Dell: Decent Customer Service Is Going To Cost Extra

According to a recent press release, Dell is aiming to delight you with a new premium customer service offering—for a price.

Would you like to contact the same “dedicated” team of customer service reps every time you call? Would you like those reps to be “empowered to address a comprehensive range of issues?” Would you like those reps to be “based in North America?” All this can be yours, if you’re willing to pay extra for it.

From Dell’s press release (emphasis ours):

Dell’s new premium support service is to provide a dedicated team of technical professionals which customers can contact directly for support of any Dell-branded product. This new fee-based offering is designed specifically for those customers who want to engage with the same dedicated team each time they have an issue with any of their in-warranty Dell-branded products.

The premium service offer provides household support by an advanced support team in North America for one year. The technicians are empowered to address a comprehensive range of issues across the breadth of Dell’s product line.

“Our commitment to a great customer experience has never been stronger,” said Ray Roman, vice president Dell global consumer services and support. . “This premium service is all about making the tech support experience more personal; users who want high-touch support can now receive it. We’re excited to bring them to the market.”

We wonder how they’re going to upsell this service.

You: “Can I speak to your supervisor?”
Dell: “Ha, ha, ha! That’ll cost you.”

Dell’s New Premium Support and Integration Services Build on Existing Tools and Improvements for Consumers (Press Release)
[Dell] (Thanks, Beecher Bowers!)
(Photo:fallenposters)

Comments

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  1. Smitherd says:

    As if paying them $1700 for a computer that’s buying their CEO platinum fronts isn’t reason enough to give us good service.

  2. zentex says:

    please…if you buy the biz line of dell you ALWAYS get north american support…and you get a better product.

  3. ffmariners says:

    @Smitherd: slickdeals and fatwallet are your friends :)… watch that $1700 go down to $1000!

  4. blackmage439 says:

    Great… And on the eve of contemplating reselling my 6-month-old Dell notebook, no less…

    I understand that each company has its demons, but it seems that PC manufacturers have taken a nosedive as of late. Not surprisingly, it coincided with the release of Windows Vista… It seems one’s only recourse nowadays is to build your own system. Unfortunately, us notebook lovers have no options available. At least Apple gives the illusion that they care what you think, in some matters. Sure their Mag”safe” adapters fray and combust; and their Apple “geniuses” are smug, arrogant, unintelligent pricks. However, at least they don’t endlessly spam and nickel & dime you into oblivion (I’m looking at YOU, Dell!)…

    Blargh… I wonder if Dell warranties are transferable…?

  5. JiminyChristmas says:

    Nice. Crap service is the new normal. Decent service is the new premium.

  6. Smitherd says:

    @ffmariners: That was not intended to say that I actually spent $1700 on a Dell PC. I was merely making a point.

    MacBook all the way!

  7. Sockatume says:

    So you’re going to have to pay extra for them to honor their warranty properly? This is going to go down about as well as Sony’s bloatware removal option.

  8. theirishscion says:

    I’m bracing for the hate here but I’ve been saying this for years. It’s simply not viable to sell a PC for $600 and include any meaningful customer support in that price. In my opinion they should really take it one step further. Sell them without any tech support whatsoever, just a simple hardware warranty. Let the customer decide what if any support product they wish to buy for the machine. Let them buy that support 12 months down the road when they actually need it. Let the technically adroit eschew support offerings altogether and save a little money doing so.

    I like to think this is just a first tentative step in that direction by perhaps the biggest box assembler out there. They’ve already started offering machines without Windows, which is another very positive step in my opinion. I’m not sure (haven’t looked recently) how much Microsoft Tax you save buying the machine with Linux or nothing pre-installed, but I’m pretty sure you save something.

    So, as much as I never thought I’d say it, well done Dell, a step in the right direction. Now just stop pretending that you offer support without paying extra for it (including buying the business class hardware for all the pedants in the audience) and you’ll be well on the way to winning a supporter in a slight position of influence.

  9. sleze69 says:

    “The premium service offer provides household support by an advanced support team in North America for one year”

    Well since I always get a 3 year warranty, can we get the support but defer it until the final year? Usually hardware takes a while to crap out.

