Dell’s useless customer “service”

[Update: This problem has since been resolved. Please also read How Dell fixed my monitor order for the full story.]

Dell logo

Dell, I’m not happy with you. I’m not happy with you at all. Your incompetent customer service has screwed up the timelines for an important project for a new client, yet your blind, stupid corporate machine blunders on like a brain-damaged slug.

If you read my Twitter stream yesterday you can probably skip this post. However I will document this little disaster because I’m still waiting for Dell to provide the promised explanation and I’ll point their people in this direction. I have specific questions at the end.

In brief, though, it was a customer “service” disaster. I’ll continue to recommend Hewlett Packard’s well-engineered computers and excellent service to my clients.

On 16 September I placed an order for six Dell 2408WFP 24-inch monitors. Normally I don’t buy Dell, but the client specified this exact piece of kit and it seemed a reasonable choice. Since my office was overflowing already, I arranged for them to be delivered directly to the client. And, because I was paying for the monitors on behalf of someone else, I chose “Reseller/Distributor” from some drop-down menu.

I was amused to see that Dell’s website wouldn’t show my order status until 3 days later, but since I did receive an email acknowledgement I figured everything was in order.

On 22 September, some 5 days after placing the order, an email arrived from the bowels of the Dell behemoth.

We have received your online order but unable to proceed as you have mentioned the product will be used for “Reseller/Distributor”.

Kindly confirm on the same for us to proceed with the order.

For further assistance kindly call us back on our toll free # 1800 812 393 Extn :5888.

Huh? What does “Kindly confirm on the same” mean? What is the actual problem here? And what business is it of yours what I’m doing with these monitors?

I phoned the number — and discovered that “extension 5888” is just the generic number for a call centre.

The receptionist who answers the phone can look up my order, see my name and know where to transfer me — but there isn’t anyone available to actually resolve the problem. She takes my number and says someone will phone me back.

No-one calls.

This happens three days in a row, and the clock is ticking.

Eventually I get fed up with the receptionist offering call-backs which never happen, and I demand that I get a human to speak with now. I do speak to a human, and though he never really explains what the problem was he reassures me (unconvincingly) that the order will now proceed — but that the “7 to 10 working days” delivery timer only starts now. I tell him this is appalling and ask that he pass my complaint up the line. He parrots back some canned corporate sentences and I hang up, frustrated.

Then on 25 September, another email arrives:

There is no reply for the last mail I have sent & do not have the contact #.

You. Incompetent. Arseholes.

Dell’s order form asks for phone numbers, and I gave them. I’ve also given my phone number three times when I call in relation to this order. And yet no-one seems to be able to record it anywhere.

I reply:

I’ve put in [Client X’s] name as the delivery address but I am handling all communications re this project. Is it [X] you want to speak to? Or is it me?

I can answer any questions on behalf of [X] and you may call me on +61 2 407 623 600.

The Delldroid responds, hours later:

I guess you can help me out.

Kindly let me know if this order is used for “Reseller/Distributor”.

Well, Dellslug, I did select that from the fucking menu, didn’t I? The equipment is being bought and paid for by one business but delivered to another. What the fuck you do you think?

Deep breath.

I reply:

There are two players here…

My business, Prussia.Net, the entity who is paying for them initially, is buying them on behalf of a client. That is why I put “Reseller/Distributor” on the order.

As the monitors are being delivered directly to the client’s premises, I put the contact name [X] on the delivery instructions. The client is [type of business] and the monitors are for their use.

Does this make sense?

Why does any of this matter?

I did not get a reply to this email. But then on 30 September, now fully a fortnight since I placed the order, I get another email:

[We] are unable to proceed with your order as we got an error message while charging your card.

Kindly give us a call back as we need to clarify the credit card details without which the order will not be processed…

Note: Kindly note the order will be automatically cancelled if we do not receive any update from your end within the next 3 business days.

Now, there’s no problem with the funds in this account. The client’s money has been sitting there, ready to pay for this order, for two weeks. So what’s the problem now?

