UPDATED: Dell: A few examples of what's wrong with your tech support

Those following me on Twitter will know that my Dell Studio 13 XPS developed a fault over the weekend where the battery suddenly refused to charge. No problems I thought, I'll call Dell tech support ...
Written by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, Contributing Writer

Those following me on Twitter will know that my Dell Studio 13 XPS developed a fault over the weekend where the battery suddenly refused to charge. No problems I thought, I'll call Dell tech support ...

OK, early Monday morning I gave Dell tech support a ring and, after a wait of a few minutes, I got through to someone wanting my service tag, had to give this about a dozen times, then eventually was put through to a tech support agent. After a few basic questions such as "is the AC adaptor plugged in?" and "is it switched on?" and "can you check so and so in the BIOS?" (the desired information, as it turned out, didn't exist in the BIOS for this model anyway), the problem was diagnosed as a dodgy AC adaptor. I'd be sent a replacement overnight.

Great. That's suited me great, a problem I could solve without needing an on-site visit.

Next day, adaptor arrives. I eagerly unpack it and plug it in and ... the problem was still there.

Rats! Another call to Dell tech support. We once again go through the ritual of giving the service tag number half a dozen times, then the basic questions, and a few slightly deeper questions. This time, the problem is diagnosed as a faulty motherboard and an appointment was arranged for an on-site visit from an engineer.

Engineer arrived today. The nice chap arrived with a replacement motherboard and a new AC adaptor. Cool, a spare. Handy.

My Studio 13 XPS gets taken apart and rebuilt around a new motherboard over the course of about 40 minutes. I got suspicious that the repair might not be effective when I noticed that the AC port didn't come directly off the motherboard but was instead on a separate daughter board connected onto the motherboard.

After the notebook was expertly assembled, the AC adaptor was hooked back up and the system restarted.

Problem remained ...

Now, up until this point, I was happy with the service I'd received. Sure, I'd been on the phone for longer than I'd have wanted to be, and I had to endure a few moronic questions, but that's all part of the tech support package. Tech support isn't easy. But what happened next is where things started to go wrong.

The on-site tech has now figured out that the problem with the system is the daughter board that the power adaptor plugs into so he phones up Dell's internal tech line to order the parts and arrange another visit. At first he's now being asked a series of moronic questions such as "is the system plugged in?" and an odd series of question along the lines of "is the AC adaptor plugged into the right socket?" and "can you try the other AC socket?" (there is only one ...).

Cut a long story short, the upshot of his phone conversation was that I was getting another on-site visit the next day (tomorrow) and the same parts (motherboard and AC adaptor) would be once again swapped out. The tech apologized, suggested I get in touch with Dell to try to rectify the matter, and then left.

So then I get back in touch with Dell tech support ... again ...

You know the drill ... wait ... give my service tag several times over (I know my service tag off by heart) ... get through to a tech support agent ... more basic questions ...

I then tried to find out what was going to be replaced on the next on-site visit. I'm told the motherboard and AC adaptor. I ask why, since these parts have already been replaced. I'm told it's because the motherboard fitted by the on-site tech was DOA. I pointed out that it wasn't and that it was a problem with the AC port. Tech support agent tells me that all ports are on the motherboard so it'll be replaced along with the board (I was also told that "the motherboard is the brain of the computer" ... thought I'd share that one with you ... ). I point out that it's not.

I'm put on hold. When the tech support agent comes back I'm now told that it is the daughterboard being replaced after all and that I shouldn't worry and just wait for the on-site tech to come back ...

Hmmm ... that sets my spidie senses tingling at max. I get the feeling I'm not being told the truth and that I've been labeled as an awkward caller and I'm being dealt with as such. So I ask for the part number of the daughterboard being fitted.

See, a company like Dell revolved around part numbers. Everything, down to screws and stickers have their own part numbers. If a new daughterboard had been ordered, the tech support agent should have the part number handy ... like on th screen in front of him.

"Why do you want it?" the tech support agent asks.

"Just so I know what's being fitted" I say, casually.

I'm told that the on-site tech will be able to give me the part number tomorrow, but I insist that I'd like it now, just for the record.

I'm put on hold again.

When the tech support agent comes back on the line, I sense that there's been a change in the mood. I'm asked my name. I give it, at the same time asking for the tech support agent's name. I get it. I'm again reassured that on-site tech will be able to give me the part number tomorrow. I say that I'd like it now.

I'm put on hold again.

The tech support agent comes back on the line again and assures me that the daughterboard is being replaced tomorrow and that the on-site tech will be able to give me all the part numbers I need. I sense that the conversation is now going nowhere so I bid the support agent farewell.

Seems to me like a few things have gone wrong here.

  • Why can't the on-site tech easily order the parts they need?
  • Why are the on-site techs being asked moronic questions like whether things are plugged in the right hole. Seriously, this is just dumb and a waste of time.
  • Why waste everyone's time arranging a revisit to replace parts that are clearly working fine?

I'll let you all know what happens tomorrow when the on-site techie arrives. My feeling is that he'll arrive with another motherboard and AC adaptor ...

[UPDATE: OK, on-site tech arrived with another replacement AC adaptor and another motherboard. No new AC adaptor part (which, thanks to @BillatDell I discovered has the part number T965H). Grrrr! This means that I was blatantly lied to on the phone yesterday.

The tech phones up Dell support too try to order the right part but couldn't make progress so decided to replace the motherboard anyway and at the same time get the part number he needed to order the right part.

On opening the system the on-site tech noticed that the AC adaptor connector was slightly misaligned, so rather than change the motherboard he realigned the connector. BINGO! That was the fault.

So the system is fixed. I'm happy about that, but I'm not happy that I was lied to and I'm not happy that getting something that's so simple (and cheap, compared to a motherboard) needed to take so many phone calls and two visits.]

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