Dell Hell Redux?

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I need to start this post with a disclaimer: I have occasionally done work for Dell, and am friends and have been friends with several of their staff. I have a very personal wish and hope that Dell succeeds as a company, and many of the best social media stories ever told were told about Dell, especially about my friends like Lionel Menchaca and Richard Binhammer (both since moved on). I am biased towards Dell.

Dell Hell Redux?

I asked a Microsoft employee OFF-RECORD which Windows tablet he liked at a recent event. I wanted to get something smallish, smaller than the Dell XPS11 and MUCH smaller than the Dell XPS18 that I own. I really wanted a Windows tablet because I really like the new OS a lot, and I thought that Dell, an American company led by a visionary founder, would be a great platform for this. My son thoroughly loves the Dell XPS 18, so I’ve had lots of positive experience.

So, I bought the Dell Venue Pro tablet, some time after Christmas, as a gift to myself. No one sent me one to evaluate (which I’m fortunate to see happen quite often). I just bought it.

I left it in my house because I hadn’t any trips in the near future. So, I used it a little bit, but you know, in a house with five or six computers and several phones laying around, it wasn’t the go-to device.

Until one day, I was getting ready to go on a trip. I turned it on to check that anything I needed offline was on the device, only, it wouldn’t start. Oh well, I’ll charge it, I thought.

No go. Dead. Won’t start. I went to to troubleshoot.

So, That Didn’t Work

First, I had a hard time finding which part of the website I was supposed to go to. I also called several wrong numbers while clicking. I then found out that most of the troubleshooting had to do with devices that worked but just not well. Dead is dead. I couldn’t do much.

Then, I finally found someone on Twitter who gave me the “real” customer service number, because I kept getting the “if you want to pay us, we’ll fix your stupidity-induced problems” one by mistake.

28 minutes. Exactly 28.08. Lots of hold time. Why, I wonder. Isn’t dead, dead? 28 minutes to say, eventually, “beats me, can you mail it back?”

Yes. Yes I can.


Then, I mail the device back. No response. Nothing. So, I ask on Twitter whether that’s normal. Shouldn’t I hear, “I’ve got your baby” back from service? They say, “No, not really.” (All quotes are to emulate chit-chat, not direct quotes.

So, I get into it more.

It’s Something You Did

I’m still waiting on the official response, but the friendly DM from DellCares on Twitter says this (and this is a direct quote):

“They have determined that issue is not covered under warranty.You will be given further details once you contact number provided.Thanks,SS”

Well that’s interesting.

More Potential Disclaimers

Okay, here’s the thing. The device has been inside my house all this time. But I have two kids. If one spilled something on it or dropped it, they never came forward to tell me. This MIGHT be my fault. And I’ve said before in moments like this that I’m really willing to accept culpability if that’s so.

But It’s the WHOLE EXPERIENCE that Pisses Me Off

1.) Device stops working magically. My ipad never ever ever ever did that.
2.) Customer service website is a mess. Years after everyone and their brother has tried to help them with this.
3.) Customer service on the phone took 28 minutes? To tell me to ship it back?
4.) DEAD AIR upon receiving the device, thus making me worry they never even got it?
5.) DEAD AIR on an official reply, so I have to bother some person via Twitter?

I’m out three hundred bucks or so, which is the least interesting part of the story.

1.) I’m writing this on a Macbook Air. I have a huge iMac at home.
2.) I *also* have two Dell XPS products.
3.) I *COULD* be a very loud and influential voice telling folks that they have to stop giving it to Apple without even trying and appreciating other products.

Instead, what am I doing? Bitching. Loudly. About how badly I feel Dell treated me and how the whole experience made me feel.

What Do You Think I *REALLY* Want Here?

Some people will think a refund. Some people will think an apology. Some people will think I want some smart other company to offer me a comparable product.

None of those things are what I want. I wanted the Dell experience to work. I wanted it to be as great as the people I’ve met at Dell. I wanted the experience to be so transformational that a struggling company still seeking to earn its place back in the minds of the technorati of the world would be a great story to tell.

I wanted to RAVE about my experiences with Dell and brag about them.

Instead, I wasted about 900 words of your time and mine bitching that they screwed it up and pissed me off.

At Owner Magazine, I’m working hard to teach business owners of all kinds that business is about belonging, that growing your capabilities and connections means nurturing the network. This experience? This was the opposite all the way through.

Oh well. Guess I’ll save my couch money and buy another iPad mini. Worked fine. Never broke. Just had a dumb owner who lost it on a plane (Delta said kiss it goodbye, for the record.) runs on the Genesis Framework

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  • Jim Connolly

    Hey Chris,

    Sorry to hear about your experience. The first thing that came to my mind, when I read your frustrations, were the razor thin profits Dell operates on.

