Dell Tech Chatbot Tries His Best

April’s Dell said it couldn’t find “systems 32 config” and after going through a series of troubleshooting steps with a Dell tech in chat, he said it was due to a bad sector on the hard drive and it would need to be replaced. While that very well may have been the case, we were amused by how the conversation wrapped up, as shown in the logs April posted to the RolePlay Gateway message board…

2:26:40 AM Sup_Abdul_13639 Is there any other issue that I may assist you with?
2:26:45 AM April Allcock Nope, that’s it.
2:26:55 AM Sup_Abdul_13639 Are you satisfied with the resolution provided to you in this interaction?
2:27:01 AM April Allcock no, I’m not
2:27:20 AM Sup_Abdul_13639 Well, I have tried my best
2:27:43 AM Sup_Abdul_13639 Thank you for staying online. I have included your Case Number # 173357344 to reference our interaction today…

At first we’re thinking, my, that was flip. Then we think, wait, everyone always accuses chat techs of being devoid of the capacity for love and other emotions, good for him. That is what a real human might say. Abdul is keeping it real. He really did try his best, and the troubleshooting he gave was pretty good. And one really really does need to keep a backup of essential documents on an external drive. At some point, your hard drive will fail. It’s a fact. It’s just a question of when.

Dell’s Stupidity [Roleplay Gateway]
(Photo: DRB62)

Comments

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  1. not_seth_brundle says:

    The interesting thing is the use of the passive voice, “Are you satisfied with the resolution provided to you in this interaction?” April could have thought the rep was helpful but answered “no, I’m not” because of Dell policies beyond the rep’s control.

  2. Orkinman says:

    I read that entire thing, and I understand that she had a problem, but wow she’s got a stick up her ass. And the statement about what “would” means was ridiculas. I understand people get frantic when they think their data is gone, but lashing out at the tech who’s trying to help you is just wrong. We techs are humans too and were just trying to help.

  3. shertzerj says:

    I wonder if that’s her real phone number that was in the log there. Probably should’ve deleted that out there before posting…

  4. ikimashokie says:

    Haha, I just had a similar issue with HP.

    I’d like to think that I didn’t have a stick up my butt, though there came a point where I was just amused.

    I’d have to say that the tech wasn’t all that friendly, either. :/

    I’m not sure if the best part was the somewhat whiny “but I tried to help you” or the “you can send it in for free!” that the tech started pushing after I said I wasn’t sending it in for one stinky key. She even sent me an email further pushing the issue.

    I know I can send it in for “free”, I have a super-warranty! Sheesh.

  5. ADM says:

    “it’s asking me for an administration password. I do not know what the password is, nor do I know where to find it.”

    and yet the post is called “DELL’s stupidity”? i am almost always on the side of the consumers on this site, but people need to take responsibility for their own errors.

  6. bravo369 says:

    I read through his instructions and he’s definately giving her good advice to fix it other than running chkdsk. Not to sound like a Tech guy also (I am btw) but it sounds like she wasn’t following the directions correctly. I know what the guy was looking for and there’s no way she should have given some of the replies she did if done right. Also, it’s pretty evident that the hard drive was NOT bad. They probably just got to a point where it was easier to replace than walk her through. I’ve done that before when helping family with PC problems. Do i really want to spend hours upon hours trying to find the corrupt file or dll or missing registry key or do i just want to reinstall?

  7. rewinditback says:

    First mistake was buying a dell. Second mistake is not backing up.

  8. IndyJaws says:

    @ADM:
    Exactly. Any new computer I’ve received always asks you to establish an Administrator password upon initial setup. Unfortunately, like data recovery, mind reading is not part of Dell’s warranty. Data recovery should be part of the warranty? Oh, you think so doctor?

    I thought the techs (especially Abdul) did a decent job. The kind of high-quality job you’d find if you went to a local independent computer store? Of course not, but I’ve certainly heard of worse (unfortunately, been on a few of those calls myself).

    April is an asshat.

  9. Melov says:

    The satisfactory question blows.

