Dell Downgraded From "Evil" To "Bumbling"

“They’ve been downgraded from evil to bumbling.” – Me in FORTUNE about Dell’s online thrusts that attempt to repair their image and listen to their customers more. What do you think? Do you feel any better about them than you did two years ago, or are do their customers still writhe in the eternal flames of “Dell Hell?” Would you add Dell to your Facebook?

Michael Dell ‘Friends’ his customers [FORTUNE]

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  1. Ringl says:

    Dell’s small business has been incredible. We had a server hard drive fail (in a RAID 10 setup) and they had a new hard drive to us in just under 2 hours from when I placed the call.

    Of course my wife hates Dell because of trying to get a laptop RMA when the CSR suggested she “get a screwdriver.”

    You win some, you lose some

    • Canino says:

      @Ringl: Of course my wife hates Dell because of trying to get a laptop RMA when the CSR suggested she “get a screwdriver.”

      Why, was she out of vodka?

    • Oranges w/ Cheese says:

      @Ringl: Agreed – their business support is astounding, I had nothing but stellar experiences with the CSR and the service techs that showed up very soon after any call.
      Personal experience, however – I.E. NOT PAYING FOR SERVICE resulted in less than fabulous results.

  2. nsv says:

    I just bought a laptop yesterday. Didn’t even consider Dell.

    A friend’s Dell business laptop with next day on site service was also repaired yesterday. Of course, she called for the repair a month ago.

    Nope, no way, no how.

  3. Pandrogas says:

    I don’t trust Dell’s customer services very much at all. That being said I recently picked up a Dell Studio laptop and have been pretty pleased by it so far. Then again, I try not to call tech support if I can fix the issue myself.

    Dell’s business support, like many businesses, is much better than standard consumer support. So it’s a toss up for me, I’ll recommend them if you’re looking to save a lot of money, but if you’re going to need lots of help with stuff (aside from RMA), don’t bother calling them, just get to know your local computer repair guy.

  4. iMe2 says:

    I have sent the same laptop back twice for cracking the screen and was able to do so with fast service and no hitches. The second time they even replaced some worn-out parts, including the keyboard.

    Of course, I would never ever actually call Dell – tried that a couple of times and got nowhere. Online chat support is the way to go.

    • @iMe2: That’s actually kind of funny to me, because my experience with Dell tech support is (usually) better on the phone than by e-mail.

      My video card fried on me. I mean, it was physically charred. Fan was dead and I was having all sorts of display distortion issues. After clearly explaining the issue in more e-mails than I’d like to count, their final solution? “It’s a software issue. Reinstall Windows.”

      At that point, I called Dell. Explained my issue, the guy on the phone said, “Oh yeah, your video card’s definitely fried. Let me pull up all your info and we’ll have a new card in the mail to you today.”

      However, the e-mail support actually worked for me the last time I tried it. The HD failed on my wife’s XPS, confirmed by diagnostics that I ran on it (complete with error codes). Sent the error codes to Dell and they had a new HD on our doorstep the very next day.

      So it’s kind of hit or miss. I always prefer to do e-mail because I hate talking on the phone, so when the e-mail method works, it’s fantastic. When it doesn’t, however, it’s a nightmare. Thankfully, I have yet to have a bad experience with Dell’s phone support.

      • iMe2 says:

        @edicius: I can imagine email being a major hassle with tech support – I actually used their chat (maybe you meant the same thing) and had resolutions in under 15 minutes each time.

        Phone would probably be good if you buy their “elite” customer support or whatever they call it – might be worth the price if you hold on to old, beat-up computers (like I do).

  5. B says:

    I think bumbling is worse than evil. With an evil company, at least there’s a chance they’ll be competent.

  6. Sarge1985 says:

    Well, even a dog gets lucky once in awhile and catches its tail.

    • Ringl says:

      @Sarge1985:

      @legwork:

      @junip:

      I’d say Dell’s biggest flaw home or business is their lack of tracking/shipping information. The only time I’ve been on the phone with Dell’s business reps for more than half an hour is when I needed to get tracking information from a previous call.