    You mentioned Apple a few times in your post. When I buy a Mac, Apple get a hefty profit and I get a reliable, robust machine.

    I wonder if quality control and customer service, are where Dell are cutting back, in order to compete on price with other budget providers?

    I hope not. I like the Dell brand and have had very good experiences as a Dell customer.

    Thanks for sharing your story, Chris.

    • Momekh

      That’s a valid point, Jim. Apple raises the bar of product quality and charges you for it too. In context – and I hate to admit it – that sounds fair. :)

      But a company need hefty profits to reply to emails, that you’re eventually going to do anyways? Or why have a “Cust support” line then…
      If I get a chance to fix this, I’d start (and possibly stop) at the process. If Chris here can reply to 200 emails over two days for his blog subscribers who are non-paying “customers”, a cust rep can at least send in a one-liner “got it, working on it” etc.

      • Carl Setzer

        This reply should be automated. Once it’s in their control (dropped of by FedEx), an automated email should go out to the customer. Not very warm and fuzzy, but a simple “your device has been received and is being evaluated…” blah blah.

    • The Franchise King

      Jim. Apple is a greedy company. They pay garbage wages to iphone makers that slave away in lousy conditions. I won’t buy any Apple products because i don’t like them as a company. I have not heard too many positive customer service stories about them. At all.


  • Christopher S. Penn

    I’m honestly in no way surprised by this. My company standardized on Dell for much of the hardware and the hardware is constantly breaking, having issues, etc. It’s easy enough to manage in the enterprise, where you swap out a dead box for a live box, but my little group has a bunch of Macs that never flake out and don’t take 10-15 minutes (not joking) to boot up.

    Sorry you had the bad experience, sir. I’ve been quite happy with both the iPad and the Kindle HDX, though the iPad still is the better experience for me and the little ones.

  • Andrzej Tucholski

    Ouch. And I’ve used their USP as a pro-consumer company in my bachelor thesis some time ago…

  • Momekh

    HP seems to be the go-to recommendation I get when it comes to rugged Windows laptops. I have an HP ProBook after my Mac died on me. Yes. Logic board fried. It was post-warranty.
    And the remarkable thing: with both companies, I feel like a nobody. I mean, how hard can it be for someone at HP (or even Apple) to reach out to me in one way or the other?
    A personlised email? A “hope all’s well?” type.
    And seeing that they’re not paying attention to someone with your influence, then seriously, who’s advising them on all matters Internet?
    Do you think they’ll hire me on 3000 $ per month working from Lahore? Ha. :P

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  • Laura P Thomas

    Hi Chris!
    I’d like to note for your readers here that if your screen capture of comments on your Facebook post had gone down a little bit further, they would have seen a response from me there within one hour of your posting. It’s actually the second time I’ve responded to your Facebook posts about Dell issues to let you know that I’m here and ready to help. I’ve also just responded to your G+ post, as well.
    I know you posted on Instagram last week, too, but I did not respond there – choosing instead to use that post as a prompt to check in on your case with our DellCares team, at which time I was told they were waiting for a response from you to their initial outreach.
    I’m sorry to hear that whatever transpired since that time has not been to your liking, and I’m actively trying to get an update on your case. As soon as I know the full picture, I will respond to you again.
    Just wanted to make sure that everyone knows Dell is not ignoring you, and I’m here for you to contact directly.

    • The Franchise King


      You’re not making Dell look too good with that 1st sentence.

      It comes off as, “See! I responded. See? See?

      I have an idea, Laura. Call Chris on his phone. Or Email him. He’s kinda of easy to find.

      I’m not sure if your company has already missed its chance to fix the tablet and fix this relationship.


      • Laura P Thomas

        My bad Joel. I see how my personal desire to make sure people know we are responsive comes across as too focused on Dell, rather than Chris. I don’t have his phone number, but I am happy to jump on a call if he will share it with me: laura_p_thomas at dell dot com. I do hope it’s not too late to fix this relationship and that’s why I’m trying so hard to make sure I’m replying to Chris in every social platform on which I see him discussing the topic – so that he will know I want to help. ~LPT

        • The Franchise King

          Sounds like things are moving the right direction :)

          We all make mistakes when communicating online :)

          me included!


    • Chris Brogan

      Laura. You’re wonderful. You should also know that the fact that YOU are still having to error handle for the organization is pretty much the only point I need to make at this point. YOU are wonderful. YOU, as well as the other people who had to go after the recent changes, are the exception handlers. My problem is that the RULE never changed.