  10. beyond says:

    I thought the techs did a good job. Not only did they clearly inform her that there was a possibility she could lose her data, went through all the steps with her, and determined the sector was bad. The customers didn’t like the answer and claim Dell gave them bad service, yet they did their own research and eventually determined the problem was exactly what the Dell tech told them it was!

    When your hard drive fails you may lose your data. That’s life. This should be filed under bad consumer.

  11. roche says:

    Dell did nothing wrong here. The lady did not backup her data and Windows became corrupt. There was nothing the techs could have done besides explain she could pull the drive and pop it in another pc to recover the data or walk her through reinstalling XP.

    There was no need for her to be such a c*** about it. That is what she was being, a c***. When someone is helping you, there is no need to be rude.

  12. samurailynn says:

    @ikimashokie: “Stinky key”?? Did you mean sticky key? I’m not trying to be a spelling nazi, I was just really wondering what a stinky key is… and how that would be Dell’s problem?

  13. CliveDobbs says:

    @samurailynn:

    I discovered I had a stinky key once. I totally had to get a new roommate – that dude was gross.

  14. star_ says:

    No offense but some of the content here is getting so lame. I can’t believe even Consumerist spent the time to put this up. Even moreso that I read it. I keep coming back here because the site is a great concept but the reporting is really lacking here. Not to mention all the disinformation I see thrown around here.

    The Consumerist should be more responsible in its reporting instead of jumping on whatever looks good at first glance. It comes off as unexperienced, immature and irresponsible.

    What’s the story here? I see nothing that Dell did wrong. Nothing at all. This woman has nobody to blame but herself for not backing up her data. The tech did all they could do for her. I think April should lay off the RPG and join the real world for a while. Everyone knows you can depend 100% on data stored on a hard drive. The possibility always exists you’ll lose it somehow.

    I backup all my important data even though I’ve never had even 1 hard drive failure in 20 years of using computers. In fact, my really important docs I keep on either a flashdrive or disc or both.

    And to the people bashing Dell, I have a Dell desktop that’s ran continuously 24/7/365 for 6 years with no problems whatsoever. I’ve never had my HP/Compaq, IBM or homebuilt go down either. Maybe I’ve been lucky but it’s silly to say stuff like “Dell sucks” or “Compaq sucks” or whatever just because you had problems.

  15. star_ says:

    correction : that should have read, “Everyone knows you CAN’T depend 100% on data stored on a hard drive

  16. star_ says:

    Also, there’s plenty of FREE software out there that likely could have recovered her data, bad sector and all. A couple of minutes of googling would have found it.

  17. star_ says:

    “I’d have to say that the tech wasn’t all that friendly, either”

    Americans (i’ve been one all my life) seem to be the only people who have a problem with this.

    As long as a tech isn’t downright rude, why do they need to be “friendly”? Why do they have to be trained to say “how are you today” to pacify Americans?

    If I’m calling tech support (super rare for me) I could care less for small talk. If I want someone to ask me how my day is going, I’ll call a friend. If I’m calling a CSR, it’s to resolve a problem, not to get some chit-chat. Nearly all of the rest of the people in the world outside of America feel the same way.

  18. crnk says:

    @ikimashokie: Ditto…something with my HP computer once, and then after I told them the “fix” wasn’t working, they asked me if the solution was satisfactory.

    @star_: I’ll agree with you for the most part–a lot of people need an ego boost with small talk/friendly conversation, even with a call center discussion.
    However, I’ve had a few CSR calls where they were obviously indifferent about fixing the issue…so while they weren’t ‘friendly,’ nor downright rude, you could tell that they just didn’t care much about you or helping to resolve the issue. That, however, is an attitude problem that a lot of other americans have (aka–crappy day/week/life syndrome).

  19. BurbankBurt says:

    Yep, hard drives are going to go ka-bloo-ee on you at some point. You don’t plan to get in a car accident, but have car insurance. So, back-up your data. A firewire drive is pretty inexpensive and many of them come with *free* backup software that’s easy to use. I’ve been using Seagate, which comes with the free backup software called “BounceBack Express,” and I’ve been very happy with it.

    Also, here’s a couple companies to check out:

    Data Recovery – I have used this on one occasion with great success (when other data recovery programs didn’t do the trick): [www.binarybiz.com] It’s also less expensive than many alternatives, and you can do it right from home.

