main office number which is always picked up – there are multiple lines, and there is always at least one person manning the phones. She paged the technician and notified him to call me again within half an hour. I actually checked with the front desk to find if there were any missed that day – there wasn’t.
The guy called me an hour and a half later, saying he is on his way. I gave him my standard spiel about the floor numbering and suite numbers just to be sure. Two hours later he called back, very confused. He told me that he was standing in front of an empty residence building that looks as if no one have lived there for quite some time. Turns out he arrived at the original shipping address that Dell had in the system – this would have been fine if it was 2 years ago, and someone was still living there.
Fortunately, that address was about 20 minutes from the office, so I just told him to get here. Sadly, it was not his region. Furthermore he was not authorized to render the service at an address other than specified in his work orders.
I called his company explaining the error. I asked them to just let the guy come over. Barring that, have him hand the parts to someone who handles my region and get it done. Unfortunately they were not allowed to do that. Dell policies were very clear about the cases like this – they were instructed to send the parts back to the dispatch center. Things like hand-offs or changing the address where the service was performed were strictly prohibited by their policy. I was told to contact Dell and have them change the dispatch to show the new address.
Few minutes after I got off the phone, a manager of that company called me to once again apologize for the error, and to ensure me this was a mistake on Dells part. He agreed with me that having the parts being sent back to Dell was a waste of money, but his hands were tied. He have me his phone number and told me to call him the next day if the service is delayed and he will do anything in his power to help me speed things up. He was a really nice guy.
I called Dell, and told them the story. They apologized for the mistake on their part, took down the correct address. I had to repeat and spell it around 8 times, but eventually it got entered in the system. I asked when can I expect the service. The answer was that it was going to take at least 5 to 6 business days to rectify the issue. You see, they had to:
- Wait for the parts to be sent back from the vendor
- Process them and make sure they were not damaged
- Repackage them and send them back to the same vendor
The technician I spoke to was adamant that this is the way it has to be done, and there was nothing he could do about it. He definitely could not authorize a hand off, and he could not speed this up. I eventually got his manager on the phone who reluctantly agreed to breach their usual protocol to help me out. He would go out of his way, and authorize them to create a new dispatch to send another set of parts to the vendor. That was the only thing he could do.
I spent about two hours talking to this guy essentially saying “I’m an outraged customer. Do something. Let me speak to your boss.” Sadly I was apparently speaking to the god of Dell tech support because he claimed there is the head of the call center and there is no one he can escalate it to. Eventually I got tired of repeating the same things over and over again, and getting canned responses from the manual so I asked him to transfer me to customer service so I can complain.
Of course I had to tell this whole story to the customer service lady, who patiently listened to it and then said “Ok, let me transfer you to the right department”. Fuck my life. I got another person on the line and I repeated the story only to be told I’ve been sent to the wrong department. So I had to tell my story third time to some dude who started to give me attitude.
When I said I wanted to complain that their “Next Business Day” service warranty is taking over a week he asked me if I read the terms of service, and tried to quiz me on them. Like I have them committed to memory. He demanded to know on which page does it say that the next business day service must be rendered the next business day without exceptions. I asked him to tell me the page on which it said that Dell had the option to indefinitely delay rendering of the service. That made him change the topic and start pulling out some numbers out of his ass saying “this is how much you pay for the warranty, and this is the cost of the parts we replacing – so we are already losing money by helping you”. Fuck that. If what I paid for the warranty does not cover my repair costs fully, that’s their fucking problem. Let’s not forget the whole concept of warranty is that it is free money unless something actually breaks.
I asked to speak to his manager and… I got to talk to the same guy I spoke with a half an hour earlier. You know, the alpha and omega of Dell call centers who reports to no one but the creator of the universe himself. Fuck that guy.
Friday, March 26
Oh, hi… I think your part is on back order or something and the dispatch got canceled and we were not even going to tell you. I have good news though. The part should be sent out on Monday though, so your laptop will get serviced Tuesday or Wednesday at the latest.
Fuck my life. Please someone tell me this is not a Groundhog day time loop! Please!
