Ongoing dialog with Dell

Ongoing dialog with Dell

Summary: Folks, it's my intention that this will be the last post on this topic.I've been enjoying a quiet "behind the scenes" discussion with representatives of Dell recently.


Folks, it's my intention that this will be the last post on this topic.

I've been enjoying a quiet "behind the scenes" discussion with representatives of Dell recently. The conversation centered on how my perception of the onsite, next business day contract I purchased differs from the actual words of the contract. The conversation also examined how that perception has colored my view of Dell's technical service. Although my posts were just meant to just chronicle my journey through the land of Dell service, I guess they struck a nerve somewhere in Round Rock, TX. Here's a snippet from a message that was part of that interesting exchange and a rather heavily edited section of my reply.

Snipped from a message from a Dell representative

The majority of the confusion seems to have stemmed from a misunderstanding of the service contracts and I'd like to clear that up. A Next Business Day service contract for onsite repair means if you contact Dell to troubleshoot the system and find that parts replacement is needed, and a technician is required to replace the part, we will overnight the parts and the technician will be there next business day,...

A highly edited snippet of my overly lengthy, rather pedantic and wordy response

I agree that this is a problem for Dell. In my short, 30 year experience in the industry, the phrases "next business day" and "onsite" have always meant that someone who could fix the problem and all of the necessary tools and parts for the repair would show up onsite the very next business day. Silly me. I thought that a "onsite" "next business day" support contract from Dell would live up to that well established pattern.

This pattern, and the resulting industry expectation, was set long before Dell existed as a company and is still adhered to by other IT suppliers. I've gotten this type of support from others as recently as the end of 2006. One of my machines had a problem with the keys stttttticking. A superhero from that other supplier put down that the attack of wild t's and unruly l's. I'm sure that I was saved from an awful fate.

It is clear that my expectation of Dell and what the company did were not "aligned" as a former colleague at Digital Equipment Corporation used to say. Although I've not conducted a lengthy, formal survey, the messages I've received as a result of my posts leads me to the conclusion that Dell is likely to face a similar strong negative reaction from others. If I scan the net for this type of negative reaction, examples such as this type of reaction can be found. I'm pretty sure that I could find other examples if I spent much time looking for them.

Your turn!

Do you think my response was too severe? If given the chance, what would you tell Dell's service organization?

Don't know what this is about?

Some newcomers to Virtually Speaking are likely to be puzzled by this post. If you fall into that category and haven't had the painful experience of reading the previous posts, here's where you can find them.

The old coffee-in-the-keyboard trick

Day 2 of the old coffee-in-the-keyboard trick

Day 3 of the old coffee-in-the-keyboard trick

Day 6 of the old coffee-in-the-keyboard trick

Day 10 of the old coffee-in-the-keyboard trick

Day 14 of the old coffee-in-the-keyboard trick

Topic: Dell


Daniel Kusnetzky, a reformed software engineer and product manager, founded Kusnetzky Group LLC in 2006. He's literally written the book on virtualization and often comments on cloud computing, mobility and systems software. In his spare time, he's also the managing partner of Lux Sonus LLC, an investment firm.

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  • Dealing with big companies

    Your experience is typical of dealing with DELL ... and probably all big companies. You are not overreacting and should punish all such dire customer service wherever possible. Dare I say the media should campaign hard to eliminate such shoddy actions.

    My most recent dealings with DELL:

    1. Ordered server for a small business one month in advance. Tape backup system relied on a simple SCSI card which was omitted from the delivery. With 2 weeks still left to my install day I requested the card. It took nearly 6 weeks and 3 visits from my installation man before the card was delivered. I charged DELL for its inability to fix this minor error. Note: I had to order a new card to get their process to supply.
    MORAL: big companies cannot handle exceptions or errors in their standard processes.

    2. I ordered the VISTA EXPRESS upgrade with a new home PC. It was not supplied a week after VISTA's release ... but 3 months later! That's express ;-) DELL made no communications except the odd apology on their blog site. It was as if nothing was wrong. I advise all customers whose goods are not supplied within the 30-days required by the Distance Selling Regulations to sue DELL for breach of contract (UK phrasing).

