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Dell customer support is fast becoming an oxymoron

Any computer owner that buys retail systems has likely had at least one run in with manufacturer that was lacking in the support area. With the fast growth of Dell, it tends to get the worst press for its customer service, and often the bad press is well deserved.

At the same time, most in the industry and most consumers understand that it’s only the bad service we commonly hear about; people tend to talk about the bad more than the good. Still, even Dell recognizes that it has an issue with its customer support. reports that in the latest American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) where computer makers were ranked, Dell scored 74 out of 100 while Apple, the PC leader, scored a rank of 79. In 2000 Dell had its strongest showing with a ranking of 80 showing a decline in satisfaction. Consumer Reports recently ranked tech support with major PC makers and put Apple tech support at the top and it put Dell above average in the tech support arena according to a survey of its subscribers.

What caused the decline in Dell’s customer support? says that it’s a combination of a maturing industry and Dell’s business model. Outsourcing of customer and technical support to other countries -- especially countries where support agents don’t speak native English -- makes things hard on customers.

There is no shortage of PC owners who call tech support only to be connected to someone in India or the Philippines -- where Dell opened a second call center in 2007-- who can barely speak understandable English. Couple the language barrier with customers who often can’t tell a USB port from a modem jack and you have a recipe for unhappy customers. The lower labor costs in India probably save Dell and other computer makers money, but it is doing good to the company’s iamge.

Improving customer satisfaction according to Claes Fornell, head of the ACSI at the University of Michigan, could lie in more customization options for consumers. Customer satisfaction is measured in three ways says -- price, product quality and service.  Fornell says, “The one that's the most critical of all is rarely discussed. The fit between the customer’s specific needs and wants and what the company is offering.”

Dell started off with custom, made-to-order PCs shipped directly to the consumer. As its business model has changed to pre-built computers offered at retail locations some users end up with systems that simply don't meet their needs or expectations. This leads to the feeling by consumers that the system is not reliable and more calls to customer or technical support. According to Dell, 80% of the calls it receives end with no finding of fault in the computer hardware.

In other words, the majority of calls to Dell support are from user error or the computer in question simply not being right for the task the customer is trying to accomplish. More customization would allow systems more tailored to customer needs possibly resulting in less calls to support and happier customers.

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RE: Alternative for Dell
By dever on 5/9/2008 2:10:16 PM , Rating: 5
Then again, someone who has a couple of years experience with a computer will be able to resolve most issues. Buying an Apple will ensure that part of your purchase price is used to subsidize absolute neophytes. While this may be good publicity, and good for the neophytes, the more experienced have incentive to not pay this unnecessary cost.

RE: Alternative for Dell
By ImSpartacus on 5/9/2008 4:35:27 PM , Rating: 2
In that case, build your own. Dell has its market (those neophyte you mentioned). Anyone else (and the majority of this website's audience) could probably build their own and plan to troubleshoot any problems they come across.

I myself bought a Dell 630 with an E8400, a single 8800GT, 4x1GB of Dominator DDR2 (overkill, but it was free) 2x250GB 7200.10's and a sound card (also free). It was $1200 with a 3 year warranty (free). I got $800 off with a boatload of packages and coupons. It was actually cheaper than building in this specific case (then you get a warranty on top of that).

RE: Alternative for Dell
By dever on 5/13/2008 2:37:29 PM , Rating: 2
As you observed, when building your own, you have the disadvantage of not being able to take full advantage of economies of scale.

"There's no chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant market share. No chance." -- Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer
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