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Company takes shady Indian call support and battering the beleaguered customer to new levels

Laptop magazine has unearthed a rather large steaming mess of hustlery and hucksterism in a series of support calls to Dell, Inc. (DELL).  Dell, the world's second largest computer retailer has been in midst of a big round of layoffs and outsourcing, as it has struggled with
"sluggish" profit growth
.

Mark Spoonauer, editor and chief of Laptop, spent hours being willing sucked into a nightmarish vortex of Dell support calls, which the company insists are unusual and a series of "misunderstandings".  The calls began when inquiring about issues with a Dell laptop.

First the Dell representatives in India tried to pitch a $239 USD warranty "discounted" to $199 USD or a one-time payment of $129 USD to solve the firmware issue. Dell would later acknowledge that the issues should have been covered by the hardware warranty, blaming the sales attempt on a "misunderstanding".

On a second call Mr. Spoonauer inquired about using Dell DataSafe to back up his computer, at which point a second Dell rep in India informed him that software questions were not allowed under hardware warranty and customers without warranties could not ask questions.  The service rep's manager "Raj" then again pitched the software warranty, bafflingly unveiling a second pitch -- that he could support those kinds of questions if the caller bought an affiliated hard drive at their local electronics store.  

But the real kicker came in the third call when the service rep Sherma interjected in a discussion over poor battery life in a recently purchased device with an exciting announcement.  Describes Mr. Spoonauer, "In a surprised tone, told us that we had won a daily drawing to purchase a four-year extended hardware warranty for our laptop for $317.


"You may already be a winner!" Dell tries its best Publishers Clearing House impression in Laptop's latest investigation [Image Source: Ticker Times]

When Sherma's excitement was met with caller apathy he went into panic mode, attempting a harder sell.  Only three customers win the drawing a day, he informed.  And the normal price was $512 USD.

Dell comments:

Daily drawings are not a regular practice nor encouraged tactic in technical support and we have used your feedback to reinforce this with our teams. Their only priority is to resolve our customers’ issues.

As much as Apple, Inc. (AAPL) is criticized for its belligerent legal tactics, customer support is one major perk of the computer makers' products.  After all, Apple is one of the few companies to offer in-store support covered by warranty, and better yet to offer U.S.-located tech support.  Dell, apparently opts for quite a different approach, though its products are, of course, significantly cheaper than Apple's.

Source: Laptop



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RE: shocker
By Master Kenobi (blog) on 8/15/2012 5:49:40 PM , Rating: 2
Yea, this isn't new. Dell has been on the decline since the dot bomb era.


RE: shocker
By kleinma on 8/15/2012 5:59:42 PM , Rating: 5
HP is no better. I am a computer person, and trying to do a web chat (forget calling) with them is a total nightmare. I feel really bad for the average Joe's who have to call them for tech support and even buy into some of their crap (like selling these warranties).

Apple has an easier time with this because they can control the entire channel, and there is no finger pointing.

With a PC you buy it at best buy, but they won't help you out unless you are paying geek squad a ripoff amount of money. So you have to contact Dell. They will probably point the finger at Microsoft (even though as an OEM they are required to provide support, not Microsoft). In the end you still have a piece of crap computer that probably never worked right, never will, and you get to talk to a guy named Bob or Steve from India...

When Dell had that issue where they knew all caps on their boards were going to go bad, but most would be out of warranty by the time it happened, so they didn't bother to do a recall on something that they knew was no good, that sort of did them in for me.

I build my own desktops, but for laptops you end up having to pick a hardware maker. I am glad my next one will be made by Microsoft directly.


RE: shocker
By Master Kenobi (blog) on 8/15/2012 6:04:04 PM , Rating: 3
Yea, I'm looking forward to Microsoft entering the tablet market. I've had decent success with HP, but I will freely admit that I don't call for software support, I do it myself. The only company I've dealt with that I thought wasn't a pain in the rear was Lenovo, but you will pay a bit more to get that.


RE: shocker
By really on 8/15/2012 7:59:14 PM , Rating: 2
For desktops at work I primarily buy dell precisions and some optiplex and I haven't had any issues with tech support. Corporate side they are fine however I will not purchase anything from their consumer models as everyone I know who has has had some kind of failure shortly after purchasing it though tech support has been reasonably satisfactory.

