Above All Else—Fix My Problem

All customer feedback matters—whether it comes through our technical support people, Dell.com, the Dell Community Forum or this weblog.  The majority of it drives home a common theme:  “Fix my problem, now…”

Reams of data shows that if we can resolve a customer’s issue in the first one or two phone calls, they tend to be highly (~85%) satisfied.  If it takes more than two calls, satisfaction falls off a cliff (~50%).  Other external surveys largely echo our findings.  Several annual third party surveys will be coming later this summer—we'll blog about all of them then.

Anything else is just fuel for the fire: hold times, accents, transfers, etc.  All these variables are contributors to dissatisfaction, but not necessarily drivers of satisfaction. This is why we are putting so much focus this year and beyond on streamlining processes designed to fix customer problems in a timely fashion.   

I’d like to address one issue that emerged in comments to Laura’s post: the accents and communication skills of some of our technical support agents.  We do a considerable amount of screening and training in order to get agents with good English skills on the phone.  We have a robust quality audit program which is used to further improve communications skills.  Are we perfect?  No.  Are there agents who aren't truly focused on solving the whole issue? Yes.  But the vast majority of our agents are qualified and capable individuals who really do want to help solve our customers’ issues.  Hopefully, you can meet some of these talented people on one2one in the future.

We made it hard for our agents to solve customers’ problems by establishing “Prescriptive Support Boundaries” and “Limited Exchange/Return Windows.”  We also pulled the 800 numbers off the web, allowed hold times to stretch  beyond 30 minutes, launched rebate programs you need a slide rule to figure out, etc.  These are all examples of things we have done that have made our agents’ lives and, in turn, your customer service issues more difficult to solve.  

These are also things that we are actively addressing. We are undoing these and many other cumbersome processes that have accumulated like sediment over time in order to deliver a timely, accurate resolution.  A few are easy fixes, most will take time to address.  We remain committed to improving the quality of our service in every one of our call centers around the world.

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25 thoughts on “Above All Else—Fix My Problem

  1. This post is right on the money.

    I’ve long since said that the support system is like a three legged stool.

    If any one of the ‘legs’ are not quite right the stool is wobbly.

    I’m glad to see you’re raising a flag here and, how do I say this, keeping us all in the loop. I look forward to reading, explicitly, in the future what steps you are going to take to make the stool stable!

    This is a great forum to let all say what all wants to say.

  2. Keep the posts comin’, Dell – you’ve got a huge audience waiting to see how this blog will turn out.  I’m proud of you for opening up, admitting faults and inviting feedback.

  3. The problem I have when speaking to Dell’s technical support is not the accents, it’s the volume.  I have to put my phone up to max volume to hear them.  Even then, it’s still very quiet.  I think they need to install some form of amplifier because it’s happens constently (also occours with sales)

  4. Have you been following the story about <a href="http://renatawc.blogspot.com/2006/07/woe-betide-my-dell.html">the customer service debacle in Rochester</a>? It’s been <a href="http://renatawc.blogspot.com/2006/07/woe-betide-my-dell.html">Dugg</a&gt;.

    We know you’re working to improve customer service, but in the meantime, what are you going to do to make it up to customers like Renata who have been so frustrated by the current state of things? I think a gift card for $100-500 (depending on the seriousness of the problem) off the next Dell purchase would be a good way to engender goodwill while you work to solve complex customer service issues.

  5. Hi Teresa and Dan, thanks for pointing me to Renata’s post.  Pleaes see update about this issue here in the second paragraph of my post.  Appreciate the heads up.

  6. I’m still waiting on acknowledgement that future versions of Dimension desktops need more USB ports due to the removal of other ports. I had posted this in a review in late June. While I don’t expect a change on this PC, I would expect a change to satisfy future customers and me if I were to buy another Dell.

  7. "We do a considerable amount of screening and training in order to get agents with good English skills on the phone."