    3. I rang UK Business Sales to order an end-of-line system on the last day of the offer. I didn't want a monitor and so didn't want to pay the ?30 delivery charge which was automatically built into the on-line order process. "I'll ring you back in 5 minutes." No such call even though I tried twice.

    No good talking about it. Take formal action at every violation.

  • Typical Dell

    This is why my firm only used Dell to supply the desktop machines. The prices are very attractive in this market and you can buy enough to keep in for spares/quick swap outs.

    We always went HP for anything important because their next business day means next business day every time.
    • Not true

      Even for HP next business day does not mean next business day. I have an HP business laptop with a 3 year next day warranty, and because I couldn't diagnose the root cause of my problem over the phone with the tech support person, they insisted that I ship the notebook to their support center to diagnose the issue. They claimed that if I could have isolated the cause of the problem, they would send someone over the next day with the appropriate parts.
      • That is not my experience

        My experience is that HP next business day warranty call outs would result in an engineer appearing next business day with just about enough parts to build a brand new copy of whatever machine had broken.

        They always tried to nail down the problem the day it was reported to allow their engineers to bring the least amount of kit with them but they would definately appear the next day no matter what.

        I am not disputing your particular experience I am just saying that I have had to make many (potentially 100+) warranty calls, many to HP, and have never had a problem with their site attendance.
  • Play dumb....

    I have had problems with Dell before, which is one of the resaons we do not use them anymore. However, we have had the same problem with IBM and HP. I now usually play dumb, as in, I am a dumb end-user, who knows "nutting about 'puters." That way I can force a tech out. We are having the same problem with Exabyte, now Tandberg Data involving one of our tape libraries.
  • It all comes down to CompleteCare..

    If it's a basic failure, the normal, next-day onsite repair applies.

    If it's a CompleteCare issue (ie - spilling something in your laptop),
    the CompleteCare terms and conditions do specify that you have to send
    your laptop in for depot service.

    It kind of sucks, but it is spelled out of you actually read the
  • Dell Sucks. End of story.

    With IBM we get 4 hour service for our servers. Which means I pick up the phone, call 1800IBMSERV, if parts/tech is needed they are here within 4 hours. We pay dearly for it, but it's worth it.

    For other servers, we have NBD with IBM and guess what? Techs and parts are here next day.

    Stop messing with the Idiots from Dell and buy real computers. Dell is garbage from the computers they make to the service they provide. There's a reason they are loosing market share. Mikey Boi can't save the sinking ship.
    • Not a huge Dell fan but I haven't had problems with their Server support

      Well, we use Dell server and we have the same kind of agreements in place on our servers (critical systems within 4 hours, the rest are NBD) and I've never had a problem getting parts or a tech on-site (either within 4 hours or NBD). In fact, on more than one occasion after staying late to troubleshoot a problem, I've actually had to tell them NOT to send parts within 4 hours as that would have gotten them here at about 1am and nobody would have been here to accept delivery.

      I'll admit that it seems that we have more hardware problems with the Dell servers than I experienced with the HPs and IBM at my previous employers. However, I can find 5 people in the field with exactly the opposite experience who swear they will never buy HP or IBM again.
  • Yes you over reacted.

    Many moons ago around 1999 I used to do warranty service for many of the major brands. My employer did stock some parts but more often than not the parts had to be ordered. It was pretty much the same for any brand we dealt with. Dell wasn't one of the brands we serviced but they sound typical.
  • Dell Customer Support is as bad as gateway, as bad as HP as bad as ...

    I am the computer consultant for several small businesses in my somewhat rural area. WE live about 1 1/2 hr drive from sacramento, CA. I have been forced to ask that all my customers not buy equipment from DELL, Gateway, HP, or CDW unless they have a written contract that explicitly states next business day , on site support. Even with these contracts all these companies, have NEVER provided on site service with in the next business day criteria. The best that my customers have been able to obtain is NEXT WEEK !!!!!
    As a result all my customers now buy all their computers through me. I mark up the white boxes that I put together by 25%, and guarantee that I will REPLACE the computer the NEXT DAY business or weekend. I am always careful to make sure that every group of computers has a complete backup on a onsite server using various open source technologies, so that when i bring a new computer that as an OS installed, it is a simple matter to bring over all their data files. I do not mirror, since hardware platforms make that option nearly impossible to manage.