      28 minutes on hold. Eventually to be told put it in a box. Eventually to have no further FORMAL contact from support (not that I’ve seen yet).

      And instead, I get you. A star. Someone wonderful who I respect and admire.

      But that’s because “I’m Chris Brogan,” not because I’m a customer who bought a product that stopped working. I haven’t heard why, yet. But guessing by the “warranty not covered,” maybe one of my kids did something and covered it up. But that’s not the point. The main ingredients of the story aren’t the point.

      The point is that customer service is still broken. The VELOCITY of service through the primary channels doesn’t exist. The lack of simplicity of the website to find the right place to start the process forced me to an 800#. “Dead is dead” wasn’t much of an option on any of the pages.

      So, much love to you. I guess I’ll just enjoy the XPS18 til it breaks, and evidently I’ll pick up a different tablet from a different company with a different OS and that way, if I break it, I’ll at least know a lot faster and with less hard work that it’s my fault somehow.

      • Laura P Thomas

        Thank you for replying Chris! I’m no star, but I did want you to know that even though some of our great teammates like Richard and Lionel have left, there are still people here that care.

        And, we appreciate that your case has shown us a customer touchpoint that needs to be fixed. Beyond web site navigation and call hold times, you should never have experienced “radio silence” after sending your tablet in for diagnosis. Your point is well made and definitely heard across the company.

        I now have more information about what happened to the device and wasn’t covered by warranty. (Your kids are probably in the clear.) And, you don’t have to pick up a different tablet.

        The limitations of Twitter made that response you posted above from our @DellCares team too curt, I’m afraid.

        What they were hoping is that we’d hear from you via phone to go into it all in more detail than 140 characters. If you’d prefer me to do that here, I can; or, you can call me back at either of the phone numbers I just left on your voicemail.

        Hope to chat soon.

        • Momekh

          It’s great you’re doing this.
          The processes are weak, but if they’re run by people like you, then there’s still a chance. :)

    • marti garaughty

      @Laura… since I’ve tried every other way to resolve my problems with Dell I’ll try with you. I received a totally defective Alienware X51, spent hours on the phone with Dell’s so called “customer service”, sent numerous emails, did the chat thing, etc… trying to get help from Dell.

      The bottom line is that Dell shipped me a defective computer and refused to honor their 30 day return policy. How is someone like myself who is not as famous on the net as Chris Brogan, supposed to get help/satisfaction when Dell ships defective computers and then refuses to stand by their own warranties and return policies?

  • Jennifer Fong

    As I mentioned when you posted about this on Instagram, I had a terrible experience with Dell a few years back. I had bought a computer and paid extra for a service plan which meant they would either send someone to fix problems or let me send it in for repairs on their dime. There was a defective part in the machine and despite my paid-for service plan, they were making me take the thing apart and try to fix it, which left me frustrated and the machine even more broken. I finally returned the whole darn thing, and wound up having to pay the shipping, too. Terrible service and I will never again buy a Dell.

  • eflorida

    It’s especially frustrating when you are a very brand-loyal person. It’s like “don’t you know I would continue buying your products for years and promote your brand to my friends, if you just handled this with common sense and some basic level of service.”

    I just re-tweeted a friend who was having trouble canceling a gym membership. The CEO’s response on Twitter: “Learn to follow directions.” I was like wow, really, that’s how you handle frustrated customers? The real problem was that his own employee’s couldn’t provide the instructions, my friend was getting the runaround.

    • Bart Grover

      And likely the reason his employees treat customers this way due to the CEO’s attitude toward customer service. If he views customers as an inconvenience, so will they.

  • Mitch Jackson

    What an excellent example of the power of social media. The very reasonable opportunity for for Dell to (1) do the right thing and (2) expand their sphere of influence, was lost.

    I had almost the same exact experience with an Asus laptop last year. Just wanted them to step up and fix the problem. It wasn’t about the money. It was all about seeing whether or not Asus “got it” and would do the right thing. They didn’t even come close. I should have raised the issue on social. I was in trial and out of time so I didn’t. Water under the bridge.

    I’d be curious to hear if Dell responds. I know that at this stage of the game that’s not really the point but the business guy in me is wondering if and how they will (1) take care of their customer and (2) handle this issue on social.

    Please keep us updated.

    • Chris Brogan

      The challenge is that LPT responded. She’s Dell, but she’s Dell royalty, reserved for when bloggers get crabby. Super nice person. Love all she’s done for the company.

