Should IT professionals blindly stick with Dell business laptops and service?
Posted by Philip on 2012-01-13
I am a consultant in corporate IT. I prefer to use my own PC on the job, when possible, because I rely on a handful of unusual legacy applications in my work. In July 2011, when a new client indicated that they wanted deliverables in Word 2010 format, I ordered my first Windows7 PC, a "business-only" Latitude E6520 from Dell, with Dell Gold Support, to replace my aging but trusty D830. Because of my lengthy experience with Dell, and in particular with Gold Support, I decided to stick with that brand - even though Dell's model with the required features cost half again as much as similar models from some other makers.
I took care to specify to the sales person at Dell Small Business that I required a 32 bit operating system because of the legacy applications I run. After a 6-week wait, Dell delivered the PC - unfortunately, with a 64-bit OS. This should have been a minor inconvenience, but Dell managed to turn it into a debacle. I asked Customer Service if they could simply ship me a replacement drive with the correct image - it's a simple matter to swap hard drives. I even offered to pay for the extra drive. No, this was against their policy; I was instructed to ship the PC back and wait another 6 weeks for a replacement - which was out of the question. Despite escalating the issue to the Manager of Customer Service, their best offer (after intense haggling!) was to send me some install disks for the 32 bit system (also against their policy) - and, no driver disk was available.
Well, I'd installed dozens of pre-Windows 7 OSs on Dells and was always able to download all the necessary drivers from their support site with no problem, so I decided to take them up on the offer. I purchased a new hard drive identical to the one in the E6520, popped it in and started the setup. But, when I attempted to obtain drivers from the Dell Support site, the drivers it provided for the 32-bit version of my model and service tag were mostly incorrect. Some were for a 64 bit system, while others didn't match the existing hardware devices at all. I blundered through the driver installation as best I could, and then went to a commercial driver site and paid to get more satisfactory drivers.
When I tried using the PC at work, a problem appeared that rendered it completely useless; Windows Explorer crashed every 2 minutes. A Google search showed that this problem was widespread, but nobody had posted a remedy. Dell Gold Support knew nothing about it and could make no sense of the error message I was receiving. I called them repeatedly and spent hours running every possible diagnostic - without success.
A high-level tech at Gold Support finally offered to do a fresh remote Windows 7 installation, using my disks. The PC was otherwise useless, so I agreed and asked him to let me do the install under his supervision, and then to pull the drivers for me while I watched. He guessed it would take 1/2 hour for the whole affair... but then he encountered the same driver problems that I had experienced. With his knowledge of the drivers used in similar models, he was eventually able to find serviceable drivers and complete the installation in about 3 hours.
The following day I took my PC to the office and promptly discovered that the crashing Windows Explorer problem was STILL THERE. While experimenting in the office, I discovered that Windows Explorer only crashed when the PC was connected to the Enterprise network. Otherwise, it was rock solid. I finally learned in a tech blog that Microsoft actually had posted a hot fix for this exact problem - http://support/. Microsoft.com/kb/2494427. It worked. Another problem solved.
Next issue: When typing, the insertion point jumped erratically every minute or two. I couldn't type a sentence without having to mouse the cursor back to the correct insertion point. I assumed that this was because I was inadvertently brushing the touchpad during typing. The PC had no touchpad control utility, and no really satisfactory utility to disable the touchpad could be found online, so I covered it with a piece of cardbord. This helped somewhat, but the cursor was still not completely stable. A search of the Internet found numerous commiserating complaints, but no solutions. I decided to call Gold Support yet again to see if they knew anything about the cursor issue. This time, the tech guy knew exactly what the problem was... Dell had omitted the touchpad management app and driver from their support site: Dell Touchpad Driver R315893. While we were talking, I searched the site for this driver, and still couldn't find it, so I got the tech support guy to email me a link to it. When I installed it, not only was the problem solved, but I now have the previously missing utility to configure or disable the touchpad.
One final issue - which paled in comparison to the above - was that the audio level on the E6530 was disappointingly subdued. I'm a former orchestral musician, so this really steamed me. My old D830 was great by comparison. Again, searching the Dell support groups showed that dissatisfaction with the E6530's audio was widespread, the IDT sound card's simple on/off toggle offered no solution, and Dell Gold Support claimed to know nothing about it. Thank heavens, some charitable soul posted the solution; there is ANOTHER audio control simply entitled "Sound", inconspicuous and not mentioned in Dell's literature, that allows you to configure the playback properties of your speakers and headphones. The sound level is still rather weak, but at least I can hear it now.
After the PC was finally serviceable - more than 2 months from the time I received it - a Dell Customer Service person started calling and emailing me to try to patch things up and close my service ticket. The lady who called me repeatedly was nice enough, but couldn't begin to understood the technical issues. Sad.
I have 4 questions which I believe are reasonable and salient:
1) Why couldn't Dell have simply swapped the hard drive for me? They surely had one with the correct image on hand. It seems their "policy" was specifically to NOT provide urgently needed service.