    As a result DELL, CDW, HP and gateway have lost nearly 300 computer sales over the last 2 years. Small peanuts for them I am sure. But if they multiply that over the nation it could be a small revolution in the making.
  • Nope, you have an accurate, reasonable expectation.

    Overnight means that if you call before end of the workday for your business (i.e. 5 PM for whatever timezone you work in), it will be there the next day before the end of your business day.

    The next business day means within 32 hours at the latest for Monday through Thursday, assuming you called the instant you started working at 9 AM and they arrived just before quitting at your office at 5 PM the next day. If you called on Friday, it means they'll show up before the end of the day on Monday.

    Poorly worded and built contracts are not morally or ethically binding on the buyers; as it can be usually argued that the contract was deliberately written to cause misunderstanding.

    In other words, if a contract doesn't communicate the required information from the seller to the buyer, it is the fault of the seller as the initiator of the communication, not the buyer, for ANY misunderstandings.

    If you are the initiator of a contract, you must:

    1. Gain the attention of your target audience.
    2. Gain their acceptance of the importance of your message.
    3. Ensure they receive your entire message.
    4. Ensure they understand your entire message.

    Failure to do all of the above means you've just wasted your time, and probably the time of your prospective customer.

    Communication requires a feedback loop. A signature at the very end of the contract, or a mouse click on the understand and agree button, isn't very effective feedback as 99% of world will agree.
  • It's not just Dell

    I had a major, 7 week, headache with Microcenter, and their contractor, Nexicore. During one of my daily status calls, Nexicore told me they had up to a month to diddle with my notebook, before deeming it dead, and replacing it. Microcenter showed either no ability or no interest in enforcing better performance.

    Moral: RTFP (read the fine print).
  • Why not really do something about it!

    It seems to me that the warrantor is not providing reasonable means for their customers to obtain the services promised by their warranty.

    The State of New York announced two months ago they were suing Dell. According to the website, "The lawsuit accuses Dell of luring consumers to purchase its products with advertisements that offered attractive ?no interest? and/or ?no payment? financing promotions."

    Perhaps the State of Florida should file a lawsuit accusing Dell of luring consumers to purchase its products with advertisements that offered attractive warranties without systems, staff, or parts availability sufficient to fulfill those warranties.
  • Similar Next Business Day experience

    I recently purchased a refurbished Dell Optiplex, and chose the Next Business Day because we had a crashed shipping PC that had to be replaced ASAP. When it did not arrive the next day I called Dell to be told Next Business Day "means the day after they complete processing the order and send it to the warehouse to schedule shipment, which usually takes 2-3 days"! So next business day does not mean tomorrow, it means when they get around to it.
  • Dell ?

    I was spoiled by OS/2. So spoiled that I consider what Dell is doing to be active discouragement from ever buying another item which carries the Dell brand name. I have yet to get an answer to an emai directly. There is always the run around.

    If memory serves correctly, the video display fix came from SourceForge. The laptop that I bought came with display drivers that could not provide the correct aspect ratio for the screen.

    I still haven't obtained explicit directions for installation of the WPA encryption drivers which were on the Intel web site at the time that Dell built my laptop with the Intel Mobile 945GM/PM/GMS/940GML wireless card.
    Update victim
  • similar experience

    Having been a long time Dell customer I've run into this a number of times. Finally stopped paying extra for service that not only costs me more up front but all the way down the line trying to get each level to do their job. My failed hard drive only took 4 days to get going again but only because I replaced it myself (yeah, easy enough to do if they had included a usable RAID driver). The extra wrinkles in my experience came from Dell selling the service contract to Banctec who outsouced it to Smarttec then when the connection between Dell and Banctec went down.... My expectations were based on the NBD contract wording that stated:
    "Designed to provide a base level of customer security, the Next Business Day Response Service places a Dell-certified technician at your location the following business day (if necessary).

