Michael Dell, the entrepreneur who founded the computer retailer “Dell” and built it into a multi-billion dollars business must be gone from Dell. Once a poster child for customer centric marketing, web site performance enhancement making it better converting and more user friendly at the same time.
Dell computers might not be the best computers on the planet in regards to their quality, but the company always made up for it via their customer support and service.
It seems that the drive to improve on things stops after an order was placed and hopefully starts over after the computer was shipped to the customer. That is what I hope, because my experiences after I placed my order for a brand new Dell Studio XPS 16 Notebook on August 11, 2009 (17 days ago) things started to become really bad.
I had serious issues with my computers to say it mildly. A series of hardware failures combined with the support that I paid for but never got, because the company who purchased the business from the retailer where I bought my previous notebook went out of business, 2 weeks before my hardware problems started. After all this misfortune I finally decided to buy another Dell. I purchased multiple Dell computers in the past and was overall happy with them and the service provided, if I had a problem with the machine.
I thought that my string of bad luck had an end, when I saw that there is a great promotion available for the Dell notebook that I was interested in. 20% off the entire order. Not bad. So I started to build my computer on the Dell web site. When I was done, I decided to take advantage of the option to buy the machine on credit without paying interests for a full year. I started the qualification process, but the process started to hang. I waited 10 or so minutes and then picked up the phone to call the Dell sales department.
They were able to access my shopping cart and we continued from there. I got qualified for Dell Preferred program and a credit line that was much higher than what I needed. The sales rep was very helpful and I even made some adjustments to the machine configuration to improve on things a bit more. Especially the “CompleteCare” Warranty was important for me to make sure that things will be taken care of quickly, should I get an issue with the machine. I told the rep that I needed a computer quickly and even changed the shipping method for my order to Next Business Day for that reason.
The rep told me that the computer should be shipped within a few business days, which I was very happy about. When we were going over the entire order one last time, I noticed that the rep mentioned an estimated delivery date of September 11, 2009. I asked about it and said that this is not an acceptable date for me. I needed a new computer yesterday and not in one month. He said that this date is unrealistic and only to cover cases like unexpected hardware shortages. My order will be fine. I said that I will take his word for it.
Calling Customer Service
Well, a week and a half passed and the only thing that I got so far is the spare battery for the notebook.
I called customer services to inquire about the status of my order. There I got told that the machine is in high demand at the moment, which explains the delay. I said to the rep that I mentioned when I placed the order that it is urgent and that he can see that, if he looks at the delivery method. Normal shipping would have been free, but I paid $69 to get it as quickly as humanly possible.
I asked if there is a way that I could get a higher priority or expedited processing. I am of course willing to pay for this special treatment. He said, that Dell does not offer such an option, but that he will see what he can do to speed up the process. He didn’t say how and also avoided to give a clear answer when I asked him that.
Another Call and More Bull
This Monday, August 24, 2009 I called again, but this time not being so nice anymore, because I felt being bullshitted and lied to. Not to mention that I am still in desperate need of a new computer. The computer is the tool that I need to make my living. My livelihood depends on it so to speak. A faulty or inadequate computer reduces to disables my ability to do my work properly, in the required quality and timely fashion. The rep could not help me at all and his manager was busy. I provided my phone number to get a call back the next day (it was already evening when I called on Monday).
I did get a call back on Tuesday, but the answers by the managers were the same and he repeated one sentence over and over again. “the estimated delivery date for this order is September 11, 2009. We do our best to deliver the machine before this date.” Expediting the processing is impossible. Dell uses automated processed where no human can ever interfere with. My computer is in production, which makes any change to it impossible, including cancellations. I said, great, in productions means that they should have it ready to ship in a day or two, right? No, that is not the case, but it will be delivered on or before September 11, 2009. Aha, how long can things be in production at Dell; two or more weeks? How can I imagine this “being in productions”? Is there a box with all the parts that I ordered in a box with my name on it moving slowly a countless miles long assembly line that can take two weeks to process?
Man that must be the biggest plant on the planet. There must be Billions of Dollars worth of computer equipment moving around on those conveyor belts and they must be protected by a force field and self-shooting systems or something like this, because it is impossible for any human to access those, for example to pull up to the box with my name on it, load it onto a trolley, drive down a bit closer to the assembly area and load it back up onto the conveyor belts. It must be, because I offered to pay for the man’s time and everything to just do that for me, but no money in the world is probably worth the grave risk for the workers life, if he would attempt the impossible and mess with the fully automated system that Dell created.
Impossible is Relative
After a lot more screaming and yelling, it was suddenly possible to cancel the entire order. Well, almost entire, because I already got some parts. Something that was impossible 15 minutes earlier, due to the current status of the order, suddenly became possible. Interesting; I wondered what other impossible things would suddenly become possible, if I would keep pushing it. But I ran out of arguments and the ones like, maybe there won’t be a customer to pay back the money for the computer, if they continue to delay the delivery of the tool that the customer needs to make a living. The only option left would have been to threaten the customer service rep and make him fear for his own life and/or the life of the members of his family. I didn’t want to go that far though, although I might have punched him into the face, if that would have been possible over the phone line.
I could also not get an answer if any other Dell system would be faster to assemble and deliver. When I asked about the in-store option via Best-Buy for example, I learned that in case of Best-Buy, Dell would not take care of the Warranty. But in the case of Wal-Mart, but my Dell Preferred account would be worthless nor would I get the discount that I got with my order (and the coupon is not valid anymore too).
I first wanted to call Dell’s sales department again, but then decided not to do so. I would not expect any help from their end and only more complications. Canceling the order would probably create more issues than I already got. Getting a new computer elsewhere within such short notice without paying too much for it or buying it from somebody who might not be in business anymore to fulfill his service and warranty obligations when I need it, seems not to be a promising alternative.
Now it is in Gods Hands
Now I am stuck, waiting for that god damn machine and hope that all my yelling and calling did maybe trigger something behind the curtain at Dell that I will receive the notebook a bit sooner than expected. Everything else is in “Gods Hands” so to speak. I hope that there is no penalty for folks like me who are agnostics.
That Dell does not offer expedited processing, if a customer specifically asks for it and is willing to pay the price tag that comes with this special treatment is beyond my understanding. Moving a customer up in the queue, if he is willing to pay for it (I was willing to pay an extra $100 just for that) is not impossible to do, despite what the customer service rep was trying to make me believe. My order got stuck between orders by folks who are not in a hurry, like folks on vacation, who take things easy and let working folks who are in a hurry freely pass.
Michael Dell? This is not rocket science and impossible to figure out. I am very disappointed about all this and only hope that the rest of Dell did not decay to the same low level, especially their technical support. I guess I am going to find out, on or before September 11, 2009… may be.
So long, a rather pissed off Carsten aka Roy/SAC