    Also, does this mean that Small Business sales will no longer go to American support?

  10. Bladefist says:

    It’s in North America, not America. Mexico is the new India!

  11. SimonSwegles says:

    @theirishscion: No hate here. I agree that support outside warranty service should be only an add-on service. Current Windows OEM licensing agreements will continue to make that impossible.
    Dell needs to stop dipping a toe in the alternative (or no) OS market and make all their systems and optional components available with Linux and no OS. Currently, you may have to make some significant sacrifices in order to buy a Dell system with Linux.

  12. heavylee-again says:

    To me, this is what Tech Support is supposed to be. Now they want to charge extra?

    I agree with zentex, buy from Dell Small Business. Prices are often cheaper, machines come with less crap-ware and the customer service is better.

  13. Hanke says:

    @theirishscion: The problem is theur response to hardware warranty problems to begin with. Is it that hard to employ a phone guy (not even a tech) who speaks and understands english the way 99% of the people calling will speak it? Do they need to transfer you to 3 different people, to repeat the same troubleshooting steps 3 times, before they decide that yes, there is something wrong with your hardware? If they make a simple change, like having ONE person handle your call, with an escalation after the first troubleshooting steps fail to work, and that escalation, instead of repeating all the steps, actually tried something new, or even took action, it would be a major improvement.

  14. BigElectricCat says:

    Dude, you’re getting a Dell???

  15. plustax says:

    @Bladefist: When most non-manufacturing companies refer to North America they are only talking about the U.S. and Canada. The vast majority of people living in Mexico do not speak English and they don’t readily teach it either unlike in India which was once under British rule so it is already part of their culture. So I wouldn’t worry about your tech support calls going to Tijuana anytime soon.

  16. BrianH says:

    Dell = Dead Man Walking.

    They are the new Acer, trying to compete on cost.

    My dad (a very successful businessman in his own right) has always said “When you can’t compete with quality or value, you can always try to compete on price.” (His track was always being the best, not the cheapest. In some markets, that strategy won’t work, in his business, he was able to make it work.)

    Anyway Dell is courting the Wal Mart nation, the $499 laptop buyers. The irony here is that toothless Elmer & Wilma in Wichita KS require *MORE* support than the engineer in Sunnyvale buying a $2500 machine.

  17. dcndn says:

    After I spent five months and almost 20 hours on the phone with various customer service reps and the executive customer service department trying to get a TRIPLE charged warranty refunded, I asked that I would be considered to have this level of service so I would never be put through such an ordeal again. They refused. They did offer me a printer though; an offer that took every ounce of my being not to respond to with an unending stream of incredulity and obscenities.

  18. Jon Mason says:

    @theirishscion: The problem with a “simple hardware warranty” is non-technical people calling in and saying “my hard drive is dead” etc. – without 1st tier support to diagnose the problem, it would be almost impossible to run. Unless you are talking about a kind of self service system where you would get an RMA and ship your component back to be tested and a new one sent out?

  19. urban_ninjya says:

    I think ppl give Dell too hard of a time. For the most part, you’re buying a computer that’s cheaper than a DIY box, and unlike the DIY box, you’re getting at least some service. I’m surprised they even invested as much as they have selling budget PCs.

    There’s a reason people pony up for Apple Care when buying their Macs. And that’s not because we’re artist type pre-madonnas. Ok.. we really are, but we get serviced.

  20. ShortBus says:

    Blah, blah, blah… The margins on computer hardware have been razor thin for over a decade and customers are very price-aware. If Dell raised prices so they could afford better customer service, a lot of people would just buy their computers elsewhere. I’m willing to bet that the *vast* majority of people who buy a Dell never call support in their lifetime. So why should they have to pay for something that is built into the price if they’ll never use it?

    I totally agree with this move. Keep the prices lower for us who can support ourselves and charge a nominal amount for those people who see the extra value in customer support.

