What the Dell? A tale of customer-service gone awry

Dell has gotten some notice for its inspired use of Twitter to connect with customers and earn money.  But customer service is more than posting a few tweets about bargains.

On Dec. 10, I discovered a great deal at dell.com: $400 off a powerful i5-series Intel processor with 8 gigabytes of RAM and a 1 terabyte hard drive. I decided on Dell for another computer because my previous Dell machine (with a few low-cost upgrades) is still chugging along after seven years.

After clicking through the shopping cart, Dell estimated a delivery date of Jan. 5. I hopped on the customer-service chat, hoping to change to a faster delivery method, but the representative said an order could not be changed once it was in the system.

For a $400 savings, I was willing to wait. I should have realized it was a warning from the heavens.

On Dec. 29, I received an e-mail from Dell Inc. (who was the listed sender):

No “Dear Mr. Groves.” No clear explanation as to why the delay occurred. No contact information for a real person.

It was becoming the Best Buy Trade-Off: Suffer through painfully poor customer service for low prices.

So I waited. On Jan. 6, I received an e-mail with this threat:

It is true the Federal Trade Commission has a 30-day rule regarding telephone and mail orders. But 30 days from the original order would be Jan. 9 — three days later. Why the fear-inducing urgency?

That day, I received a call on my cell phone from an automated Dell woman, threatening to cancel my order unless I took action today. I responded to US_Dell_Notify@dell.com and then called a customer-service rep — just to make sure. He told me my request had be noted and hung up, without giving me a confirmation number.

Later in the day, the automated Dell woman called again threatening to cancel my order.

I buzzed Dell again and was put on hold for five minutes. I gave the representative my name and told him my situation. “Do you have your order number?” he asked. I admitted I didn’t, and he said he could not look up my information without the order number. I was told to call back when I had the order number.

A computer company that can’t search by name? Argh.

I checked my e-mail and noticed US_Dell_Notify had not replied. I sent another e-mail, this time with my nine-digit customer number, my nine-digit order number, and my 13-digit Dell Product ID.

I called Dell again. This time, I was on hold for 10 minutes, and when the person came on, I requested a discount for the inconvenience the company had caused me. He said he could not do that because he handled only order queries; he would have to transfer me to the customer-care department.

Another wait. This time, it was 13 minutes. A man named Fiel — he said it so quickly I didn’t quite catch it — popped on and said “Thank you for holding. We are experiencing high call volume. Please call back in 15 minutes.”

Click.

Yes, he hung up on me. Really.

I began to suspect an evil ploy on Dell’s part: Offer a really great discount, but delay the promise so long that the consumer gives up and buys something else, at full price.

An hour later, I called again. This time, I was on hold for 20 minutes before Abi answered. I told her my situation, and she said, “Our systems are down. I cannot help you.” Pause. No apology. No offer of other assistance.

A computer company whose order systems are down? A R G H.

At 8 p.m., I received a third call from the automated Dell woman threatening to cancel my order.

Frustrated, I churned out a long complaint letter demanding a discount for the inconvenience.

This morning, this e-mail appeared from US_CAG_Customer_Care@dell.com:

Well, “Dear Jonathan” is better than no salutation.

I replied with an e-mail of disappointment and a threat of my own: I would tell everyone I know of this customer-service nightmare.

Consider this my shout to the world.

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4 thoughts on “What the Dell? A tale of customer-service gone awry

  1. That’s why I sick with Macs and order through Apple. The extra price is worth having a human voice at the other end of the line when I call plus their online service is very good. Apple does offer education discounts, too, by the way.

    • I do have a MacBook for work, and I agree — it is great. But I decided to get a PC to keep up with Windows 7 and reuse the massive amount of PC software we have amassed over the years. What’s shocking is Dell was much better seven years ago: Real people, real responses, real service.

  2. Jonathan – It’s unfortunate that you’ve had to endure such an inconvenience and I apologize. Although I know it may not seem like much coming from a representative of Dell whom you do not know, I am truly sorry. Not that it would make you feel any better, but we’re working aggressively to solve the issues and regret any inconvenience this has caused our customers.

    Also there are several of us out here from Dell supporting our customers via Twitter and Facebook. Feel free to reach out to me on Twitter and I will do all I can within my power to assist you. @LisaG_atDell

    Warm regards,
    LisaG from Dell

  3. Pingback: Part II: What the Dell? The saga continues « Changing Journalism

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