      • rickhamilton620 says:

        @Ringl: Agreed, I was like “Ok now where’s my tracking number” for maybe 3-4 days when I ordered my D630 a year or 2 ago.

        Also, I’ve had nothing but good experiences with business support. Took care of everything right away online with a chat :) If you do go Dell, get a business system, you don’t have to be a business to get one either.

  7. dtmoore says:

    Depends what you buy, the mid-high end dell stuff is and always has been pretty high quality. It’s when you get people buying machines for $300 and complaining that they aren’t built with the best components when you have a problem.

    • eelmonger says:

      @dtmoore and @legwork: I completely agree. I’ve had outstanding success with mid-high end small business products that I use at home: over 6 years and no hardware issues. They’ve also been great at handling tech support of lab machines at my school: call in tell them the problem and they send parts out overnight. However, I bought my mom a cheapy home system and it’s been nothing but trouble. So the lesson is: buy from small business and don’t buy the cheapest thing they’ve got.

  8. Snow says:

    I have been trying for five weeks to get a graphics card replaced in an XPS laptop that was purchased in August of 2007. I got an automated message today saying the graphics card they need to replace was delayed another 30 days. They are offering a replacement laptop, but I have to wait for a person to call back. The voice mail I was instructed to leave a message in has a mumble-mouth staffing it and I have no idea what he said, so we’ll see how THAT conversation goes IF he calls back.

    Their small-business support has been fantastic for my company and we’ve used them exclusively for years. The XPS side of things is quite possibly some of the worst customer support I’ve ever experienced.

    • NotYou007 says:

      I do not work for Dell but I do warranty repairs for them. As in the next business day service on their laptops and desktops so I’m happy when they break, they keep me employed and if I ever have to call Dell we have are own support line that we call and I get to speak to someone in the United States and I tell them what I need and they order it.

      As for Dell’s small biz support. A lot of it is based out of Orono, Maine. It’s outsourced to a company called Microdyne that employs a lot of young adults but they seem to do a decent job for the crap wage they get paid which is around $8.50hr

      @SnowMN: Which model XPS do you have? I’ve never heard of any delay on the video cards. I don’t replace them that often though.

      But Dell is no worse than any other big compnay out there. Their biggest mistake was moving consumer tech support overseas but everyone is doing it.

      @SnowMN: Which model XPS do you have? I am not

  9. Trai_Dep says:

    Michael Dell is our age’s P.T. Barnum.

  10. legwork says:

    Dell home (and all retail sources): prepare for pain. You can get extraordinary agents but they’re few and far between.

    Dell business: It’s the reverse. They have a few idiots, but escalations actually work. It isn’t difficult to bump above the front liners to senior techs who know their stuff. Once you get to that point they take customers seriously. They often take the shotgun approach and ship parts “just in case”, and then you better be ready to handle the follow-up calls & email. Their persistence has made me feel guilty on elusive problems when I have to handle something else and they’re still all over the “current” problem.

    I work with all the major vendors and none take the extra steps these guys do outside the Fortune 500. It’s completely different from my experiences with Dell home & retail, which is sad since that’s where most end users land.

    • coolkiwilivin says:

      @legwork: That sounds pretty spot on. I work for a Large Business customer and have been absolutely satisfied with Dell. My boss accidentally spilled a cup of coffee into a laptop. They replaced the whole thing no questions asked. I asked our Apple rep what they would have done in a similar situation and he said, “well we wouldn’t have covered that.” Apple’s response to hardware issues – “have a few spare machines to swap out or take your machine go to apple store and wait.” Dell – parts go out next day and the repair tech meets you wherever you want. Again, I’m a large Business customer and I’m sure the home line horror stories are true BUT I would rather go with a company that when you give them X thousands of dollars they give you better service and pricing than a company like Apple that no matter how much you do you get only 10% off and for service you have to either go to a physical store or mail your computer in.