      What I wanted was simple. I bought my mom the same tablet. She returned hers because she couldn’t see anything (display a little too high res for her eyes). But after this experience.

      The lost opportunities are in revenue. I dunno. Anyway. Much love.

  • Stephen Denny

    Chris, if you enjoyed the above Dell experience you’ll simply fall head over heels for Lenovo, a company that can wrap the best hardware on planet earth in a customer experience so mind-meltingly bad you’d think you were an unwitting stand-in on Punked. Even ordering a Lenovo is like a sitcom pilot waiting to happen. And with a product that is so utterly magnificent you’d think they’d be raving it about it from the rooftops.

    What do we chalk this up to? Commodity thinking? Believing that anything non-engineering is a cost center? Who knows. Makes me shake my head.

    • Darwin

      Lenovo has destroyed the once proud Thinkpad name. Yes they make much cheaper computers now but their DOA out of the box rate is through the roof and good luck getting customer service.

  • Darwin

    I’m surprised by several things here.
    That you have experience with Dell, still buy their products anyway, and are surprised when you get zero support.
    Or that you like Metro and consider Michael Dell a visionary. Michael Dell is quite aware of how bad their customer service is. It is this way by design in order to maximize Dells profits.
    No wonder Dell is on the ropes. For years they sold a mediocre OS on the cheapest hardware components they could buy this week, and offered no support. It’s caught up with them.

  • blerg

    same story with the apple gang. Same crap, different pile.

    • pdq3

      But with “the Apple gang”, all I have to do is go to the Apple store at the mall, and they’ll at least look at a dead whatever, for free. No calls to India, and if the unit has to go in for repairs, there’s a real person I can go back to at the store who I can ask about the status.

      I mean, to me, that’s one of the big advantages to Apple stuff. Lots of technology is fine when it works – I don’t want to be reduced to casting about on Twitter when something goes wrong, and for me at least, that’s worth a modest price premium.

  • Billjw

    I think this is where company culture will always override individual circumstances.

    I don’t know LPT (or Chris) just going on this post and comments and I can see LPT is trying to do the right thing by Chris. But I think she is also highlighting a poor culture in that, if you get the right person, all goes well. But the chances of that seem to be small. That points to culture and leadership. You can argue for training, checklists and SLAs all you like but if the culture is cost management… that is the message the customer receives.

    The better companies, when it comes to service, still hold to the fact that “the customer really is always right” and using Chris’s example (if I may Chris, feel free to delete if you don’t) the customer being “right” here is not about a refund, nor about an exchange of tablet or any other “magnificence of service – it is simply about a timely response, an acknowledgement of the issue, some empathy and, as Chris has stated, for the process to work – without LPT!

    It’s not like this is new! :)

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  • Jennifer

    Can your credit card company help you here in terms of a refund if Dell is unable/unwilling to make that happen?

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  • John Wall

    Dell makes tablets?

    • Hollins Law

      I was wondering the same thing.

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  • Deb Trotter

    I feel your pain. I had a similar experience with Dell years ago, and before that with HP. All told, I spoke with over twenty seven (that’s right, 27) people at Dell, none of whom could help me, and all but a few treated me like an idiotic old woman. (OK, I’m an old woman, but not an idiot just yet) Unfortunately, the two customer service reps who were polite disappeared when I had to call again to follow up. Talk about a nightmare.
    I now have an iMac, a Macbook Air, and an iPad Mini. The iMac is 5 years old and still works flawlessly. (I allso had a fabulous MacBook Pro, 4 years old, which died only because I did the unthinkable, and spilled coffee on the keyboard, so maybe I AM an idiot after all). About 3 months ago, I had a question about my iMac, and even though it was no longer under warranty, the Tech guy I spoke with was great in helping me out. He didn’t immediately know the answer to my question, but promised to call me back the next day — even gave me his cell phone number to call him anytime if I had a question before he got back to me. He did call me back early the next day. Problem solved. I simply had to delete an old file that was incompatible.
    Bottom Line … complain all you want about Apple’s costs, etc. They have never once been less than professional, knowledgable, and helpful. Worth every single penny.

  • Sally

    Same as! I called them today (India).. listen to me very carefully because you are the worse company I’ve ever had to deal with and I want nothing more to do with Dell… I want to cancel Dell Datasafe because you have been taking £24.99 from me every year and not actually ‘saving my data’. There is no contact, phone, email on the website that tells me how I can simply cancel the subscription that you automatically decided you would take every year! Anywoo.. I was kept on hold.. on and off.. for approximately 30 minutes! And now have to wait up to 15 days for the cancellation to happen!

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