Dell customers vent over paint issue

Dell once again blogged about its delays for XPS and M1330 orders due to component shortages and issues with custom colors. What's interesting about this latest blog post from Dell is that it largely echoes previous posts on the subject.

Dell once again blogged about its delays for XPS and M1330 orders due to component shortages and issues with custom colors.

What's interesting about this latest blog post from Dell is that it largely echoes previous posts on the subject. Is Dell making any headway on this problem? I commend Dell for taking its lumps in public, but a better option would be fixing the manufacturing processes leading to the delays.

Here's what Dell had to say in its latest missive on Friday:

Speaking of components, many of you have asked which ones are delaying your orders. The reason that's not a simple question to answer is that the supply picture changes frequently. Once we are aware that a component is in short supply and will add time to your estimated ship date, we try to indicate that on the configurator in to give you an indication of further potential delays.

Colors are a big issue--still:

To date, color options are the main source of delay on Inspiron notebooks. Basic colors like black are easier to produce. Premium colors and finishes like we use on the Inspiron models introduce complexity into the process, and that's holding things up. Just as Alex mentioned in his post about colors on the M1330, producing smaller quantities is not the issue—it's mainly an issue of scale. We'll continue to work directly with suppliers to ultimately increase our production on color notebooks. Besides scale, we are also focused on maintaining the levels of quality we established when we designed these notebooks. In other words, we're not going to relax our quality standards to ship more products.

While premium colors are the main reason for delay of our Inspiron notebooks, displays are a secondary reason—some screen sizes are in short supply.

Dell adds that as long as customers are waiting employees will be "working around the clock" to resolve issues.

The feedback to Dell's latest post wasn't pleasant. I understand the frustration. I'm surprised that Dell didn't anticipate these issues since it is used to operating on a massive scale. If it couldn't offer a lime green laptop to thousands of customers why is it an option? Wouldn't five colors at scale be more preferable than 10 colors you can't deliver? Dell went nuts with the options and got crushed. I would love to see the modeling that happened before Dell launched all these colors as options.

As for the feedback to Dell's problems here's a sampling:

  • "The design factor that was supposed to proudly enliven the new laptop lines is the culprit. How shameful. It took about 6 weeks of complaints after complaints before a Digital Media Manager (not a Senior Vice President) was authorized to post some vague words about the production problems regarding the Inspiron notebooks."
  • "I used to paint cars for a living, and the comment by Alex that the quality on a car is easier to achieve than a computer is complete bull. Maybe if you’re looking at MACCO paint jobs this would be true. I also inquired about if the order could be changed to black, since it's available, and was told it would delay the order by another2 weeks! That's ridiculous considering I've been told that the unit is in the testing stage and is only waiting for the blue panel to be installed. Also we've been offered only $20 as compensation for our inconvenience."
  • "When I ordered, there was no notice of delays, as shown in your screen shot. I ordered two Inspiron 1520 on 7/30 and have been delayed until 8/28. I remember when Dell was the best. Maybe you're too focused on filling your Wal-Mart orders now."
  • "Dell's problem is that they don't sympathize with the consumer at all. If you have companywide lag with your products, hold your head down low and compensate all your customers. Do you know that customers depreciate by the minute? If you're delaying orders for months, like mine, we deserve compensation and Dell is just sticking it up to its customers and telling them that they're not important. No wonder Dell's satisfaction rating dropped to its lowest point yet again, good job."

The big risk for Dell here is that this customer dissatisfaction can create a network effect. One disgruntled consumer can tell his entire family. That multiplies. The consumer is different than a corporate sale. A disgruntled corporate customer can always be won back with a volume discount. When you lose a consumer you may lose him or her for life. Ask those struggling automakers in Detroit how that turns out.


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