For laptops we purchase only Lenovo Thinkpads and I rarely have an issue with one. If I do tech support has been stellar.


RE: shocker
By StevoLincolnite on 8/16/2012 3:27:11 AM , Rating: 3
Oh Dell.

Bought a U3011 monitor for a cool $1,400AUD last year.
It arrives dead on arrival... Spend hours on the phone arguing with tech support and they agree to do a replacement.
Except they didn't replace it with a new panel, they replaced it with a refurbished one.

If I wanted a second hand screen I would have gone to Ebay and paid a fraction of the price.
Anyway, got in contact with consumer affairs and got a refund on it, never again will Dell get my cash!


RE: shocker
By MrBlastman on 8/16/2012 11:26:47 AM , Rating: 2
My dell notebook with a 17 inch screen that is seven years old (I just use it to write on) has vertical lines appearing on it that won't go away. Every few days/weeks/months another one pops onto it. I've always theorized that part of it is the notebook powering on at will when in my bag, randomly, causing it to overheat. Even the dell support center software is designed to break it.

Oh well.


RE: shocker
By Pirks on 8/17/2012 1:34:38 PM , Rating: 2
My 5 year old Dell Vostro 1700 is still working like new, after I cleaned all the dust from inside that was blocking exhaust, replaced HDD with 7200 RPM one, added two more gigs of RAM and replaced old Dell wireless with brand new Intel 6300 ultra-N, the wireless file transfer speed jumped up SIX TIMES!!! So I'm happy with my Dell after I gave it a second life. Nothing can beat the quality of Dell's online repair/service manuals BTW. This is for me one of the strongest arguments for purchasing Dell gear.


RE: shocker
By twhittet on 8/16/2012 5:58:27 PM , Rating: 2
Dell business line has fine support. Trying to call them is annoying, but any chat support session ends in 5 minutes, and the next day my part is either waiting for me, or the local Dell tech is replacing the part for me.

Sadly I'm sure their consumer support team is probably understaffed and pressured to keep costs down and sales up.


RE: shocker
By Belard on 8/17/2012 6:24:17 AM , Rating: 2
Lenovo's ThinkPad support is excellent. I doubt their consumer support is as good (as I read below). Seems like most people I talk to there, English is their 1st language.

Also, unlike anyone else - Lenovo has service manuals you can download for pretty much ALL ThinkPads (go back 10 years, it gets tricky).

I've called them up for a quick question about a product, since they would know more than a typical sales person. :)

And I've not been on hold for a long time with them.


RE: shocker
By Type-S on 8/15/2012 7:16:51 PM , Rating: 2
I have owned 3 Thinkpads, only first one was still manufactured/designed while IBM still owned the THINK line but I've never had any issues in dealing with support from IBM/Lenovo, at least for THINK products.

I also did purchase the accident warranty on my most recent one, have actually used it twice now with no questions asked.

I have dealt with Dell and HP before and it's sort of hit or miss with them. I don't remember getting an Indian person on the other end but the last time I ever dealt with either was some years ago.

I personally will never use an Apple PC (ya they sell PCs, Macbook is a PC, get over it), I'd probably recommend one if you can afford one. People always forget that support costs money in terms of paying staff, infrastructure and overhead involved. If you compare what Apple and Lenovo/IBM do for their customers (at least Lenovo for their THINK customers), their products don't seem so overpriced.

Demanding cheaper prices is what has lead to factories and support for a plethora of brand name products being shipped to South America or Asia. You get what you pay for.


RE: shocker
By TakinYourPoints on 8/15/2012 10:02:30 PM , Rating: 2
Dell and HP are trash. You are screwed unless you get higher tier business support.

With Apple you get ace support, and its the same reason I buy my PC components from certain US companies like EVGA and Corsair. I know that their call centers and forums are staffed by Americans that will give me good customer service. I had trouble with Gigabyte years ago and the foreign tech support gave me the serious runaround, never again.


