Posts about Dell

Dell Hell, continued (and continued and continued)

Business Week is staying on Dell’s ass about customer service. After recounting its disasterous satisfaction ratings and various rants against them (including mine) and their panic to hire more customer-service and now their numbnutty attempt to actually start charging more for the crappy service they give, the report says:

While execs won’t say so publicly, the message is clear: That new PC you bring home comes with only the most rudimentary support. More hand-holding costs extra.

Indeed, Dell is rolling back some of the perks that now come standard. BusinessWeek has learned that in mid-October, Dell plans to redefine the term “free shipping” for its low-end models. Instead of delivering them to the customer’s home, Dell will mail them to the nearest post office for pickup. These customers have to pay extra for home delivery — although it comes standard with pricier models such as the new XPS line….

If customers don’t go for the new “pay-up” plans and service keeps sliding, Dell may have to put more money into solving the problem itself — or risk having more consumers defect to rivals.

I’ll say it again: Sell Dell.

Sell Dell

So Dell announces a luxury line — its Lexus — with better computers and better service: “But Dell says the real feeling of luxury will come from its customer service. Buyers of the XPS laptops will be connected with a customer service representative within five minutes of calling…” Which is to say that all the rest of Dell’s customers get crappy customer service and long waits and that in its other models, it doesn’t sell quality and only sells price.

Dell hell

I’d pretty much left behind the Dell Hell but, what the hell…

My son still has a Dell laptop (what kind of father am I?) and he had two hardware problems. Since we paid for the super-duper home service, the technician came to our house. But — surprise, surprise — Dell sent him with the wrong parts. He got on the phone to Dell — demanding to know whether he was talking to America, by the way — and got the runaround and they hung up on him twice. He’s their guy.

So I’m not alone.

: But wait: Dell is opening a new customer service center in Oklahoma.

Dell’s apologist

I was pretty amazed when I read this from Daniel Gross in Slate on Dell’s many problems, including the ones I caused them:

Dell had the bad luck to tick off a very powerful blogger. The company is justly known for its fantastic customer service. But any time you engage in tens of millions of customer contacts, there are bound to be errors. It was Dell’s misfortune that one of those errors affected a person with a huge megaphone, blogger Jeff Jarvis. Jarvis’ blow-by-blow account of his Dell hell has become an Internet phenomenon.

I was going to reply but Scott Rosenberg at Salon said it best:

Sorry, I don’t buy it. Set aside the idea that Dell is “justly known” for great service. Known to whom? This sounds like boilerplate from an analyst’s report or the company’s own marketing literature. I’ve never bought a Dell computer. But in my circles and reading — an admittedly totally subjective smattering of hearsay, but what else does “known for” mean? — Dell is known for being a giant corporation that hands over its customer service to bored, ill-treated, underpaid people desperate to move on to better jobs.

Still, that’s not really the point. Maybe you have a circle of friends who have all had peachy-keen customer-support experiences with their Dell boxes. The point is, Jarvis’s experience was not a fluke; if it had been, his tale would never have made waves.

Gross is wrong because what gave Jarvis’s complaint wasn’t the size of the blogger’s megaphone — it was the chord of recognition his message struck with his readers.

Right. It wasn’t my problem that made news. It was the pile-on in comments and blog links — not to mention the many desparate emails I’m getting, which I’m powerless to deal with — from fellow victims that made this a story.

Besides, Dell isn’t known for its customer service. Dell is known for being cheap.

Dell tales

I’m getting scores of comments and now emails from people sharing their stories of Dell hell. It’s clear they believe they have nowhere else to turn. Wish I could help, but there’s nothing I can do.

: Steve Rubel has some free advice for Dell.

: LATER: Dwight Silverman respectfully disagrees with Steve.

Dell calling

So I finally got a call from Dell because of my blogging about problems with the company’s products and service, two months after it started.

Jennifer Davis of the corporate communications department rang me up and we had a pleasant chat: We discovered our sons share the same name. She said her mom thinks she’s famous when she gets quoted in media stories such as the ones on this corporate kerfluffle. Then there was an odd moment when she asked whether she was speaking to me on a cell phone and whether I was recording the call. I said I was taking notes. She said that was fine. Made me wish I had a recorder.

But nothing new came out of the call. I’ve spent so many years listening to PR people (and politicians) who are adept at sticking to their company line, I finally know when there is no hope derailing them to get anything more.

Dell’s company line is that they are trying to improve their customer service and that will solve everything.

There is no realization that there is an opportunity (and, don’t they now know, a danger) in this era of the empowered consumer-as-publisher. I kept coming back to that as my uncompany line: You have the chance to talk with consumers, to build a new relationship with the public in public.

“We do talk to people in public through the standard major media and through our forums,” she said.

She said they read blogs now as a means of getting “feedback from customers.”

But they refuse to see that they could connect one to the other: Rather than just talking to consumers, they could talk with consumers.

They “monitor” the blogosphere, they say, but they don’t engage in conversation in it. Davis said she “can’t comment on when or if that will change.”

She did then add they they are “looking at ways to leverage the blogopshere.” Leverage us? How? To promote products, she said. In other words, they’ll use it to sell.

I asked her whether she had a message to the blogosphere. One last time, I got the company line about being committed to improving the customer experience, blah, blah, blah.

They haven’t learned a darned thing and I hereby give up trying to help them to learn.

: SEE ALSO: Seth Godin on why negative feedback is more valuable than positive.

: Here’s a link to my piece about all this in today’s Media Guardian.

But this is more than a sort-of-happy ending to a consumerist nightmare. This is a story of customer relations in the new age – an age when, to quote blogger and Cluetrain Manifesto co-author Doc Searls, “‘consumer’ is an industrial-age word, a broadcast-age word. It implies that we are all tied to our chairs, head back, eating ‘content’ and crapping cash”. Now consumers don’t just consume. We spit back. We have our own printing presses.

Dell media

I thought Louise Lee was writing about my Dell kerfluffle for Business Week online. Open the magazine today and find it there on page 13 with a mug of uncorrespondent Michael Dell.

There’s a possibility a piece about the saga will be in Media Guardian Monday; will link later.

For BizWeek readers, here are links about the tale.

I just spoke with the PR person at Dell. Running around today, so I’ll blog it later. Nothing earthshattering came of it.

: LATER: Hugh MacLeod on Dell:

The thing is, when you start turning your products into commodities, you start treating your customers like commodities.

Dell sell

Yes, I, too, am getting sick of the Dell saga. But it is the gift that just keeps giving.

The phone rang during dinner tonight. Dell calling. I thought it might be a tech offering to deal with my son’s machine, since I had complained about it and the Dell PR lady who called yesterday said she’d have someone call (more on that later this weekend). But the odd-sounding guy on the phone just kept asking what I thought of the 600M we’d bought in February. I kept asking why he was asking. He kept asking the same general question. So, finally, I told him: Every time my son runs a game that uses the graphics card, it overheats so badly that I just bought an extra fan to run under the machine to keep it from scalding my kid’s knees.

Well, it turns out, the guy didn’t care. He said he’d pass it on. I asked what was going to happen. He had no answer. Dell didn’t give a damn.

Finally, he admitted that the only reason he was calling was to try to sell me some Dell broadband service.

I said I’m on the do-not-call list and he should not be calling me.

Dell has become worse than a door-to-door salesman. No pride. No shame. No value. No brand.

As I said when all this started: Dell sucks.