    Their English skills might be great, but when they have an accent that is unintelligible to an American listener, coupled with ridiculous static on the line due to all the international relays, it’s still not a pleasant experience for me.

    If you’re so committed to improving customer support, why don’t you actually listen to the opinions presented in the comments instead of defending your position?  You acknowledge that a common complaint is that you have outsourced your customer service and we don’t like it.  So if you’re really interested in our opinions, as you claim to be, that would imply that you’d be taking steps to move your customer service centers to native English speaking countries (US, Canada, hell even Australia).

    If that IS going to be your goal, then I’m impressed and I’ll continue to purchase Dells, because I’m a network admin and I’m far more concerned about timely and reliable support than cost.  If that isn’t your goal, then I call shenanigans on you, your blog is just a PR stunt which makes me want to explore alternative equipment providers.  

    My hope, both for your business model and my stress level, is that it’s the former.

  8. Thanks for the feedback in regards to the post. Some timelines around some of the areas that I highlighted are as follows:

    Queue times were heavily invested in at the start of the year and overall are healthy. There are some seasonal periods (back to school for example) that can cause hold times to spike as we get a high volume of "set up" calls. These season trends are difficult to staff to as you don’t get the increase in calls for more than a couple of weeks so you do not want to just add staff and then summarily have to let them go.

    We have placed the 800 number back on the web, it is there on the "contact us" section of Support.Dell. In addition, we recently completed the change in Support Boundaries in our tech support queues. We feel we are seeing some good traction. Three separate measures of customer satisfaction (one internal, two external) are showing movement in the right direction, our call transfer rates are down ~25% from May (representing more ownership in our support queues/support boundaries change).

    We still have room to improve and are working hard to do so, but the tide is starting to turn.

  9. I agree with Easton – great job Dell! I have a Dell Dimension 8200 and it’s still truckin’ along with no need to call Dell support as of yet. They only Dell that I had that concked out on me was when I dumped a glass of water on my laptop at a job that I had (Our IT Support team almost killed me).

    I even slagged Dell in a recent blog post about how you don’t respond to the blogosphere so it’s nice to see that Dell has a voice and an honest one at that.

  10. I absolutely, unequivocally agree with Rod’s comments above. Dell needs to actually LISTEN to the opinions presented in the comments instead of merely defending their position (and whilst doing so, totally invalidating their customers very genuine point of view).

    I have had the misfortune of experiencing the common complaint of Dell’s outsourced customer service on several occasions. I have bought – and recommended – Dell for years and would this outsourced support be enough to transfer my loyalty to another manufacturer? Absolutely. In a heartbeat. It really is that bad. It really is not working that  much. I am sure that it ticks many boxes for Dell but from a customers point of view you are slowly but surely driving customers away.  So, as Rod quite rightly stated, if you are really interested in our opinions… Please, please, please move your customer service centers to native English speaking countries.

  11. You can be as nice as you like, telling us that your screening processes are amazing, but we’re at the other end of the system – we know that we can’t understand them.  You saying that your filtering processes are amazing means nothing, since we’ve already seen the end result.

    Get rid of your outsourced call centres, please.

  12. I have been following the share prices of dell for the past few months and the kind of nose dive that it has taken is quite surprising. Its amazing to see how it lost 54% of its share value in just 1 year.

    There has been a lot of talks going on about the reasons behind this slump and the most common reason cited has been that of outsourced customer support. I agree to the fact that the Indian techs have some serious issues with mother tongue influence in pronunciation. Trust me,being an ex-dell employee i know how hard the trainers at Dell try to minimize it. But then with the kind of technical adeptness the Indian techs have it is hard to ignore them and not make good use of their skills.

    From what i think it is more important for Dell to recruit the right kind of people and focus more on quality than quntity. Due to the shortage and huge attrition rates in Indian market it is quite challenging for Dell to keep the right kind of people and they are left with a few chioices. I would like to make the following recommendations:

    1. Reduce the wait time on the phone and simplify the process of reaching the right kind of tech support.

    2. Not all but move a part of the tech support back to US or some other English speaking country where all the escalated and complex issues can be handled.