    Data Backup – If you’d like something off-site, (which is an extra protection as well): [carbonite.com] $50 a year seems pretty reasonable, considering that data recovery can run into the hundreds of dollars.

    Thanks Consumerist!

  20. ikimashokie says:

    @samurailynn:

    It’s not Dell’s problem, which is why I said I was talking with HP.

    Replace “stinky” with “lousy” or “stinking”. Same idea.


    @star_:

    Yes, as long as they get the job done and aren’t downright rude, a tech doesn’t have to be friendly. You also have to remember that different people consider “friendly” differently. I don’t care if the tech doesn’t ask how I’m doing. I’m not talking for them for psychological counseling. However, if I say no to something, I don’t expect it to be pushed, and if I ask a question, I’d like for it to be answered. Perhaps when it comes to talking to techs, by “friendly” I mean not rude.

    The person/bot I spoke with came across as a bit condescending and whiny for a simple key. That’s not “friendly” in my book.

  21. Ickypoopy says:

    The easist solution to this issue (since it is a laptop) is to get a copy of Windows PE, or a linux live CD and copy all of the files that she needs to keep off of the computer, then repair or reinstall the OS.

  22. mrjimbo19 says:

    I am curious to know how people can tell by neutral typed words when someone is being rude or nice. I read an interesting article about email and chat and how people will always automatically assume the worst possible light in someones words.

    The fact that he went through things is not good or bad it’s his job, she was obviously upset and has every right to be. She lost all of her data and did not make a recent backup (i am guessing to that point). She made an interesting comment though about what happened with the system that raises some questions

    “Okay. I was listening to my windows media player and my computer was doing its normal updating tihng. I went to get into the shower and all of a sudden the media player started to skip. When I lifted up my lid, the screen was black. I tried to reboot, but it would only go past the dell screen, then freeze on a black screen. I hit f8 and it said my windows sytem 32 was corrupted or missing. So, I’m trying to use my OS dvd to repair that and it keeps asking me what the administration password was. I have no idea what it was and so, I can’t repair my computer.”

    If she was doing a forced windows update at the time and lowered the lid without changing power settings the system would either shut down or try to hybernate, both of these things could cause disk errors and corruption like she describes. Just something interesting.

    Back to the topic on hand though, I don’t see how her not backing up her data is Dell’s fault. She also seems to have some reading problems as she seems to not understand what “brand new drive has to be opened and have software installed so it can be sent to you” means.

  23. bilge says:

    The first tech was wrong. If you don’t reformat the disk partition during your OS reinstallation, you’re not going to lose any data (unless you saved stuff into your Windows system folder).

    Unfortunately, if the disk has bad sectors, that’s usually it. There’s nowhere to go from there other than to swap the hard drive. If you put the old hard drive into a USB encluosure, you might be able to get it running long enough to pull data from it.

    I wouldn’t be so quick to file this under “bad consumer.” The only people who tend to have good experiences with tech support lines are people who work in IT. Whenever I need to call Dell, I’ve spoken with them frequently enough that I can usually tell them the symptoms, what I’ve done, and immediately get a replacement part shipped out. For the average person who just wants their computer to work, it’s an incredibly frustrating experience which is made moreso by doing the whole thing over chat.

    Three hours? That’s painful for everyone involved.

  24. Denada says:

    As a person who does this kind of thing for a living, I can say that Dell didn’t do anything wrong. They identified the problem and offered the best solution they could.

    It sounds like April was just upset that there was no magical solution to her problem that would give her everything she wanted. She can still get the data off her old hard drive, the Dell rep even made a suggestion on who she could contact for help with that. There’s only so much these guys can do over the phone, cut them some slack.

  25. Woofer00 says:

    @star_: It’s possible to recover data independently by finding software online, but that’s far and above what a technician will do by default, even one who does not work for Dell. Data recovery is a time-consuming process that is comparatively low priority from the manufacturer’s standpoint – they just need to get you running. There is a good chance she would be permitted to retain the faulty drive after the new one arrived, and could attempt data recovery as necessary.