    Oh, I just want to mention that I buy Dells all of the time for my employer. For as long as I can remember, they’ve offered a premium support agreement option for their corporate customers. It was called “Gold Support” up until recently. And I always add it as an option when buying servers–they’re premium service is outstanding. For their workstations and desktops, I don’t buy it because I don’t need it. This arrangement works out just fine.

  21. Milstar says:

    You know what though. So many people call and flood the lines with the most mundane questions that could easily be figured out by looking at a manual. I guess I don’t know- I’ve had my Dell for 4 yrs and never needed to call in about anything, same with my internet service, cable, phone, credit cards, bank stuff etc…..maybe I’m not the norm.

  22. linkura says:

    Their horrible customer service and “warranty” on a brand-new laptop ensured me that I would never purchase their products ever again.

  23. theirishscion says:

    @masonreloaded: Yes, absolutely, there’s no such thing as simple when it comes to these things. However, a bootable CD that ships with the system and that contains decent hardware diagnostics would go a long way toward solving the problem. What’s left might reasonably be dealt with by shipping the faulty hardware back, or better yet, ship ‘em out a new part, put a hold on their credit card for the amount, then if the returned part is not actually faulty, go ahead and charge the card. If you’re not capable of diagnosing your own hardware faults, you need to buy support.

    Possibly even a deal wherein you pay for support to diagnose the issue but if it turns out to be a warrantied hardware fault you are fully refunded.

    Anyway, I don’t necessarily have the answers to this but I’m pretty sure it’s doable with some thought and effort.

  24. Chairman-Meow says:

    Let’s see, buy crappy hardware from Dell AND pay for not getting crappy tech support ? Win! Win for us!
    /sarcasm

    I owned a Dell laptop once and I’ll never make that mistake again. The thing went through 3 keyboards in 3 years. I also had to replace the AC power 4 times. The machine was a piece of crap with crap on top smothered in a rich crap gravy.

  25. vastrightwing says:

    Could you add a service that makes shopping on Dell.com give you the same price for the same item every time?

  26. Dancing Milkcarton says:

    In other words, having an English speaker will cost you extra.

  27. mountaindew says:

    We have a DELL laptop, and the trick we have learned is to call for service request during regular business hours (United States time) to be able to speak with an American.

  28. iMe2 says:

    @theirishscion: I have to agree with you, sir. I’ve always bought from Dell because of their ala cart options, and why shouldn’t advanced support be any different? With online coupons it’s still cheaper than the next best thing and I’m able to afford premium support, a fact I’ve been thankful for in the past.

    By the way, hasn’t this always been their policy? Or is the change that you’re guaranteed North American support for X months?

  29. JiminyChristmas says:

    @urban_ninjya:
    artist type pre-madonnas

    I think you meant prima donnas. Translated literally from the Italian, it means “first lady.” ‘Pre-madonna’ refers to anything that happened before the Immaculate Conception.

  30. Dute says:

    @BrianH:

    I, like a lot of college students, go for the lower-end cheap laptops. No we are not toothless hicks that can’t find the start button, but with the costs of college and fuel theres really very little options for a laptop. I think you’d be amazed how many people are carrying around the $499 and lower laptops, most are very educated — enough to realize they don’t need a $2000 Macbook Pro to type up their assignments and check their email.

  31. Juggernaut says:

    @zentex: I can attest to this also…

    @ShortBus: Same here. Register as a small business user and get US support/pricing.

    On another note, I love that overdue bill calls only come from East Asia. And her name is always Jessica

  32. AustinTXProgrammer says:

    Dell has been doing this for a long time. I used to buy Latitudes as an IT Manager, and the $29 for “Gold” Support was well worth it. Plus, I could usually get the sales weasel to drop the price of the laptop a bit to make up for most of it.

    My personal Laptop is an XPS (refurbished) and I paid a huge premium for it, but one of the perks is XPS support, which I must say is great!

    I am an advanced user and when working with premium support I can cut right through with everything that has been done and get a solution. Normal support will have me spend an hour doing pointless exercises to test parts I have already tested more effectively.

    Computer hardware is NOT a high margin business. Shoppers are typically basing their decisions on price, which has resulted in quite a race to the bottom.