  11. junip says:

    I had that next day on site repair service on a coworker’s work laptop and Dell wouldn’t send someone to repair it because the original computer had been rma’d when first purchased and they couldn’t find the tracking information for when it had been shipped back to them. They expected me to cough up a tracking number from a year before I’d even started work at the company. THEN they said they “might repair the computer” depending on how expensive they thought the repair might end up being, and naturally I never heard from them again. Who knows how many tens of thousands of dollars we’d spent with them… so useless.

  12. BrianDaBrain says:

    I had an error message when trying to reinstall Windows on my year old Dell. I wasn’t sure immediately what the issue was, but a brief perusal of online forums told me that the error message was caused by problems with the hard drive. None offered solutions save for replacing the hard drive.

    Since my computer was still under warranty, I called Dell support, and they had me run these test that confirmed it was a hard drive issue, but, instead of working with the hard drive, they had me doing inane things like reseating the memory, and checking my CD-ROM drive. Add that to the fact that the guy on the other end of the phone couldn’t understand a bloody word I said, and it was a very frustrating few hours on the phone. I spoke, in total, to 3 reps over the course of three evenings, all of whom blatantly confessed that they had no idea what was wrong with my computer or how to fix it. They couldn’t confirm (in their words anyway) that it was a hard drive issue, so they refused to send me a new one.

    I ended up getting competent assistance from a friend who used to work at Gateway who happened to have a nifty software utility for situations just like mine. A couple hours later, Windows was reinstalled, and I didn’t have to replace my hard drive. I almost called Dell back just so I could rub it in their faces, but my rational side took over, and I haven’t called them since.

  13. RodAox says:

    Other than business side,
    1) Their customer service is utter crap. You get bounced between transfers if you are lucky you will reach a human being in about an hour.
    2) Regardless of the price, their components are substandard at best.
    3) Their financial service is a nightmare and a huge trap.
    4) Good luck finding your computer after you ship it off to them.

    I bought 4 Pcs from them over the years and their service got progressively worse. I do not buy from them and I try to stop people from buying from them.

  14. LoriLynn says:

    Anyone know what the “self-help site the company recently launched [that]lets people solve one another’s tech problems” is? I could use some help with my laptop…until I get my new HP, that is….

  15. unpolloloco says:

    Regarding dell’s customer support: figure out the problem yourself and then be firm in telling them what you need. You won’t have any problems.

  16. theblackdog says:

    Nope, I wouldn’t add dell to my Facebook, especially after trying to charge me nearly $50 in shipping and taxes for a new laptop.

  17. MercuryPDX says:

    I have a Facebook? ;)

    That “glitch” aside, what’s the value to ME adding them since we know they will just use it as another avenue for Spam?

  18. adminslave says:

    As far as their customer support goes, it is ok, if trying. But the main thing that makes me balk at the possibility of buying another dell (when my current 4 year old inspiron finally croaks, which is probably soon) is the fact that they routinely create laptops with cheap, faulty motherboards. In the four years I have owned by laptop, I have had to get 3 replacement motherboards because eventually (usually around Xmas which was the time the laptop was originally purchased) the plug that connects to the power cord is not recognized and so the laptop can only work via battery (which cannot charge). My three year warrany ran out and of course, since last Xmas my battery will no longer charge (though the battery is fine, I have tested it)–again it is the motherboard. This is not an isolated issue–I looked at more recent Inspiron models and there are many complaints about the faulty motherboards. Why can’t Dell fix this issue? I have had to duct tape my power cord to the laptop because my battery is permanently dead. Good times! Dell products are made with paper mache and hopes and dreams!!

  19. MadameX says:

    I’ve only had stellar support from Dell on the business side of things. I’ve had parts show up on my desk less than an hour after the call was placed. I’ve had the occasional inept technician, but this has been very rare.

    As for the home side, my Dell 700M has been chugging along for over four years without a hitch. I’ve never needed to call for support on it so while I can’t comment on the consumer level technical support. it seems to speak volumes about the quality of their laptops.

    • Oranges w/ Cheese says:

      @MadameX: It speaks volumes about the quality of their older laptops. I had an Inspiron 9100 that I couldn’t have been more pleased with. It was slow, but steady and reliable.