    Could he have created an additional installation/partition and suggested ways to attempt recovery? Sure. Could she stick the drive in an enclosure and attempt recovery from the computer she was chatting from? Certainly. Did she want to listen when he informed her that repairing had no guarantee of succeeding and a high risk of destroying her data? Not really. Did the tech fulfill his duty and explore a reasonable number of options? Yes. The expectation that technicians are required to do absolutely everything they can to help you is absurd, especially when dealing with a corporate technician. Calling in a local technician who is unaffiliated with any mega-retailers would have probably caused her to incur cost, but would have had a higher chance of success.

    To reiterate what so many people have said above, there should be absolutely no expectation of data recovery when dealing with hard drives. There are few, if any, people who would keep only a single copy of their most important documents (e.g. tax forms, legal documents, insurance, etc), and even fewer who would keep them in a box next to the fireplace. I believe that’s a fair analogy to the reliability of hard drive reliability for precious information. Flash Drives are down to $20/gig, external magnetic is at $80/250gig, and blank dvd/cd media costs pennies. At the end of the day, blaming the technician does nothing more than point at a scapegoat.

  26. Denada says:

    @bilge: That’s not entirely true: [support.microsoft.com]

  27. marike says:

    Dell’s chat support is actually really good and is better than what they’ve had in the past. I use it whenever I need to talk to tech support (to avoid trying to decipher through their accent) and not only do they volunteer their email address and phone number for problems that aren’t resolved or are still “open”, they will call me back (at the time I specify) when they find an answer or if I need to talk to them again.

    I will say, however, that they don’t come off as the friendliest folk – you can try to randomly chit chat with them while you’re waiting to reboot or something and they’ll steer the conversation back on track or they will try to be polite and just “:)”. But, in reality, I’m there for tech help and not a penpal, so I can’t fault them for keeping on topic.

  28. jeff303 says:

    @ADM: Not exactly. Every Windows OEM computer I’ve set up before (usually Dell) has the Administrator password already set at the factory (note this is not to be confused with the password on your user account, which itself is an Admin account by default). This got me into trouble when I had to run the WinXP recovery console and didn’t know the Administrator password.

  29. jharrell says:

    Well at first I thought Dell was getting way off but really the script was right on… just filter out about 90% of the rambling and the solution is correct. Although I think there were at least 2 unneeded reboots.

    Any experienced tech could run through this problem in a fraction of the time. Let’s see one load of the console and a chkdsk – maybe 15min… then just above and beyond (a total solution) drop in your live cd – insert favorite Linux distro here) and dd mirror that drive to an external USB hard drive (you take on to ever call right?) – maybe another 20-30 min an you could have a new drive installed a few more minutes and another boot to Linux and you now have a completely fixed copy of windows… This is of course if you do not have to run the restore cd – maybe an additional hour there if you are restoring the files into a new xp install.

    There you have a total time of 2-3hours and the problem is resolved – not left hanging – and all of the documents preserved.

    I love Linux. – Best tool in my box.

  30. coconino says:

    Instead of saying “I have tried my best” do you want the agent to kiss your shoes?

  31. Voyou_Charmant says:

    Why doesn’t Dell use magic?

    Also — Why in the world would anyone think that a chat service (regardless of it being offered) would be in any way, whatsoever, an appropriate way to receive technical support?

  32. kelbear says:

    Dell did a good job on this one. The user just doesn’t understand that. Their information was correct. She was more interested in being snarky than just getting the problem fixed, and tech support isn’t there to be abused. They’re just for providing the information, which was again, correct.

    This is a non-story, and something that the Consumerist should have been able to filter out.

  33. Blue says:

    Pointless article. Dell handled that very professionally.