    If Dell offers premium support for the $30 range, BUY IT!

  33. aront says:

    Dear Customers,

    We know that Apple provides you great customer service for the first year for free and for a small fee thereafter. Unfortunately, we have come to realize in our short-sightedness that we can’t “make” money using this business model. While happy customers may say nothing; unhappy customers write to the Consumerist – for this reason we would like to offer our Decent Customer Service team. Now if you have an issue that cannot be resolved by our standard (read: awful) customer service you do not have to contact the Consumerist. Instead, for a nominal fee you can get the same customer service that our brothers in Cupertino provide you for free. Of course, since we’re a penny-pinching, soulless corporation, you can pretty much guarantee that all you are paying for is to talk to someone without an accent who still can’t find your laptop or determine when the backordered part will arrive – even though the same part is used in roughly 90% of our models. We hope you understand that we’re failing as a company trying to race to the bottom and forgive us our mis-givings as we catered to the Wal-Mart shoppers of the world rather than focusing on quality and customer satisfaction.

    Sincerely,
    Michael Dell

  34. AustinTXProgrammer says:

    @ShortBus:
    Their server gold support was always too expensive. I would always trouble shoot and their standard server support has always been very good (I have never had to dance around doing pointless troubleshooting).

    I had gold support on a few desktops because the sales weasel threw it in and I didn’t review the quote adequately, or it was a promotion.

    It really pays off for laptops. I don’t know anyone with a Dell laptop (or really any laptop) that hasn’t needed support, unless it sits on their desk.

    My XPS has been good, but the battery died at 10 months (1 year battery warranty). It was worth having decent support just for that.

  35. Tripamsta says:

    It’s nice that you actually have the option of speaking to someone you can understand, IMHO. Customers purchase the cheapest product, forcing the companies to compete on price and therefore reduce the quality of service by outsourcing to india. I hat speeaking to India (or other 3rd world countries). I like that it’s an option… of course I work for Dell, so I might be biased…

  36. FLEB says:

    @ShortBus: If Dell raised prices so they could afford better customer service, a lot of people would just buy their computers elsewhere.

    OTOH, if they raised their standards enough and properly publicized that fact, they could end up being “the brand that doesn’t suck”. There’s a lot of word of mouth in choosing a computer. That, counterpointed to the popular rage over the common generic incomprehensible frontline tech supporter could overcome the drag of losing the bargain-feeders.

  37. FLConsumer says:

    They’ve always done this… and I agree with zentex — buy their business lines (Optiplex/Precision/etc). They’re usually better-built than their consumer junk.

  38. SkyeBlue says:

    I was quite pleased with Dells paid tech support help when I needed it a few years ago immediately after my free tech support help had expired. My computer crashed for some reason and I had no idea what to do so I agreed to pay for their services. After helping me fix my computer they never bothered to charge me the $200.00+ fee. If they ever catch their mistake and send me a bill I WILL pay it, but I’m not going to hunt THEM down so I can pay it.

  39. Nighthawke says:

    @zentex:
    I concur that their business support is par none some of the best I’ve experienced.

    We had a KVM bite the dirt at one campus so I called it in to them for RMA. I used a newly installed server to execute the warranty with so no problems there. The agent asked me if I did check the KVM core module (this is the part where all the servers hook into so they can be viewed by the single monitor) he caught me off-guard. He hung on the line being a good sport while I fumbled in the back of the rack switching out cables and confirmed the monitor was dead. They fired off a replacement unit via next day and all is cool.

  40. jeff303 says:

    @SimonSwegles: You really think that is likely to happen? The moment Dell starts selling everything bare-bones is the moment Microsoft (in an unrelated matter of course) terminates their formerly inexpensive Windows licensing agreement with Dell. At which point Dell will become the most expensive supplier of Windows machines and will tank if they even survive. This is how Microsoft keeps suppliers in line and happily bundling Windows.

  41. ThomasD3 says:

    I am mixed on this:

    as theirishscion said, you can’t expect good support if you buy a cheap PC and support should be an extra option.