2) If I and the Gold Support tech had the same driver issues on two consecutive installs - more than 6 weeks apart - this was clearly a problem that other corporate Dell users were having. Why didn't Dell (or Dell Gold Support) escalate the problem when I first reported it, and correct their site? And why couldn't they provide a driver disk, like most other manufacturers? BTW, the Customer Support lady who kept calling me after I was up and running adamantly denied that there was ever anything wrong with the driver site, right down to our last conversation, although I'd given her the Gold Support tech's name and location.
3) If the crashing Windows Explorer problem is sufficiently widespread on Dell corporate model laptops to have required a Microsoft hot-fix, why didn't Dell even know about it?
4) Finally, what kind of manufacturer would deliver these high-end PCs configured so unsatisfactorily? What were they thinking?
At one point in my career, I oversaw tech support for a chain of PC stores, so I had the requisite technical background to eventually get this PC working. But what are Dell purchasers supposed to do who aren't technical - or can't afford to invest the countless hours I spent?
In retrospect, my allegiance to Dell was ill-advised. When I purchase my next PC, I will base my choice on price, repair record and reported customer satisfaction, without regard to brand.
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Customer service/shipping nightmare
Posted by Robert on 2010-04-11
About a year and half ago, my father bought me a Dell Latitude laptop when I decided to return to school to finish my degree. He also went so far as to get the extended warranty with home service to make sure that if anything happened, it would be taken care of quickly and efficiently.
At first, everything was great. I had an issue with my keyboard where keys started to come off for some reason. The gentleman I spoke to on the phone verified my warranty and had a person there fixing my keyboard in about a day. I also had an issue where I was staying at a friend's place and they tripped on the cord breaking the monitor. One more call to Dell and two days later I not only had a new monitor, but they had taken the time to ask if anything else needed replacing while they were shipping things. I was having some issues with my cd/DVD RW drive, so I had them fix it while they were at it. They asked about cracks in the case and even shipped out some parts to fix a few small issues. They went ahead and confirmed everything and said that since they had to special ship the monitor (I don't think any of their contracted installers had one showing on hand) and it was a weekend, it would unfortunately be delayed until Monday. They then actually apologized for causing me to have to wait a whole 24 hours. I was floored since I was used to having to fight with their customer service for my old desktop. The installer showed up on time and fixed everything, it was great.
Now, go forward about three months. Once again, I started to have keyboard issues. Silly me, I called Dell expecting the process to be just as painless as before. Instead I was told that the keyboard is now a self-install but that they would get me a new one shipped ASAP. I had watched the installer fix my other keyboard so I knew it wasn't hard to do and told them that it would be fine. The agent even offered to arrange a call for me in case I needed someone to walk me through it. The keyboard came and life was grand once again.
About a month or two after that, I moved to Alaska in order to attend the University of Alaska Anchorage. Here's where the real fun starts. First, my keyboard started to lose keys again. I just ordered a replacement off of eBay and installed it myself. Then my hard drive went. I called Dell customer service and the recording asked me for my express service code. Since this is printed on the bottom of the laptop, you know, the part that sits on your lap, it had long since worn away. Foolishly I pressed the option that said I didn't have an express service code. I then got routed to "normal" laptop customer service. I didn't know there was a special one. Anyway, after finally connecting to a customer service agent, I was told I had called the wrong customer service. That my father had used his government discount to buy the laptop so I needed their customer service. They then gave me the number and we disconnected. I called the other number, they told me that they had actually stopped making the Latitude D630 so I would need a different "Latitude specific" line. I was given the number and transferred to this line. Come to find out, this was the regular customer service line, and it only went to latitude when I put in my express code to tell the machine that I had a latitude. How did I find this out? The customer service agent told me and transferred me, back to the same line. Rinse and repeat that process about three times. In the meantime, I'm trying to do a diagnostic boot of my system so I can get my express service tag off of the hard drive. When I finally got to a latitude agent, I was informed that this too was now a self install. I questioned her on this since we had the extended contract with house calls, but I was told that yes, this was the only way they did it now. Furthermore, she would have to check in her computer to see if they had a refurbished hard drive for latitude since the parts weren't made anymore.
Now I know the hard drive is a pretty easy, "drop-in" part, but come on! I paid for someone to be able to come to my house if I so much as sneezed at the thing. It would be nice if they fulfilled their contract.
Moving on, she verified the shipping address with me and I informed her of my new one here in Alaska. She changed it for the one computer, not for any of the others on my father's account. To her credit, she was very nice and polite the whole time and once again asked if there was anything else that needed fixing (cracks, etc.) The part came and I put it in and started reloading my whole system.
A month or two later, I received three packages in the mail from Dell. All three were external DVD RW drives. Now, there is a fun little quirk that has made my life a living hell on more than one occasion and that is that I am a Jr. A great example of this is where I went to the school my father got his second BS from and they had my financial aid and file all kinds of mixed up. Thinking that there was no way Dell could make that big of a mistake, I called my father in Tennessee and asked if he had ordered the drives. He told me he had and they were supposed to ship them to Tennessee as they were Christmas presents for my nephew and nieces. This all started about the first of November.