And the arrogance! It’s OK for Dell to stuff around for days before responding, but if I’m a mere 72 hours late in responding to them then I get dumped.

I phone back — to the same call centre — and once more no-one is available and no-one calls back as promised. Twice. I have to vent at the poor receptionist again and demand to remain on hold until I can speak with the person responsible for this order. Once I speak with him — he may or may not be the same human I spoke with before — I give him the credit card details et voila! the payment is magickally processed just fine.

I tell this guy — David is his name, and apparently he’s the only David in the call centre so just the given name will find him — that I’m singularly unimpressed with the lack of service. I may have used stronger language. I ask him to email me a full transcript of everything related to this order, and an explanation of why five times calls were promised which never happened. I ask him to ensure this complaint is escalated to management. He says I’ll get an email by the end of the day.

No email arrives.

Surprise fucking surprise.

As I said on Twitter yesterday, Dell’s “service” failed here in three key ways.

  1. Dell takes so long to respond to anything. Bounced to “export control” days after the order was placed? Why is this not same-day, even instant?
  2. What was the problem with the credit card? Did I mis-key card numbers? Was there some other problem? Why didn’t Dell detect this when I placed the order two weeks ago? Why not do a $1 transaction then reverse it to check a card’s validity before proceeding?
  3. Why, on five occasions, did Dell promise someone would call back, but no-one called back? Why not have enough staff to handle volume?

Dell clearly skimps on important aspects of their business (and computers?) and instead spends on advertising. It is sweetly if annoyingly ironic that Dell has already sent snail-mail spam to the address I gave before my order was even processed.

Dell might be OK for non-critical jobs, but I get far, far, far better service from DPI Systems who deliver overnight, even same-day when required. OK, DPI Systems don’t have Dell. I see that as a plus: I can buy HP or Lenovo or Asus or Acer — and get a phone call from my account manager when there’s a problem.

Now I did ask if anyone had positive Dell stories to relate, and amongst the replies I was told:

Clearly Dell does have some happy customers, and they remain (as I write) the world’s 2nd-biggest-selling personal computer brand.

So, Dell, what went wrong here? Why did things take so long? Why didn’t people call back? And what are you doing about it which might convince me to change my policy of actively recommending against using Dell?

5 Replies to “Dell’s useless customer “service””

  1. This afternoon I got a call from Dell’s “ANZ Purchase Experience Manager” (now there’s a title!) who is following up this problem. Apparently Dell watches Twitter and/or blogs. Independently of that, an email arrived saying that the monitors are scheduled for delivery on 8 October.

    Looking back at what I wrote this morning, I can see a typo in one phone number I gave: “+61 2 407 623 600” instead of “+61 407 623 600”. Mea culpa. Still, this shouldn’t have delayed the order.

    1. I believe (until someone proves otherwise) that I’d put my correct phone numbers on the original order, and they’re in my email signature and on every website associated with me.
    2. A local call centre (as opposed to Bangalore, where I’m told this Dell call centre is located) would’ve had the local knowledge of phone number formats to spot my obvious mistake.

    All that said, Mr Dell Spokesman said that bounces to Export Control happen within 5 hours, not 5 days, and that they usually work more efficiently than this. I agree. How could Dell have achieved their successes if their service was usually this shoddy?

    I will report as things progress…

    @Stephen Stockwell: The Department of Information Retrieval, as in that truly wond’rous Terry Gilliam film Brazil, is an apt link. In Brazil a dead fly lodged in a printer caused “Buttle” to become “Tuttle” (or was it the other way around?), and the wrong man was arrested, tortured and killed. In any workflow system, mistakes can cascade into disaster if those systems aren’t designed well. That could be what’s happened here.

  2. If you are frustrated like me about getting nowhere with the overseas customer service department of Dell try contacting someone higher up the chain. In Australia call 13 33 55, choose option 4 and put in 5553. A lovely man named Charles should be able to help.

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