      I wouldn’t touch one of their new computers with a 10ft. pole. They feel plasticy and flimsy and crappy. And their performance is less than amazing.

  20. adminslave says:

    owned by=owned my

  21. Sudonum says:

    My wife and I bought 6 (work & personal) Dell’s from ’98 to ’05. In ’05 I got a 1600n multi-function printer. Biggest POS I’ve ever owned. Dell replaced it once, then every time it went down, they’d suggest this that and the other, it would start working, then it would go down again a month later. They played this game until the warranty ran out, absolutely refused to replace it again. Then, of course, out of warranty, not our problem.
    Bought a desk top in ’05 to replace a unit flooded in Katrina. One week after the warranty was up the mother board fried. Same thing, not our problem,out of warranty.
    Since ’05 we’ve purchased 3 laptops and one desk top. Not one of them from Dell.

  22. rsfrid says:

    I retired from servicing Dell equipment at a firm with hundreds of stations. Dell’s service sucks big time! They require the service folks to float the costs until Dell chooses to refund the costs. Sometimes it’s months. Most service calls are passed off to overseas call answerers with non-English experience – not just language, but manerisms and values, etc. They mostly, just don’t get it. They are instructed to follow a certain typed out path and one must not very from this path! Doesn’t matter if you are a trained service tech and know exactly what the problem is, you must go through the bull shit to get the part you need. I have no clue why anyone would ever buy a Dell (dude!) let alone go through the bull-shit they put every owner through. We have a home network with three workstations and I am happy to say none of them are Dell’s Nor would I ever recommend Dell to my worst enemy.

  23. QuiteSpunky says:

    A friend gave me an ancient Dell laptop (circa 2001) last year after mine was stolen, and I acquired such an admiration for the old beast (it did everything that my new computer did, albeit slower) that when I finally replaced it I bought a refurbished XPS M1330. Fortunately haven’t had to deal with with Dell Service yet, but I do think they have one of the better refurbished programs– hugely discounted with full warranty.

  24. Legal_Eagle_In_Training says:

    I use a Dell at work (no real choice) but when I buy one this winter for myself I REFUSE to buy a Dell laptop. My co-worker bought a Dell laptop in March and last night it wouldn’t turn on. After fiddling with it on the command screen, she finally got an error code to call Dell with. Apparently, her hard drive failed and all the CSR said was ‘well, it happens.’

    Her response was ‘not to a laptop that’s only 6mos old’

    • NotYou007 says:

      @Legal_Eagle_In_Training:

      A hard drive can fail at anytime. Just because it is six months old doesn’t mean crap. I’ve had brand new hard drives fail two weeks out of the box. That is why you backup your data.

      Her laptop should be under warranty though so getting a replacement should not be a big issue.

      Also, if anyone is going to purchase a laptop from Dell. Get complete care. Yes, you pay for it but they will fix it regardless what you do to it. You can run over it with your car on purpose and they will repair it.

  25. ZafirDento says:

    I too have seen Dell Customer Service go down the tubes… I have
    discovered that with persistance, you can still win when dealing with Dell.

    If the 1st customer service analyst is not helpful, try to escalate to a
    manager.. If that fails, hang up and call again (and again, and again).

    Contrary to what I’m reading above, Dell has made “warrantee exemptions” for
    me (Even on laptops that were a year out of warrantee). I also recommend
    searching the Slickdeals forums (they often list the name and employee # of
    representatives who were able to assist with problems, where others would
    not).

  26. h_pinkerton says:

    Dell Customer Service is horrible for the consumer. I bought 7 Dell computers and have switch to HP with much better success.

    There is a sight that is frequented by former Dell employees and former (and some current) Dell customers. In addition to interesting bitching, one can get great help from the former Dell techs who are quick to respond to questions. It’s http://www.ihatedell.net and although many there have an ax to grind with the company, there is a ton of good information about Dell and how many are screwed by the company.