    3. Most important of all, recruit the right kind of people through technical screening and put them on a tight training program.

    It is still not too late for Dell to make up for the lost grounds and i am quite optimistic about the rise of Dell. It is only a matter of time!!!

  13. I appreciate this blog and the obvious effort and concern. Good analysis, too, on the drivers of satisfaction. But, folks, there is still too much Kool-Aid drinking.

    <blockquote>But the vast majority of our agents are qualified and capable individuals who really do want to help solve our customers’ issues. </blockquote>

    This assertion need factual back-up.  Based on my personal experience its premise is simply untrue.

    More important than accents is the cultural differences of off-shore staff. Their instinctual attitude has a lot more respect for company policies and procedures than US-based support staff who place getting the job done (fixing the computer/making the client happy) over following procedures.  

    If I were running Dell support, I would terminate the off-shoring support program as soon as I could.  Even if all the real problems were fixable and fixed, the residual client anger at overseas support will contaminate all improvement efforts.  Stablizing Dell’s reputation will be very difficult if Dell remains committed to the off-shore support so thoroughly disliked by its clients.

  14. I have been purchasing dell exclusively for the last four years because of the overal price/quality relationship being excellent (other companies have started to catch up since then but Dell still seem slightly ahead) but was very very close to leaving them a couple of years ago because of the frustratingly long support calls and a feeling that the man I was talking to doing his best to not send out the replacement I needed. I had to argue the case again and again – I had already done the tests he wanted me to do and they were not even the right tests for what I was saying the problem was. I was so frustrated and I rarely lose my temper but this service person said one thing, then another that contradicted what he said first. In the end all the problems were solved but I calculated that it wasted 12 hours of time and on my contract rate that is about the cost of buying a new computer.

  15. How about discussing how to fix the hardware defect problems experienced by the owners of the Inspiron 1100/1150/5150/5160 laptop lines?  

    There are THOUSANDS of posts in the Dell forums and ‘Net blogs that discuss the design defects of these products.  

    Amongst the problems, there are AC plug shorts, overheating/motherboard warping (due to incorrect fan placement) and built-in plastic tabs in the case that press on and break internal microchips.  All of these issues seem to come to a head for most owners right around the time that the warrently runs out.

    Dell was forced to recall these machines as defective in Europe (see http://kassa.vara.nl/portal?_scr=kassa_artikel&number=2017734).  New Zealand law also forces Dell to fix these problems.  In the US, however, Dell decides to stick their head in the sand and blame anyone and everyone else.

    A US owner of one of these machines who has these problems is thus forced to pay $179 for the luxury of having Dell "diagnose" the issues.  Then, if the motherboard is warped, for example, Dell will, for an exhorbanent price, put in a replacement motherboard that is the EXACT SAME as the original one that warped!!!

    Don’t believe me?  Try it yourself – run a google search for: "Inspiron 5150" and "overheat" or "lawsuit" – see how many results you get describing the same issues.

    So, let’s discuss how the "new Dell now that listening to it’s customers" should fix these manufacturer defects.

    Can you say "RECALL"…?!?!?

  16. I’ve only owned my first home PC/Dell..for a week, prior to receiving..just the ordering was the worst experienced, incompetent Customer service Reps. I asked not for the Revolving account & yet I got it, everytime I call, its longs holds, bad connections, invalid 7 digit ext. numbers, invalid 800# (dating service), You just ask for an Supervisor..that’s another long hold. The list goes on and on…and I’m taking my complaint all the way up…..I sure hope tech support is better.

  17. dmwilson: if there is a specific issue you still need help with, please send another comment (that will not be published) with a description of your issue along with an e-mail address (won’t be published either) so we can have the appropriate department follow up with you directly.

