David's review of Dell's customer service <- David's Blog <- Home

How Dell lost my business

After a great deal of consideration on which laptop I should get to replace my mammoth Toshiba, I settled on the Dell Vostro 1400. The screen was a bit larger than I had planned, but the price was right ($1100) for a fairly well-specced machine. I placed my order about a week ago, and last night the computer arrived.

I opened the package, plugged the machine in, and waited. I was pleased with how quiet the system was, until I noticed that although all the LEDs had come on, the screen was still black.

I waited a bit, to see if it wasn't just doing some major startup processing, and then I took it to the back room to hook it up to an external monitor. And there was the picture. 'Great,' I thought, 'the screen's broken.'

When I unhooked the computer from the monitor, there was a very faint picture on the LCD. So I thought perhaps it had been some kind of startup thing. But then I played with it a bit and realized I couldn't get it to go any brighter. In a moderately lit room the screen was barely visible.

So I called customer support. And here's where the story really goes South.

I explained the problem and the steps I had taken to troubleshoot to the man on the other end. He spent some time, I think IMing to a technician. And then he says that the monitor cable isn't correctly connected.

OK, I think - that's fair enough. There's a problem, now we'll fix it. I was halfway right.

'So,' he says, 'we're going to try re-seat the cable.' I'm not really sure how I feel about this solution, but I'm game - maybe it's really easy. So he has me pop off a little plastic facade above the keyboard, and there's a cable there that appears to run from the monitor to something under the keyboard. He asks me if I can push it in. I can't really access it with my hand, but I give it a try with the screwdriver. It feels squishy, like I'm pushing on wires, rather than any sort of connecter.

Now, I don't know how much you know about laptops, but I've had a few apart, and often the wires in them are really skinny. And at this point I'm imagining severing a bank of them with my screwdriver. So I tell him I can't reseat it. So he responds 'OK, then we're going to have to take the keyboard off.'

Looking at the system, I see the keyboard is secured in place with two small screws. Now, as soon as we had started this little 'taking the computer apart' party, I had decided that as soon as screws had to come out, I was officially disassembling my new laptop, which most assuredly wasn't what I had signed up for when I bought it. So I tell him that I'm not comfortable continuing this operation.

At this point, he tells me his supervisor has been monitoring the conversation, and would like to speak to me. I assume that, finally, someone has come to their senses and is going to make this all right.

I was mistaken.

The supervisor comes on the line, and tries to talk me into continuing the process, assuring me that if we break anything Dell will fix it, etc.

Running through my head at this point is trying to convince anyone but these two individuals at the company that shoving a piece of metal through the wiring system was Dell's fault, after the fact.

So I tell him that no, I don't want to do this, I want Dell to fix the problem. So he says that if I won't continue the 'troubleshooting steps' they can't fix the problem.

This is the point where I finally lose my temper. I tell him that we are done talking, and that I simply want to return the computer. So he kicks me back to the original support guy, who connects me to a returns agent.

The young woman I'm connected to is happily processing my return, and I'm wondering when sales retention is going to try to save this computer sale. So I ask her, exasperated, if it was clear that I was a very unhappy customer, and wasn't someone going to try and solve my problem before I went away and never came back? Then I ask her if the support people had explained what was happening.

'Yes,' she says, 'they said you weren't willing to troubleshoot, and just wanted to return the computer.' I explain that no, in fact they had wanted me to disassemble the computer, and that all I really wanted was to have someone fix it. She tells me, surprised, that if that's all it is she can connect me to technical support.

My brain stumbles a moment, and then I ask her who I had been talking to, if not technical support. Apparently the people who had been having me fiddle around in the internals of my new laptop were simply customer support - first line phone people.

She asks me if I want to be connected to technical support, and I think about it for a moment. At this point I've been on the phone almost exactly one hour. And I think about the odds of having the exact same conversation again, and tell her no, just process the return.

This is the first purchase I've made from Dell in a decade, and I guarantee it will be the last. The most amazing thing about it all was that this was their business support line I had been connected to. If this is how they treat their business customers, I wonder how they treat their 'less important' home customers?

David's review of Dell's customer service <- David's Blog <- Home