  27. ezacharyk says:

    When Dell, starts to take Linux support seriously, then I will consider them. I have a Dell printer here that my wife purchased. It is absolutely worthless on my Linux laptop. I have to send files to a Windows computer or partition to print using their crappy printer.

    Here’s a tip for you Dell: If you are going to sell computers with Linux pre installed, you better have drivers available for your printers and other external hardware.

  28. majin_chichi says:

    I like Dell even less than I did a few years ago, but that’s because they built a lovely, huge call centre/ facility here, on which the city was giving them a nice break on taxes. Until one day, after only being here a few years, Dell decided to close their lovely brand spanking new facility, and put everyone there out of work, because they were now outsourcing the jobs (I assume to India?).

    I won’t ever consider a Dell again for a computer purchase, and we’ve had two Dell laptops in our household prior.

  29. h_pinkerton says:

    The “elite” customer support does nothing except cost you $100

  30. Triborough says:

    Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice – you can’t get fooled again. After nothing but negative experiences with Dell, I not only would not buy another, but tell everyone I know not to.

  31. chuckmasterflex says:

    I had nothing but problems with my XPS Generation 1 notebook. When I purchased it I went with the extended warranty. 2 months later the motherboard died. It was replaced as per warranty even though I requested a new one since it was only 2 months old and died on me. Months later the same computer would shut down on me for no good reason. I later found out the computer heat sink was incapable of dispersing the heat. This continued for 2 years and Dell said there was nothing they could do about it. Months later the second motherboard fried and was replaced as per warranty. Then 2 months after the warranty died the motherboard fried again. Dell said sorry that you are out of warranty that will be $600.00 to fix. I spent more time with out-sourced customer service and never resolved this issue. I have read about Dell’s class actions from misleading customers to notebooks that catch on fire. Don’t believe me look it up. Nothing will change with Dell. By something else. Keep up the Dell Hell forums.

  32. nknight says:

    In my experience, Dell’s “good” service only comes under certain conditions… Specifically, you have to CALL (not email/chat), it has to be about a server, and that server has to be running Linux. That gets you dropped straight into the Linux support group that, for the most part, is composed of competent people. Anything else, you’re screwed.

    My most common conversations with dell support have gone like this:

    (Linux server)

    Me: The server is running RAID 10, and one of the drives dropped out of the array. Tried re-seating it, and it failed again.

    Them: OK, I see you have a 4-hour service agreement. Would you like me to courier the drive to you immediately or would you prefer to wait until tomorrow?

    Few hours later, a drive shows up.

    (Windows server)

    Tech: OK, you’ll need to delete and re-create the array.

    Me: Won’t that require an OS reinstall?

    Tech: Yes, sir.

    Me: This is a production server. I really need you to just send me the drive.

    Tech: The array has to be re-created, sir, I can’t send you a drive until we try that.

    As far as I know, the last Windows box I had this conversation about is still running with a degraded array (4-6 months later) because it makes more business sense to just wait until the (several-year-old) box dies completely and restore from (frequent) backups on to a new server than to spend the time and effort rebuilding on the existing box.

  33. narf says:

    Business side is alright. Three times via phone, once time via email, and all were addressed with a prompt resolution (twice for parts overnight, once onsite next day, and for the LCD which was 35 months into the 3 year warranty, the replacement arrived in 2 days).

    Dell home, however, is Dell hell. This division is where most of the the incompetence and BS comes from.

  34. majortom1029 says:

    Their NON XPS home support stinks but their XPS and Gold tech support has to be one of the best in the industry.

    I call gold tech suppor tup tell them my vid card is bad they take my address . The next day i receive the vid card and ship them back the broken one.

    nknight i suggest upgrading your windows support to gold tech support. Its worth it.

    • nknight says:

      @majortom1029:

      Thankfully, I’m no longer responsible for any Dell boxes running Windows, but they’ve all had the exact same 24×7 4-hour support package as the Linux boxes. Support quality for an obvious hardware issue should not differ based on whether I’m running one or the other of their supported OSs.

