Sunday, November 9, 2008

Oh, D-E-Double Hockey Sticks...DELL (Computers that is)

When was the last time you had to contact Dell about your PC or laptop? Well, if it was recently, you may have experienced some bad customer service like I did in the last couple of weeks.

Barack Obama just prior to the election, spoke of the desire to bring jobs back to the U.S. Frankly, I couldn't agree more. I completely understand that if people want cheaper goods, it is practically unavoidable to go abroad to find workers who are willing and able to work for lower wages. After all, the United States has been relying on China to manufacture toys, electronics, and a myriad of for years, but is it really necessary to go abroad for customer service?

About a month ago, I participated in a webinar about word-of-mouth marketing, which featured a panel of high-level executives well-versed in the power of online in influencing brand loyalty. That panel included Bob Pearson, Vice President, Communities and Conversations for Dell. I was very impressed by his knowledge of the online realm and his enthusiasm for his work and Dell. I have been a Dell consumer for five years and have always been impressed by the way issues that have arisen have been handled by Dell's customer support unit.

About three-and-a-half years ago, I bought a Dell Inspiron 600m laptop. I was very satisfied with it, but noticed that it would become particularly warm from the outset. Since it was my first laptop, I assumed that the warmth that emanated from the bottom must have been normal, so I never addressed the issue with Dell. Over the course of the last couple of years, the unit has gotten progressively hotter, to the point now, where if it sits directly on my lap, it practically burns my leg. It was a couple of years ago that Dell was having some PR problems because there were batteries on the market in their laptops that were overheating and causing fires, but I still didn't think that there was any significant problem with my unit.

It was only in the last 6 months or so that the unit has gotten so hot that the casing that surrounds the palm rest of the laptop began to crack. It has now cracked in three places. Recently, a corner piece actually fell off. The unit has been out of warranty for a while, which is why I never called Dell, thinking that it was likely that there was nothing they could do about the problem, though it seemed like a product flaw to me. After all, shouldn't they be making laptops out of materials that are resistant to heat? And, I ask myself, can I, as a consumer spending my hard-earned money, expect this to happen every time I buy a Dell product?

It was after that this webinar with Mr. Bob Pearson, that I was actually inspired to call Dell to see if there was anything they could do about the problem. In the past, when I had printer problems, out of warranty or not, they went ahead and replaced them with refurbished units, and so, I thought, they might be able to do the same with this laptop, especially since it was a significantly more expensive piece of machinery. I guess I was wrong, because when I finally got through to a Dell representative in India, there was nothing he could do at all, nor could he even tell me what had caused the problem. He also went on to tell me that I shouldn't have my "laptop" on my lap because they had proved to be dangerous, which is why Dell is no longer referring to them as "laptops." that why I was able to go and search for a new computer on their site under the section "laptops" because they are no longer calling them laptops? That is the most absurb thing I have ever heard! When I asked him why the web site referred to them as "laptops" he couldn't really answer me. I'm fairly certain that this poor Indian chap didn't think I was going to take him so far "off script" for my issue.

After transferring me to his supervisor, his boss finally sent my case number to Dell's escalation department and said that it would take 48 hours to hear back from someone. It actually took 4 days for me to finally get a cell phone message from a chap, who spoke so monotone in the message, I could barely understand him. I tried calling back but got his voice mail. In frustration, after multiple tries during the day to reach him, I decided to press 3 "para espanol." I speak Spanish, so thought that if I couldn't get an English-speaking representative on the line, perhaps I could get someone on the Spanish-language line since queues are usually shorter. Indeed, it was. The person on the other end of the phone said (in Spanish) "Thanks for calling Dell. My name is Jose. How can I help you?" I responded in English "Hi Jose. Do you speak English?" mostly because I was tired and didn't feel like going through the explanation process in Spanish. In his best Hindi dialect, Jose said to me "Yes, I speak English." I explained my issue with him and that I was trying to reach my case manager, but all he could do was transfer me to the case manager's voice mail, where I had already left two messages that day.

I decided to let sleeping dogs lie and gave up on reaching him for the day. The next day, I tried calling Spanish-language customer service again after getting the case manager's voice mail, yet again. (In Spanish) "Thank you for calling Dell. My name is Fatima. How can I help you?" "Hi Fatima. Do you speak English?" (In best Hindi dialect) "Yes, I speak English." Clearly, I was going nowhere with this except to the land of baldness, since I was starting to rip my hair out.

In my message to the case manager, I explained that he needed to call me on my work extension and not my cell phone because I get lousy reception in the office. He completely disregarded that and called me, yet again, on my cell phone. When I tried to ring him back, of course, he wasn't there. I went out of town for the next few days and heard nothing. While on vacation, I received an email from him saying that he had tried to reach me several times, and, since he had not heard from me was closing my case. I replied to his email and told him that that was not acceptable because I had yet to get a decent response about what had happened to the unit and about what could be done to rectify the situation. He called me back the Tuesday that I was back in the office, only to give me the run around about how my machine was out of warranty for almost three years and that nothing could be done.

So, now I'm left with a "laptop" that is a fire hazard (it's a good thing I'm gay and will not likely need my sperm for procreating), a load of frustration and worry for the possibility of such fire, the sense that nothing is as it seems since apparently, Indians that work for Dell lie and say they are Latino, but most of all, the worst impression of Dell ever. I guess I'll be buying a Mac when my "laptop" burns down my house and I'm in the market for a new computer. Just like in the White House this year, change is good!

1 comment:


Be sure to read my post dated 1/27/09 to see how this issue was resolved so nicely by Dell.