He called Dell and they called me and said someone would come and pick them up tomorrow or the day after and they would give me a call when they were coming out to get them. What they left out is that that "someone" was FedEx. I know they left it out because about a week later when they still hadn't come to get it and I had talked to dad about it, I just happened to be stopped on my through the mailroom to get my mail by the attendant and told that FedEx had been looking for a box being shipped by me. I immediately went to my room and took the boxes to the mailroom and handed them to the attendant. Three days later, they were still in the mailroom. Thinking it might have been an epic fail on the attendants' part, I asked one of them about it. Come to find out, since they were originally shipped UPS, UPS had to take them, not FedEx. I took the boxes back and called my father again who called Dell again. I never got a call from Dell this time and another day or so went by. My dad then asked me to take the boxes, put them in one box, and then take it to the mail center (different location on campus from the mailroom) and ship it. I forgot to do it for a few days and then the holiday came and campus was closed for about a week.
Once we came back from break, we were had a week until finals and I was studying like mad. I tried calling Dell a few times, but with the time difference and the lack of 24 hour customer service, I couldn't get through to anyone. Finally, I had taken all but one final and had some time when I would normally be in class. I got up at around 7am Alaska time so I could called Dell, thinking this should be an easy, quick phone call.
I informed the agent I had a final at 9 so I needed to go ahead and get this taken care of. They put me on hold while they went over the account. Then they told me I had called the wrong customer service line and gave me another number and offered to transfer me. I agreed and got transferred to a sex line. Laughing a bit at the mistake, I called the number they had given me before transferring me. I was speaking to the agent and they hung up. I understand mistakes happen. I used to do phone customer service for BellSouth DSL, so I know that sometimes you accidentally hang up people and stuff. However, I was running out of time and needed to get this resolved so my stress level was going way up. I actually informed the next person of this and tried to maintain my calm, they hung up on me too. The next one transferred me to someone who transferred me to someone who transferred me again, then I got hung up on again by the person who picked up. By this time, I was livid. It was getting close to 8:30 and I needed to leave for my final if I wanted to get there in time and/or get breakfast. I decided to try one more time before I left for the final. Luckily, I got someone who knew how to do their job this time.
I actually started the conversation telling them I knew it wasn't personally their fault that I had received such bad customer service that day, but I needed to vent and to speak to a supervisor. Before he transferred me, he asked if he could attempt to resolve my issue. I let him read over the notes quickly and he told me it wouldn't be a problem. He created the order in the system to get the packages picked up by FedEx that day and sent to Tennessee. He even went so far as to ask if he could put me on hold while he called FedEx to verify the information and see if they could go ahead and generate a tracking number. I told him OK and about 5 minutes later he was back and the packages were ready to go in the system. All I needed to do is make sure they were taped securely and drop them off at the mailroom. Amazingly, he verified my dad's shipping address with me before he called FedEx to double check the order. He also went into the account to try to see why the boxes were shipped to me and not my father's address. Then he took it a step further and offered to still connect me to a supervisor and apologized for all the trouble I had been through that day! I declined the offer and thanked him profusely. I then dropped the packages off and a day later I had a confirmation email from him giving me the tracking numbers for the packages, just like he had told me he would do! I was floored to say the least, but also very upset with Dell in general since apparently he was the only customer service agent who could actually do his job. Also, instead of wasting roughly an hour to an hour and half of my time, it would have taken about five minutes of work if someone had bothered to either do it or actually get me to someone who could.
Now, I have two USB ports on the back of my computer that have gone out and need to be replaced. I'm putting off getting these replaced because I'm afraid that once again they will tell me that it's a self-install and who knows where they'll ship it this time.
Over all, other than a few people who genuinely seem to care for their customers, I would say their customer service is terrible. The fact that it took almost a month to get a simple shipping error fixed, the lack of communication with customers, the idea that as soon as they stop making a computer they also stop really supporting it combined together to inspire me to get a new computer when my financial aid came in. I got a Mac instead since they actually stand behind their product and will fix it if I have problems. Of course, that's a big IF since its ran flawlessly from day one.
On a funny side note, I know there are a lot of people who complain about almost all customer service being outsourced to over-seas companies and note getting someone who speaks very good/clear English. Funnily enough, during the whole shipping fiasco, it was one of those overseas agents who was the only one that could help me, so for him at least I am grateful.
My only real regret (other than having a Dell computer in the first place) is that I did not respond to the customer service survey on my last agent. It's a regret because I did not get the opportunity to really show him my appreciation or show the higher ups that he is actually a valuable employee.
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Dell Computer Bait/Switch Tactics
Posted by Brad on 2010-02-08
Dell sold a computer for a price, then claim they are "out of stock" or over sold after receiving sales confirmation and phone calls stating otherwise. They called to let us know that the model ordered was not available with Widows Vista, but they would send the same, but with Windows 7 instead. Good customer service I thought, only to get a "cancellation of order" 10 hours after the phone call. I called and they state they "over sold" the computer but would be glad to sell me one for considerably more money. NO thank You! Then no one will take responsibility for their inability to keep track their products. How this company is still in business is beyond me, but I will do my part to share my horrible customer service experience.