    I agree with this, however there are cases of things simply *not* working. I am talking about hardware issues, rather than clueless customer issues.

    I had a problem with HP that used an intel NIC that had known issues and it took ages to talk to someone that even understood the what the network adapter is, etc. This is pathetic and I should not have to pay for this because the product *has* problems.

    But for people that screw up their windows, it’s not the computer’s fault and support should be extra

  42. Anticitizen says:

    Screw this.

    Credit card warranty extensions work better, IMO. It’s free and has worked wonders for me every time.

    For the record, I don’t own a dell. But I know about three of my friends who got screwed over by them and got crappy customer support as well.

    Like, oh say, my two friends who didn’t get a processor in their laptop. Dell didn’t do crap about it. Credit card managed to make some progress when they handled it.

  43. dragonfire81 says:

    Wow it’s pretty sad companies are now CHARGING for good customer service, shouldn’t that be something we get by default?

    I feel bad for the regular Dell CSR’s as now they are going to get bombarded with angry folks who demand the more advanced CS for free because they don’t think regular CS can solve their issue.

    Here’s an idea Dell: Provided better training and pay to your regular CSRs and you just might fight that–GASP! They suddenly GIVE A CRAP about their jobs! Isn’t that something?

  44. theirishscion says:

    @dragonfire81:

    Provided better training and pay to your regular CSRs and you just might fight that–GASP! They suddenly GIVE A CRAP about their jobs!

    Absolutely, if you pay better and provide better training, you will get superior service. But it will cost substantially more as well. In a former life, I had a paper-hat job manufacturing tech support drones for Dell and Compaq for a technical college in TX. Now, these were mostly bright, somewhat distracted kids (mostly in the 18 – 25 age range, but some folk in their 30s and 40s looking to get out of HVAC or what have you and get into a new line of work) who didn’t have the discipline or opportunity for college. 90%+ Kinesthetic learners. They were starting out as level 2 techs when they were being hired. That was our target as teachers.

    And so help me I tried, I tried my very best but damn it all it really wasn’t easy. (In the interests of full disclosure, I am an utterly abysmal teacher, but even my skilled and experienced colleagues had to work hard to get much of anything to stick. Imagine a classroom of 20-yr old highschoolers with no fear of any consequence you could levy)

    And we had a YEAR to train ‘em. When they left the program, they were capable alright, but really only just. And they were already commanding nearly three times minimum wage despite the fact that it would be another couple of years before they would be really self-directed in that type of work. Now consider that a month of training is frequently considered excessive in level 1 tech support situations and you can see perhaps why good support costs money. Of course, once they get really good, they simply leave and get a real support job that pays $25/hour or more, there’s just no economical way to retain truly good support operatives unless you’re charging a realistic fee for the service.

    Honestly, I don’t know what the long term solution is. Probably hosted applications for everything, and OS as merely life support for the web browser. As off topic as this may be, the days of the monolithic standalone PC we’re used to now are numbered for most users. Good riddance I say.

  45. ivealwaysgotmail10 says:

    Hmm Interesting, So now theyhave 3 levels of service, Inspiron/all others (india, horrible customer service, long wait times, “no supervisors” All around terrible)
    Their XPS Customer service (based in the US/canada, Mostly people who actualy speak english/know what they are talking about, Still long hold times on busy days, But actually some ability to solve problems and they are very accomidating to exceptions.

    Then This “premium support” Which im guesing it in the same building as XPS technical support (or is the exact same department sold for an up-sell fee to inspiron etc customers).

    I mean seriously, If you are buying an inspiron desktop or notebook or anything other than an XPS …….. I really hate to say it would probobly be worth paying the extra…. I returned my Inspiron desktop and i told the customer service rep the reason i was returning it flat out was their terrible customer service, Making me repeat steps like reformatting my system (which i had just done) is no acceptable, Telling me you have no supervisor UNLESS i ask 7 times in a row is not acceptable.