  18. I have been following your blog comments (dellone2one) about commitment to better customer service.  I would like to comment on my 2 most recent experiences:

    1. I have one of the beloved XPS 700’s on order. It has been a long time. I understand problems arise. I have read about the $200 gift card or the processor upgrade, I have not received a phone call.  I have emailed and been told I will receive nothing – that blunt, not even a maybe.

    2. I was ordering two laptops yesterday, 1 for myself (to upgrade an HP) and 1 for my wife.  You had a great deal on the e1405.  I configured using coupons from your game as well ($45 off $400).  Configured the ones I wanted, checkout, offered 2% off to use my Dell preferred account, enter my info and….. invalid cart, try it again – nothing in the cart.  Ok, no problem, just configure it again – e value code no longer works. SO I go to sales chat (you know, to buy a computer) and after 20 minutes, they can’t help me – I have to call in (then why offer chat?)

    No problem, call in wait on hold for 22 minutes and hang up – I have to work to pay for all of these Dell computers after all.  Call in today get a nice gentleman on the phone, he goes through it all, opens up my cart, finds the 2 machines, but my cart is locked and he can’t put the order through. I have to be transferred to e sales or e commerce, not sure which.  They take all the same info, put me on hold for 20 minutes (2 hours by now – YES 2 WHOLE HOURS) then I get transferred to the call queue again and then to customer service who says my address is wrong and he can’t help me, you have to call this number for sales…….

    I get sales who only offers to give me today’s price (cause I waited 2 hours and 14 minutes to call a sales person instead of just buying it online again) Ok, no thank you.  If I can not have the prices from yesterday I want nothing from you and these games are horrible. I read all the nice emails on simplicity and your commitment to better service. Where is this?!! How do I find the magic link or phone number to receive this service?

    So then my phone rings, it’s a Dell sales rep that heard I wanted to buy something, what would I like to buy.  So I explain my story and the price I had and what I wanted.  Guess she couldn’t do that because she just hung up on me and never called again.

    Obviously Dell could care less about wasting my life if I don’t want to pony up $1300 more dollars for the same thing I could have had the day before for that much less.

    Great customer service and simplicity.  No where as simple as Lenovo, BestBuy, HP, Gateway or any other retailer I have ever dealt with.

    It is a shame.  Just today I could not recommend Dell to a Travel agent friend in need of 4 new desktops, a server, a laser printer, and networking equipment.  I just couldn’t do it.  

  19. I am actually shocked that this percentage is high. I suspect careful questioning to ensure high numbers.

    In my experience, DELL is shooting itself in the foot. Here is why (using personal and customer experience):

    1. Most customers don’t care were their call is answered as long as:

      a. the customer can understand the employee.

      b. the employee can understand the customer.

      c. the issue is clearly understood by the employee the first time.

      d. the employee can provide the resolution to the issue.

      e. the employee is empowered to make decisions or knows who can.

    2. When a customer gets a telephone number from an employee, it works and takes them to the person they need to speak to – without addition key punching or voice prompts.

    3. Customers HATE getting disconnected.

    4. Customers HATE blind transfers. This is a transfer to another person without introduction of the issue. If #1 was followed, a transfer to this person will be smooth and will not require the customer to explain the situation again.

    5. When a customer orders something, it should be what was ordered with the proper documentation and invoice. If DELL must change the order, it should be explained in a letter with the order and meet or exceed the customer’s expectation.

    6. If a customer orders something, there should be a grace period to order additional items at the special pricing when I ordered the product – its just good PR.

    7. If a customer is technically savvy and already knows the problem and resolution, the customer should be sent to an advanced Tech to resolve the issue. The time it takes to get it resolved will be substantially reduced and relieve irritation between the customer and DELL (and its employee).

    8. A part should not cost $700 for one customer and $250 for another.

    9. If a company you do business with (like a solution provider) is trying to keep your company’s image in the positive, DONT piss the owner of the company nor its employees.

    10. When you say you will charge X on an item, don’t charge Y.

    11. Any correspondence sent to your company, whether digital or on paper – needs to be replied to be replied to in the same format, ASAP.

