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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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enterprise support
By noxipoo on 5/9/2008 3:02:10 PM , Rating: 2
don't know about the consumer side, i just use their chat site for home hardware and solve my own problems for software. but at work, every time i've called enterprise support it's been someone that sounds american, knows what they are talking about and have been able to help me. i rate their enterprise support higher than veritas, oracle, and the like.

RE: enterprise support
By bmheiar on 5/9/2008 4:16:40 PM , Rating: 2
During normal business hours 8 AM - 5 PM CST, all U.S. customer based calls are transferred to a U.S. based call center particularly the one in Round Rock, TX (HQ for Dell). Anything after 5 PM CST, is transferred to a call center in another country, particularly India. Though some of the employees at Dell's Round Rock Call Center, do stay till 7 PM or so to help out with U. S. customer based calls, if volume is high. I think there is another U.S. based Dell call center somewhere else, but can not remember where. This is the way it was when I worked there in the summer of 06 on the XPS (Consumer Tech Support) side of the call center. I believe this is the way it is still now for all U.S. based customers.

So if you want to talk to an actual American in the Dell Technical Support Call Center, you must call during the week between 8 AM-5 PM CST. The Consumer side (XPS) is closed on the weekends. For the Enterprise side of the call center there is limited staffing on the weekends along with those who work from home on call 24/7, this is my understanding since I have two cousin-in-laws who work at Dell's Round Rock Enterprise Support Call Center.

This is the normal operating procedure if not really busy or completely staffed. Turnover is high there. I thought retail was bad. If call center is overwhelmed by calls or short staffed, it will automatically transfer calls to one of the oversea call centers to pick up the slack.

RE: enterprise support
By AntiV6 on 5/9/2008 4:28:22 PM , Rating: 2
Same here.

My laptop got deylayed yesterday(stupid LED screen), called up DELL, about 10 minutes of hold I was connected to someone who could decently enunciate the English language. Two minutes after I was connected, he informed me how he knew how much it sucked to wait for something and upgraded me to overnight shipping for free.

"We basically took a look at this situation and said, this is bullshit." -- Newegg Chief Legal Officer Lee Cheng's take on patent troll Soverain
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