    Why Dell for Next Business Day Response Service:
    Dell is your single point of accountability for an outstanding end-to-end service experience
    It's convenient. Dell maintains records of all service incidents, including calls to Tech Support and on-site repairs
    Provides affordable protection for your technology investment
    Features an award-winning support team with outstanding service performance metrics
    Leverages Dell's strengths in remote and E-support services to quickly resolve your problems

    In my case Dell was NOT the single point as I ended up talking to multiple people at all three companies. I've had several other issues with Dell systems, usually involving wrong parts sent."

    The only thing that I can say in Dell's defense is (if you're persistent enough) that they will eventually get you parts, etc. to get your system working again. I'm not convinced that HP is much better now, although they certainly used to be and IBM/Lenovo sounds like they're having some issues since the sale.
  • Dell Doesn't "Get IT"

    I think your posts and response to Dell have been "SPOT ON". I too have a 3 year Next Business Day, On site service contract. They need to hear how frustrated all of us are with them. I am in the middle of a service event with Dell as I write this. We are at 7 days and counting trying to diagnose and fix a problem with a 15 month old Desktop machine. It started out the machine was shutting itself off every few hours and then finally after 3 days of talking to Dell (in India)The machine wouldn't even start. They finally sent out a tech yesterday with a heat sink and fan. Even the tech looked at the parts in the box they sent him and agreed with me that wasn't going to fix the issue. The tech spent 45 minutes on the phone with Dell trying differnet things and none solved the problem. They are coming out again today with two more parts (power supply and motherboard). Maybe this will fix it maybe it won't. They honestly are not sure what is wrong yet. Also even the tech was puzzled when the Dell person he was working with told him it might be 2 days before the additional needed parts arrive. This is at 1:30 in the afternoon EDT. If this were my laptop which is my primary machine I would be going crazy now at 8 days and still no fix. Next Business day should mean the next business day, PERIOD.
  • Dell should define what it means.

    Well - considering those of us out here in the real world obviously don't understand what the phrase "Next Business Day" actually means, nor do we apparently grasp the meaning of the word "onsite" maybe somebody should tell the idiots at Dell to specifically define those terms in bold print and out in plain site so that even us Cave Men can get it through our thick skulls. I'll say this about Dell. I have had two brand new Dell machines in the last three years for personal use. One of them is already in the land fill, and has been for a year, and the other is about to be. I use to be high on Dell but no more. I will never buy another Dell. NEVER ! To bad since I am currently in the market for five new machines. But have already started over with a new vendor because I flat refuse to do business with Dell ever again !
  • Another opportunity...

    I can say that I recently had issues with Dell and after some arm twisting they helped me. However, the arm twisting did leave a sour taste in my mouth.

    I got one of the new Dell Ubuntu machines and had issues with the sales and the support side. They are only half-heartedly providing this option in the hopes that no one will buy them and this will give the company justification not to provide this option. Better for them, only one system to support.

    IF the Linux community can take a break from their religious wars over shells etc. this is the time to jump in and make headway in taking over more market from Microsoft.

    Everything is about people, sales, software the price of tea in China, everything. IF Linux users focused their passion on recruiting and training new users Dell and Microsoft (with the not so secret fact that people are buying XP over Vista) would be on the run. If every confused new user showing up on a Linux web site was descended upon by five oldtimers, email and all the help you could want things would change. IF a small computer maker provided hot and cold running support like the old Word Perfect crew did; Dell would be in trouble.
  • Dell's Yuk-Yuk Support

    Once upon a time, I foolishly bought a Dell and "on-site, next day" support. The machine arrived inoperative and I spent the day trying to get a warm body at Dell on the phone and listening to unending tirades about contacting Dell on the net. When I finally ot a body, Dell, instead of sending a tchnician, sent a "repair" disk. Several days later it arrived, would not repair but flashed a message to contact Dell. Back on the phone--still no next day tech support but lots and lots of passing me from one tech to another. With no resolution in sight, I finally asked a supposed supervisor to at least credit my charge card until the matter was resolved. I received a flat, "We won't do that!" At this point, I had the machine professionally packed and shipped back to Dell. A week or so later, Dell returned the same machine in the same packaging to me. I refused the shipment, denied the credit card charge satisfactorily and vowed to let Dell succeed without my business.