    13. If you are going to send an email out with an employees contact information and/or a contact number MAKE SURE the employee/number EXISTS.

    14. If the problem is the hard drive, the solution isn’t a new video card.

    Here is what I can’t understand (#10). As a Solution Provider and a DELL repair tech (outsourced by BancTec, Smartech, QualXserv), I am having as much difficulty finding the right person to resolve my issues as a customer. This should NOT be the case. Last year, I spent over 200 hours fixing DELL’s blunders. Most of that time was spent getting transferred, disconnected, improper call handling and incorrect resolutions by DELL.

    Here is an example: I have a customer who is an attorney in California. She purchased a DELL notebook from us what had a 1year warranty. This computer was in our inventory less than 30 days. We asked to extend the warranty to 2years and upgrade the mail in warranty to in-home service. On the DELL site, that upgrade was $129. We were charged $169. The computer only received the upgrade from mail-in to in-house and it never received the 2nd year. When a technician was sent by DELL to replace the mainboard and video card, the technician forgot to remove the modem from the bad motherboard and install it to the new motherboard. The Attorney received was so frustrated with DELL, she emailed (or wrote) DELL and asked for a resolution. After quite some time with no resolution, she contacted the Texas Attorney General and pleaded the case with them. They replied that the issue was resolved and provided contact information of a person at DELL that did not work there any more. Recently, her hard drive died and it had to be replaced. It is the same 30GB HD that I have been seeing fail on other notebooks. It should have been covered on the 2YR warranty the customer should have received.

    The account above was just one client. We have dozens more with issues and complaints. It’s not looking pretty and if DELL doesn’t resolve their inter-communication issues, they will self destruct like ENRON.


  20. The problem is not really the accents. I had the "opportunity" to talk with dozens of your Indian technicians and never really had any problem understanding them.

    The problem is Dell’s total customer service incompetence. I spent hours and hours on the phone, mostly on hold, trying to get a simple mouse problem corrected. It turned out that a small, 50 cent piece on my mouse was defective. But the customer service was so horrible that I will never, ever, purchase another Dell product again. For want of a 50 cent piece, Dell lost a customer.

    Worse, no one at Dell seems to even care about this. I wrote a letter to corporate headquarters that outlined, in detail, all the customer service problems I had encountered, but never heard a peep out them.

    Just google "Dell service problems" and you will have reading material to fill up your summer.

    I will never purchase from Dell again, and I tell everyone I know about my horrible customer service experiences with the.

    The sad thing is that I have been purchasing Dell computers for years now and up until this last purchase, had been happy with the product and the customer service.

  21. I am a first time Dell Buyer from SouthAmerica – Chile, and also a University Professor of courses related to Supply Chain and IT. My students always ask me about my purchase experience.

    The only problem that I usually mention to them is that the tracking system of orders is not very good and that the Support.LA.Dell.Com site is not very usefull because some links are broken and even worse some email addresses are not correct.




    It send a report to: [email protected]

    Check this link also:


    I usually try to explain to my students the difficulties of integrating systems and extend that to DELL´s websites. The still can´t understand why a purchase order number  and a customer order number is related to a specific country site , neither can I. (ie: try to check your order status with the number via a us site or any other site thats not your country).

    Hope you find these comments usefull

  22. i really appreciate these things u r doin and all this dell i have is quite wonderful but alot of the programs that i try to run wont work even one of the ones that came with it. i was just wondering who i am supposed to talk to or where i am supposed to go to see how i or sombody can fix this if at all.

  23. i have an inspiron 1150 dell labtop and was told that the motherboard messed up because its overheating how can purchase or replace that can you help?


  24. Speaking English doesn't help if even the supervisors don't have the ability to fix a problem.   After 45 minutes on hold and wrong transfers, you don't want to hear "sorry, we can't do anything about that" over and over. When the supervisor states that she can't do anything to help, and that "no one else can either", that is unacceptable.

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