What The Hell Happened To Dell?


I remember when Dell was the gold standard of the PC industry. When my wife and I were dating, my now-father-in-law’s Dell desktop started having some trouble and they narrowed it down to some RAM. They sent him some new RAM sticks, only to have those sticks bork his computer. So they sent him a complete CPU/mobo/RAM replacement. Nary a complaint from him.

Fast forward nearly 10 years. I regret recommending my brother go with Dell when looking for a laptop. His hard drive has failed on him for a second time. When he calls, it’s like pulling teeth. Everyone has a foreign accent which in itself is not a bad thing, but it’s obvious Dell has completely outsourced its tech support. It’s also obvious that these employees are struggling with a mess that Dell has created for them. Despite supplying the express service code during the IVR (Integrated Voice Response aka talking to a machine) interaction, the first rep asks for it again. The first tech then forwards the call to desktop hardware support. As this happens every freakin’ time, this is more systematic ineptitude than it is employee ineptitude. After the second tech forwards us to laptop hardware support, we’ve already wasted 25 minutes on the phone.

He tries to explain to the tech what’s going on in ways the rest of the world understands. Windows Vista is freezing. A read test on the hard drive reports cyclical data errors. Running Microsoft’s chkdsk with the /r (repair) option takes forever because it is finding numerous bad sectors. To anyone who knows anything about computers, all signs point to a bad a hard disk. To Dell’s tech support, this means nothing. They only speak in error codes from their own diagnostic program, so they try to get him to pay for a remote system restore, then to have him re-install of Windows, then have him fiddle with the device’s settings in the BIOS. I’m not sure how he got to the point where they had him run the diagnostic program, but thankfully he did.

You would think that if a customer says he has a particular problem, you would opt to go the last route first. Instead of wasting time on a complete system wipe which may or may not solve the problem, you can run a diagnostic which may or may not pinpoint the problem but will at least narrow your possibilities. Once we he had the error codes, one last call finally got him a new hard drive.

Along the way, the techs will try to sell sell sell. Want to upgrade to American-only tech support? Want to buy into Dell On-Call? Dell remote system restore? Did it ever occur to Dell that the absolute worst time to up-sell service is when their stuff is broken? Especially when their stuff on their end is broken? It just so happened that the weekend he needs tech support is the same weekend in which Dell starts having major trouble with their servers. Sometimes his calls had severe echo. Sometimes he had scratching noises combined with low voice volumes. One time Dell’s tech support service was completely down and he was told to call back in an hour or two.

I’ve never seen such ineptitude in my life. Dell’s officially off my recommendation list.