I called customer service again and spent about 4 hours arguing with about 8 different people, their managers, their managers managers and etc. I asked for my money back. “Sure thing. We will just have to cancel your warranty and call off the technician”. Fuck that. Send me a new laptop. The first guy told me that such a thing is impossible, and I can talk to his manager or even the CEO of Dell but no one will ever authorize such a thing. So I asked to speak with CEO of dell, and barring that his manager. Apparently it was possible and the manager didn’t even have to call the CEO. He just had to transfer me to the “pissed off customer” department or something. This of course meant I had to tell my story to another low level drone, and then get that drones manager on the phone. Finally he agreed to exchange the laptop – and it would only take 16 to 18 days and I have to send it my laptop first. Oh, and the replacement will be a refurbished machine so it “may or may not work”. That’s actually what he told me. Good to know, asshole.
I asked him what he can do for me – a very angry and very disappointed repeat customer who will probably never buy Dell again. He said there are 3 options:
- Shut the fuck up and wait for my laptop to be serviced like I was told, and stop complaining like a pussy
- Wait a few weeks, and have the laptop replaced with another one which will probably be pre-broken for my convenience
- Throw the laptop out the window, and get the warranty money credited back to me
There was apparently nothing else he could possibly do because – well, he is just a dude in a call center on a different continent, and he is not even employed directly by Dell so he doesn’t give a flying fuck about the company, just like the company doesn’t give a fuck about him. He didn’t actually say that but it was sort of implied. I asked him who could do something for me. Who could he escalate the call to.
“Well…. I possibly could possibly contact… Nah… That wouldn’t work”
“Well… Possibly… I could maybe escalate it to… um… THE CORPORATE OFFICE“
And yes, in case you were wandering he said corporate office in all caps and bolded it with his voice. I was like “YES! I want that. Get the corporate office on the phone right now!” Finally. Maybe I could even talk to someone who is actually located on the same continent.
My excitement was premature though because apparently the corporate office is too 1337 to actually give out their number to lowly call center people. The can send them an email.
So supposedly the mysterious and elusive corporate office is going to call me withing 48 hours. Oh wait… They won’t because it is 6pm on Friday and no one is going to be picking up that phone over the weekend.
Monday, March 29
In the morning i get a phone call from the technician who says he has the parts and will be arriving around noon. Little later I get a phone call from dell which goes pretty much like this:
“Hi this is [hard to pronounce Indian sounding first name] from Dell. I’m calling to see if a technician has contacted you regarding your warranty support service call today”
Yes, as a matter of fact he did. I just spoke to him and he should be here in a few hours but I wanted to say that I am very dissatisfied with…
“That’s great. Thank you for that information. I’m going to close your case now. Thank you for using Dell.” *CLICK*
Could this be the dreaded corporate office call? I hope not!
The technician eventually arrived at the site and performed surgery on the defective machine. It took him an unusual amount of time. Eventually he emerged from the conference room where I placed him and told me the bad news. Apparently one of the parts they sent him was from the wrong model. So while the power button works, some of the plastic parts around it are still broken which may lead to another accident involving the power button being dislocated and broken. Fortunately they just have to re-order the right part, and he will need to come back another day – and I don’t have to make another call to Dell.
I called them anyway and spent 3 hours on the phone trying to explain to them the nature of my problem. No one seemed to get it. After all, my laptop was fixed and the mis-matched part is going to be replaced in the matter of days. What could I possibly be angry about.
This ladies and gentlemen is not how you do customer support. I understand that often people who call support lines tend to be angry and upset for no reason. I understand that sometimes customer expectations as to your service are not realistic. I believe I was pretty realistic about this though. I didn’t expect them to service the machine next business day. I made allowance for shipping hiccups and errors. But I think that there should be some reasonable point at which you have to say “enough”. If your next business day service takes 7 business days and spans two weekends you are clearly doing something wrong.
Furthermore the offshore centers seem to be set up to make it almost impossible for a customer complaint to reach anyone with decision making capacity at Dell. They are acting as independent firewalls and buffer zones that are supposed to placate customers, and if that’s not possible just bounce them from a department to a department until they lose interest. At no point did I speak with anyone who could actually help me out. Every manager and support representative seemed to be intent on stalling and asking me to be patient because this is how Dell does things and that’s that. No one ever offered me any kind of resolution. No one was willing to make up for their mistakes and my lost time. All they could say to me was: “Please wait some more and we will eventually get it right one of these days”. Which is of course true – eventually they will get it right. If not tomorrow, then in a week or after 15 more iterations.
We seem to be having a fundamental problem with how customer support is handled in these big corporations. Everyone knows about this. Everyone complains about the buffer-zone call centers. But no one does anything. I am not against outsourcing per se – but there should be a communication channel thorough which they could escalate special support cases to someone with decision making capacity at the parent company.
Have you ever experienced a similar tech support custerfuck?