  34. filker0 says:

    I just read through the transcript and a lot of responses both where it is posted and here. I won’t register on that site just to comment, but I will make a few comments here (which April is unlikely to see):

    0) Backups are important. If you care about the data, back it up. Don’t bother with the OS or applications — you won’t be able to use the backed up application files anyway. Don’t let the applications store your documents/files in subdirectories under the application directory in “Program Files” (lots of applications default to this). There are programs out there to do automated backups over the network, either to another system on your own LAN or to an Internet connected server. Some of these are free, others cost something.
    1) The drive probably did have a bad sector, based on the error code from the diagnostic (not scandisk) it was probably in the MFD or in the one of the Windows directories. I’ve had very similar failures.
    2) Windows keeps its admin password someplace in the windows directories (perhaps in the registry), which means that if Restore can’t get to the required file, it’s unlikely to be able to find out that the password is empty, or is interpreting garbage as the encrypted password, so nothing would work. It may also be April’s fault for setting the password (probably on the advice of some instructions somewhere on how to make your XP system secure) and forgot all about it.
    3) As many have pointed out, a live CD or an external enclosure can be used to recover data so long as the drive is able to seek past the error. The live CD is cheaper, and I wouldn’t trust the drive.
    4) Data recovery services are very expensive, whether they are successful or not. If there is anything of a particularly personal nature, it’s not always safe to send the drive off for data recovery. April doesn’t want those photos of her dipthongs in declention posted all over the internet.
    5) Backups, backups, backups!
    6) The technician did not word things well, and did not react as I would have to a misunderstanding (language barrier). April also a bit too literal. I agree, however, that the first tech’s “will” was unfortunate; I work with a co-op for whom English is not a first language, and he often uses the wrong word — Instead of “questions” he always says “doubts”, for example. After a few minutes of talking to someone, their speech patterns ought to become decipherable. Make allowances for that. On the other hand, 10 out of 100 is not 50%. I’m guessing that the number is made up by the “supervisor”.
    7) Did I mention backups?

  35. FLConsumer says:

    Hey Abdul:

    Other than that, not bad… Not your fault the customer didn’t back up their files.

  36. etho says:

    The techs were being unclear, the consumer was being dense and the computer was being a piece of shit. Demerits all around.

  37. BurbankBurt says:

    @BurbankBurt:
    VirtualLab Data Recovery at http://www.binarybiz.com will work on PC’s too…

  38. d0x says:

    Dell techs deserve it. I bought a $3000 computer from them, my very 1st. When i opened it up and turned it on it kept freezing.

    I was wondering why, and since im good with computer i put my own skills to use. 1st i formatted and installed Windows again…no luck, then i tried a different copy incase the version that had installed was corrupted in some way. Nope not that either.

    Then I ran some ram checking software which turned out ok. Then i checked the drives and one of them wasnt working properly.

    Well i called Dell, now keep in mind because I bought an XPS i was suppose to get American priority support. Which means I would wait on hold for 3 hours and get India.

    Well i called about 50 times, got hung up on a bunch after waiting on hold at least an hour each time. I got told to do the same steps over and over when from the very 1st call I told them the hard drive was dead.

    It took me 27 days of nonstop calls to get them to admit the drive needed to be replaced. I was done at that point…screw them. I said I wanted my money back. Dell has a 30 day money back return policy.

    Well I tell them im returning it and i expect them to refund the money plus pay for shipping back to Dell. They agree and 2 days later UPS picks up the pc.

    Well then I get a bill (I financed through Dell) for $90 billed as a shipping fee. 2 Weeks of calls later I get them to refund it.

    But what there is more! They left a revolving balance on my account of $1 and reported me to the credit agency’s as late/non payment for 6 months straight. I got my credit report on a whim one day and found it.

    I call Dell at which point they inform me my new pc is on its way…wtf i say!?

    So another 2 weeks and they agree to remove the $1 balance and report it as a mistake and have it removed from my report.

    All that agony over a broken $40 hard drive. All I wanted was a replacement, it should have taken 15 min on the phone and a wait of a couple days but they decided to screw me over instead.

    So any crap anyone gives to Dell is much deserved as far as im concerned. If you work for that company chances are you are going to hell anyways.

  39. Onouris says:

    @star_:

    Agreed with the ‘have a nice day’ stuff. The amount I was told to have a nice day in America, or asked how I was, it’s nice, sure, the first few times. But it’s just so frequent it’s obviously something they’ve been told to do. So what’s the point if it’s not sincere?