  35. MerlynNY says:

    I’m done with Dell myself. My last three computers have been from Dell and their customer service is horrible. In the past when I called for tech support (depending on the hour of the day I beleive) I would be routed over to India, which was always a horrible experience. No offence to India, but if I cannot understand what you are saying because your accent is impossible to understand, how can you help me? Though I’m not a big fan of outsourcing, at least HP outsources to Canada. Aside from the occasional “EH” at the end of sentences, and words like “Aboot” (about) it’s much better then a guy from India with a HEAVY accent who’s claims his name is “Mike.” (Give me a break!). I’m done with Dell.

  36. wstraynor says:

    Maybe I’m the exception to the rule, but I’ve had a Dell Inspiron 9300 laptop (A behemoth, by most standards) kicking for close to 4 years now. In total I’ve had to replace two parts, both which fell under warranty and both required telephone calls to dell. In the first case, the DVD drive wasn’t properly being detected as closed. And in the other, the harddrive was kind enough to warn me before it was going to crap out.

    Getting a replacement DVD drive was a little bit of a hassle. I called Dell up, got an indian guy with a very thick accent, and tried to get a replacement part. This guy insisted on basically arguing with me for close to an hour as to whether or not my drive was busted or not (it was). After that, he caved and sent me a new drive that arrived the next day.

    The HD replacement was by far the easiest thing to get replaced. I ran a few diagnostics, told the tech what I found and within 10 minutes he had a new drive on the way. Very prompt, very courteous and still with a very thick accent.

    Overall I would say my experience with Dell would be about a 4 on a 5 point scale, 5 being best. Seeing as how I’m still a student, they’ve provided me with nothing but quick service and good coverage.

  37. tubamanjon says:

    Ok, so after a HUGE fight with Best Buy…(Don’t get me started there…) we finally were able to upgrade our laptop because the other one failed, big time… We ended up purchasing a Dell.

    A few months ago, I decided to use the Dell as a nightlight to find the printer (don’t ask!) and dropped it. The only damage was cosmetic, so bypassing GEEK SQUAD… I call Dell CS. I was told that they could not service my machine because it was purchased at Best Buy and they had the contracts. So, I asked if I could get the part numbers and be transfered to parts to order them. The guy said he would give me the part numbers but could not ensure that I would have any luck with parts.

    When he transfered me, I calmly told the lady that I would need these parts and here is my serial number. She set me up an account and BOOM! I get the parts the next day.

    Bottome line is, Dell is pretty easy to work with as long as you don’t give too much information to the right people. Kind of like the witness stand, only say what the lawyer wants to hear and DON’T ELABORATE!!!

  38. Hyman Decent says:

    Many years ago, I read that Michael Dell was a big donor to George W. Bush’s campaigns and the GOP. For this reason, I would not add Michael Dell to my Facebook.

    Or buy a Dell product.

  39. Anonymous says:

    I purchased a Dell laptop almost 3 years ago. At the time Dell double charged me. I ended up paying $1400 for a $700 computer. I’ve been trying to reg them to refund the second charge. 3 years and 40+ emails later all with the same reply, “I noted your feedback and will send it to the concerned department.” Still not resolved. I am bringing my case to small claims court in Delaware. I still am not able to talk to an actual human on this. Just the same cut and paste responses from Dell agents. I’m looking for Michael Dell in new york city. any suggestions on how I can find him?

  40. Anonymous says:

    I recently called Dell with respect to our 7 yr old dell inspirion as the web connection failed and an error msg indicated that it was winsock. Although it is supposed to be “life time support”, I guess Dell defines that as answering the phone as they refused to help after several calls and instead tried to peddle an expensive support pkg. no deal – i switched to linux.

    Hence i believe their “service” is really a coverup for “sales” – i will be leery of using them in the future.

    we recently bought another dell – frankly because of the price. U then have to update (not windows – that of course is another deal) and we had some 38 updates – some dating back to mid 2008!

    Our dell laptops do not work well with an external monitor & are prone to bluescreen crashes

    All in all – dell is ok for the money but, unfortunately, i consider them to be disposables