RE: shocker
By frobizzle on 8/16/2012 8:38:08 AM , Rating: 5
While you may think Apple support is better, they will still give their customers baldfaced lies if they think it is something that might tarnish their reputation. As an example, just look at their handling of various virus issues on their products.

This is not conjecture or speculation, this is historical facts.


RE: shocker
By TakinYourPoints on 8/16/2012 12:16:53 PM , Rating: 2
When did they deny or not solve malware issues? They addressed those problems completely, but they didn't give official solutions until the patches were nailed down. The alternative would be a half-baked stop-gap solution beforehand (ie - hunting around for problems case by case and entering Terminal commands), and that may have caused even more issues (and thus more technical support problems) for some customers.


RE: shocker
RE: shocker
By TakinYourPoints on 8/16/2012 11:00:44 PM , Rating: 2
Nope, sorry. Common knowledge, once an official fix that they could support was completed, it was out. What, do you think they were in denial and then just released a fix the day that it was released because there was just too much pressure?


RE: shocker
By Pirks on 8/17/2012 2:17:31 AM , Rating: 1
frobitch the anti-apple troll strikes again! hahaha
you're just wasting your time takin, frobitch is one of the dumbest idiots I've seen on DT, his head is damaged beyond repair. I know this, been dealing with him for a long time. just ignore this troll

he's similar to motoman, same religious zealot who you can flood in arguments and he'd still sing lalala while plugging his ears, afraid that someone will burst his stupid bubble


RE: shocker
By frobizzle on 8/17/2012 7:57:00 AM , Rating: 2
So how are things at the trailer park these days, Jirks?

Are you still trying to comprehend complex math concepts like why 2+2=4?


RE: shocker
By Pirks on 8/17/2012 1:20:55 PM , Rating: 2
Doin' cool here bro, been playin' with Win8 RTM on my SSD equipped high end Vaio and also enjoyoing crapdroid on my brand new Galaxy Note.

Ya still preaching anti-Apple religious BS as usual? ;) Well, good luck with that, lamo. Hehehe ;)


RE: shocker
By Motoman on 8/15/2012 10:47:52 PM , Rating: 3
No major OEM is any better.

Either get your systems from a local, non national-chain computer store where they build their own, or expect to get f%cked on a regular basis by people who don't care if you live or die.

Dell has just won the right to suck my d1ck. For free even...keep your $317.


RE: shocker
By inperfectdarkness on 8/16/2012 3:18:15 AM , Rating: 2
Completely disagree. I will be buying another MSI when I get a new laptop.


RE: shocker
By Samus on 8/16/2012 3:25:39 AM , Rating: 2
I personally think Lenovo support is amazing. Every time I've had to contact them, whether it be a Thinkpad warranty claim or a compatibility issue with a Blade server, they are totally on the ball, easy to understand, and you never get transfered around in a circle.

Dell support always has been a joke. I remember their 'Gold' support way back in the day, a premium price for business customers, and the person on the other end was still reading a scripted troubleshooting guide until finally they'd get their manager (who they referred to a tier 2 support) to actually tell you they would be sending out a replacement part or technician.


RE: shocker
By dacarguy on 8/16/2012 11:52:23 AM , Rating: 2
My very recent experience with Lenovo:

1. Buy Lenovo IdeaPad on Amazon.ca
2. Get laptop two days later and notice that the battery won't charge. Otherwise it seems to be working fine. Conclude that the AC adapter is faulty.
3. Call Lenovo to avoid exchanging the whole thing with Amazon and risk getting a different problem (ex.: DOA). Lenovo insists on calling Amazon first.
4. Call Amazon. They can’t send a replacement part because the compatible adapters aren’t "Sold by Amazon". They can't exchange the IdeaPad because they are permanently out of stock.
5. Call Lenovo again. The employee agrees to send a new ac adapter but the replacement part is out of stock. He instructs me to search for the part number on their website to see when it'll be in stock again, and call them when it is. (wtf? How many days will I be stuck with a non functioning, brand new laptop? I actually bought it for my Mom's birthday which was approaching fast, and was simply setting it up before giving it to her. Good thing I didn't have it shipped straight to her!) Employee is impatient and pushes to end the call. Decide it would be best to call later and hopefully get a more helpful employee. In the mean time, search for the part # and find only a different but compatible adapter, which is currently in stock!
6. Immediately call Lenovo again. This time the employee insists on troubleshooting. Obviously that doesn’t change anything. Finally, Lenovo agrees to send me a replacement adapter.