  40. dextrone says:

    I read the entire thing and Abdul was trying to help, but the consumer mistook him for the other 99.9% of the dell call center employees.

    I feel sad for him, he actually has moral good enough to help customers.

  41. wraithfive says:

    @Dox:

    You sir, are a prime example of the reason that tech support from any company is horrid.

    1. Buying an XPS system doesn’t entitle you to “Priority American base support” Read the warranty next time.

    2. You need to realize that when talking to a complete stranger on the phone a tech can’t know how much you know about computers or how good you are. If they just sent out a part everytime somebody called and asked for one they would lose a lot of money on part that weren’t the problem or parts replace for software issues. No, they can’t take your word that you know what your doing either.

    3. If you want fast service once your on the call then just cooperate with them. Answer their questions and cooperate. If the drive was really bad as you say you would have had a replacement on the way within 15 minutes of the tech answering.

    Techs don’t want to help people who are rude and/or abrasive/confrontational and too many people like you convince other people that the way to talk to a tech is to be just like that. Thanks for making the jobs of techs everywhere much harder.

  42. ColbyWolf says:

    @wraithfive: American support, no, but for buying an XPS, he does gain a ‘VIP title’ that suposedly entitles him to ‘extra special’ support.

    anyway…

    As far as all the American politeness stuff goes… I think people are missing the main issue here.

    If I was doing Japanese tech support in Japanese (obviously), I would be expected to be very polite, to use my sama’s, and my san’s, and apologize every step of the way. This is because this is what is expected by people living in Japan. This is what Japanese culture is. You are polite. I admit, I’ve never called Japanese tech support, but I’m fairly confident in my guess about what it would be like. For those of you who read Kotaku, there was a recent night/day note about Japanese emails. The whole concept was, basically, that even after exchanging over 40 emails with one another, a Japanese man was still starting each mail with the ‘traditional’ “Soandso-sama, I am indebted to you. This is Whatshisface from suchacompany.” Even though this information is very obviously known now by the other party.

    For those of you still reading with me, my point here is: If you are providing a service for a country, then you need to give that country what they expect, in terms of attitude, and politeness.

    My husband is a very to the point person and does not enjoy chit chat. He’s a rarity. Most of the American population wants “how are you” and “have a nice day”. I do. It may be silly, but it’s how we do things. It doesn’t matter, really, if someone cares about the question or not. That’s not the point. (I would ask: Does a Japanese person truly mean it every time they apologize? but the truth is, I don’t know. I’m not Japanese. But even if they do, who’s to say it’s not because they’re ‘supposed’ to care because everyone else would apologize for the same.)

    But I do think that people providing service to people in our country should be aware of this and do their very best to provide it to us. Do I want butt-kissing? Nah. Just a smile, and a few words.

  43. ColbyWolf says:

    Oh, and I think y’all are missing the point too about this whole posting: “While that very well may have been the case, we were amused by how the conversation wrapped up, as shown in the logs April posted”

    This wasn’t about “omg, dell SUCKS!!”.

    ‘Dell’s Stupidity’ is the original poster’s title, and by the nature of the forum I’d bet her post was a combination of “ARG! I’M FRUSTRATED” to a group of her friends. It also wouldn’t surprise me if some of the important files she lost were roleplaying logs. I know *I* would be upset to lose any of my RP logs. And thus, this may have been an indirect request for, or a precursor to, asking for the files that may have been replaceable. It’s also possible that she was running something and had lost several important files concerning plot, or characters.

    It’s not unreasonable for a person to complain–and gripe after dealing with technical support for 3 hours. Especially after dealing with people who you feel are unhelpful. she comes in asking about the password and keeps coming back to it and they either ignore her, or tell her information that she already said didn’t work, etc. Never did they explain “That won’t work” or any such.

    Regardless of how good of a job they did or didn’t do, frustration is a very human emotion, and Sounding off to a group of friends isn’t unreasonable either. It probably just happened that someone on the board who read the thread decided to post it here. and Ben opted to post it because of the amusement factor. he even pointed out that he gave good tech support and reminded us all to back up our hard drives. This was all about the “well I tried my best” response. Never anything else.

    Pardon my long windedness.