    Dell has done this forever, Its XPS support is 1000x Better than its Inspiron support, But that may be more of a stab at the inspiron support than a commendation to the XPS support (although XPS is the best technical support department for computers i have ever spoken with)

  46. mike says:

    I agree that this is a good move for Dell. You get a pretty good deal for a PC. You shouldn’t expect stellar customer service for the price you pay.

    Most people nowadays have some family member/friend/co-worker/neighbor who does computer stuff and go to them before they call tech support. Free, no hassle.

    Whenever I had to call Dell Tech Support, I told them that I was a tech and I needed a replacement whatever.

    Typically that did the trick.

  47. dantsea says:

    You get what you pay for.

  48. crichton007 says:

    This is not news. Dell has been charging for “Gold” tech support for a while to get domestically located tech support. Had I known about this I would have paid extra for someone who I can understand.

  49. sporks says:

    Uh, why not increase the cost of computers $10 or whatever and having decent customer service for everyone?

  50. Smorgasbord says:

    Consumer Reports has always rated Apple as the best customer support, most trouble–computers, and easiest to learn. I have used their support a few times over the years. After the warranty is out, they charged me $39 for each of the two times I called. It could be more now. No time limit. It could be higher now. I’ll stick with my Mac.

  51. rickhamilton620 says:

    Dell small business FTW. Drop shipped me a new battery fast for my Latitude.

  52. dumbwhore says:

    Alienware tried this bullshit 4 years ago. I paid for the support thinking it would help. I received some of the worst support I’ve ever been given in my life and not from American English speaking support techs.

    That said, I’ve given up on box computers and build my own for my own purposes. Luckily at work I don’t have to figure out how to deliver good computers to people that let them do their jobs.

  53. boosted22 says:

    It seems like the cost of premium customer service comes at a price – they have just officially announced that they are closing the last XPS support line in Canada and will be diverting all those calls to the Philippines.
    [www.ottawabusinessjournal.com]

    It seems that the Premium support will still get your call answered in the US,but if you dont pay you are going overseas!! w00t DELL

  54. comp123 says:

    Funny that the above commenter mentioned the Philippines. This last Dec. 14, about 50 of us received an email asking us to meet at 3:45. They laid us all off as a Christmas present. (They paid us for the rest of the day) This was just as their call center in the Phillipines was up and running. TIP: if you buy a Dell online or by phone, they have a program called EPP or employee purchase program. Anyone in America gets this and it can range from 2-12% depending on price of computer, which overpriced warranty you get, etc. BUT, Boeing employees get a flat 15% off. So buil your computer at dell.com/eppbuy, then CALL the toll free number and say you are a Boeing employee. They are trained not to question you about your discount. If they do ask for your discount code, just say you can’t remember it.

  55. comp123 says:

    Funny that the above commenter mentioned the Philippines. This last Dec. 14, about 50 of us received an email asking us to meet at 3:45. They laid us all off as a Christmas present. (They paid us for the rest of the day) This was just as their call center in the Phillipines was up and running. TIP: if you buy a Dell online or by phone, they have a program called EPP or employee purchase program. Anyone in America gets this and it can range from 2-12% depending on price of computer, which overpriced warranty you get, etc. BUT, Boeing employees get a flat 15% off. So buil your computer at dell.com/eppbuy, then CALL the toll free number and say you are a Boeing employee. They are trained not to question you about your discount. If they do ask for your discount code, just say you can’t remember it.@boosted22:

  56. Anivyl says:

    The problem with Dell is that their current customer service is no better than… say the McDonald’s round the corner.

    For some of us, we don’t necessary pay just $500 for a new laptop or desktop, and the reason we are willing to shell out that much money is mostly because Dell’s laptops (in my case) are highly customisable.

    That relates to more costs on our side, and the least Dell could have provided was someone who at least CARE to listen to customers and their concerns.

    in this one purchase, i had to listen to a Dell customer service person lecture me on marketing strategies, forced by his superior to listen to him yap again, and to top it all off, had about 3 receptionists hung up on me before i can even give my customer ID.

    why would i pay more for better service when the current one is so bad it’s below par? so would more money shift it to at least average service levels?