In conclusion, Lenovo tried to get rid of me (but I'm sure any OEM would do the same if the product is exchangeable), gave me poor/rushed support with false information, and then finally gave proper support with a resolution to my problem. All within 24h!

FYI, Lenovo support (for Canada) is in Manila, Philippines, and there was severe flooding there just a couple days earlier. Also Amazon.ca support is excellent.


RE: shocker
By Belard on 8/17/2012 6:28:17 AM , Rating: 2
Sorry to hear that, but that is typical for low-cost consumer products. Less margins, less service. What I hate - like with the utility companies, is higher prices with less service.

When I get an idiot on the phone, I will just hang up and call again and hope for the best. Also, to get an idea where they are from, speak to them them about American culture, events, weather - a bit of small talk while something is going on.

Now, when I deal with Lenovo's ThinkPad support - its been excellent. Also, my company tends to buy the $200 extended warranty which has a tech come out within 24hrs :)


RE: shocker
By Pirks on 8/17/2012 1:41:55 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
No major OEM is any better
Woah, I can imagine your shock if you ever tried to talk to Apple support people in your local Apple store :))) No wonder you do your best to stay away from them and not let them to burst your delusional bubble concerning their support quality LOL :)))


RE: shocker
By TakinYourPoints on 8/20/2012 2:40:01 PM , Rating: 2
Accepting that one of the few companies that has excellent customer support is his hated Apple might break his mind.

Better than Motoman keeps living in delusion, for his sake.


RE: shocker
By Solice55 on 8/15/2012 6:00:32 PM , Rating: 2
That fact makes me sad. My first computer was a Dell, back in 1998. Best service, support, and overall computer purchasing experience I ever had. As a result of future interaction with Dell (and other companies, really), I ended up building my own.


RE: shocker
By christojojo on 8/15/2012 7:21:38 PM , Rating: 2
The sad part is that I used to tell my family to buy Dell products for a while (a long long time ago). They stopped getting my support when they did the proprietary junk and I could no longer do the tech support on them. The products seemed to go down hill. MY biggest gripe (with most toasters pretending to be Ferraris was the supper underpowered power supplies that would have the PC's crash when used as they advertised.

Try explaining to your brother-in-law that they put a yugo engine in a Corvette frame. You get the knucklehead saying but it worked fine before it crashed, you must have done something to it. (on the positive side after a while I did lose him as a customer. LOL)


RE: shocker
By AstroCreep on 8/15/2012 6:20:11 PM , Rating: 2
I've had similar issues where I was told different things by multiple techs (from "off-shored" support groups) that boiled-down to "Misunderstandings" way too-often. For me it has happened with Dell, HP, IBM, Microsoft, Symantec, and I'm sure a few others I cannot think of at the moment.

Honestly, it shows that these off-shored support groups poorly-train their support staff and, in some cases, try to turn them in to profit-centers by forcing unnecessary "Upgrades". Coupling that with them simply hiring warm-bodies (without the need for technical ability beyond following a flow-chart) and we have situations like this which are more common than not.

Sad but true.


RE: shocker
By Digimonkey on 8/16/2012 9:04:33 AM , Rating: 2
Dell is fine. They just need to stop selling desktops and laptops to home users. They rarely make a profit in that market segment anyways, but yet it adversely affects their brand name.

I don't know how many times I've had to defend my position on getting Dell servers because someone had a bad experience with a $300 laptop they got from Dell. We're talking a night and day difference in both hardware and support.


RE: shocker
By theapparition on 8/16/2012 10:25:45 AM , Rating: 2
To be honest, even their home line is fine. I've never had any issue and even bought a few personal computers from them recently (not for my business).

All the machines arrived fine, operated out of the box without any issues and were relatively bloat free (surprising, I know).

Support is a cruel joke, I'll agree with that.


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