Wednesday, October 18, 2006

A Hopefull Conclusion to the Dell Nightmare

There comes times in one's life where one ponders if he's experiencing reality, or trapped in some sadistic episode of the Twilight Zone. I have to say, this final episode in the Dell "Customer Lack of Service" saga has plunged me into such a time.

Turns out if you've got a blog detailing your experience at Dell, they actually end up reading it, at least if you submit it in support requests, fax it to some fax number a support rep gave you that was supposed to be another service department, and email it to the customer advocacy department at Dell.

So I'm home sick from work, and here our tale begins. The phone rings, caller ID informs me it's an 800 number. Old ingrained anti-telemarketer instinct almost prevents me from answering, but I'm feeling lucky, so I pick up.

It turns out to be Debbie, from Dell's "Customer Advocate" department. Seems after a couple of weeks of plowing through Dell phone support numbers, submitting support requests, and writing an entire blog about your experience that you spread all over the web, you are entitled to a Dell person who will "share your pain" and try to get your problem resolved.

This must be the gold standard of Dell's service personnel, a person who will be available on a direct line, and will absolutely not stop working with you until your problem is resolved.

So Debbie, fresh with apologies and optimism, embarks with my wife and I on the journey to the find the Holy Grail, by which I mean closing a "Dell Preferred Account".

First, Debbie asks me to forward her our original Dell order confirmation emails. O.K., I dig them up, and forward them along.

We wait... Hmm, doesn't seem the email is making it through... Seems this is not entirely uncommon, you know how funny those Dell email servers can be, so she suggests a different email address.

Presto! Almost instantaneous delivery! Excellent, we're on our way.

Then I explain that my wife is away at the moment, and she's had to be on the line before to get things going with some of the support departments involved. She says we'll proceed anyways, that we can pick up later if my wife needs to be involved.

So we start the 3-way call into the department Debbie believes can solve our problem. As soon as I hear the teleprompt service start up, I realize Debbie's in for a ride.

Sure enough, the first number's a dud, nobody can help. We try another, teleprompts, hold queue, she asks if I want to remain on hold while we wait for someone. Sure, why not, I have nothing to do as the Flu has knocked me out for the day.

...waiting... ...waiting...

Debbie's back, says she's still on hold, she hasn't forgotten me. ...warm fuzzies, I feel special... Back on hold

...waiting... ...waiting...

Debbie returns, she needs to do more research it seems, and will call me back when she knows more. I thank her, we part again.

Around 20 minutes later, my wife is back home, and we're peaking with anticipation of Debbie's return call.


Debbie's back, cool. Turns out our account is "On Hold"..

I pause here to remind the reader that my very first call to Dell maybe almost a week ago was to try and find out why the account was "On Hold"

She tells me that an account cannot be closed before it is first gotten off the "On Hold" status. For this to happen, an "Account Verification" needs to take place.

My warm fuzzies start to evaporate as Debbie tells me that the "Account Verification" people are a funny bunch who get nervous if the "Customer Advocate" is on the line at the same time as an "Account Verification" is happening. We have to go this one alone, but she'll be waiting to hear how it pans out.

...deep breath...

We call the number, (800) 624-9897, extension 7268826.. A friendly gentleman answers, asking how he can assist us. We say we'd like to "Verify" and then "Close" our Dell Preferred Account.

He says he cannot help us, can he forward us to someone who can?

!!! Oh no!! We've been there before!!! calling Debbie...

Debbie is shocked and dismayed to hear that the number she gave us won't do the deal... She's gonna find out what's what, can we hold?


Debbie's back again, fresh new number to try. She's rooting for us!!

(866) 228-9620...


We enter our SSN at the new prompt that greets us. Another guy comes on the phone, asks us how he can assist us.. Um, "Verify" and then "Close" our Dell Preferred account.

Hmm... He can't help us, but can he transfer us to someone who can?

Sure, we bite, it's GOT to work one of these days...

So we get transferred through. Brand new teleprompt, enter SSN, cool...

..beeping noises..
"We're having technical difficulties" bzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Time to call Debbie Back. She's very sorry that the latest round of Dell phone number roulette didn't work out for us. She promises that she'll figure it out, can we hold?



Now, usually I've got a pretty good tolerance for bladder control, but this flu bug is killing me.. I just HAVE to take a leak...

I am forced, in terror of losing our chance to get this account closed, to take a wiz while cradling the phone on my shoulder. Meanwhile I get to hear my wife chucking at the other end, seems she's had the other phone on speaker and the whole bathroom event is quite a show.



...Did I like run over some old lady and this is my punishment or something???...


Debbie's back. She says there's an issue with the Billing Phone Number on our account. She's going to hack into the mainframe at Dell Central Command and flip it to our home phone number so when we call, Big Brother will know it's us.

O.K., Cool...

Back to (866) 228-9620...

Guy answers, he asks us... you get the idea... Says he can't close accounts, but he's just rip roaring sure his supervisor can..


Enter Mr. Supervisor. Can he get our name? Well, hmm... The name on the shiny new credit card you sent us has the name misspelled on it, do you want the RIGHT spelling, or YOUR spelling? He says the account number will suffice.. Cool.. We give it...

...back on hold...

Supe says he cannot verify our phone number because it is not showing up on their caller ID... Seems our IP Phone (Like Vonage Folks) is the problem. Can they change the account to another phone, like a cellular.

O.K., we feed the supe my wife's cellular phone number. Bingo! The cell phone rings, the verification happens, we're in business!

It is at this point, amazing as it may sound, that the representative on the phone asks us if we want to resurrect our original order..


Alright then, we're told we can finally go about the business of closing the account.


Not with this representative. They do, surprisingly, offer to get the appropriate party on the line while they put us on hold... O.K., sounds groovy.




Rep comes back to tell us they're working their way through a confusing teleprompt system, and to hang in there. Classic..




Rep comes back and says their call got dropped, they're gonna try again. Even better..




Rep returns to say that their call got dropped again.. They are at a loss, can't figure out how to get our account closed, seems to be some "glitch" in the system.. They're confused... JOIN THE CLUB!

So we call Debbie back, we're on a first name basis now, I feel like she's a distant relative or something. We relay the recent turn of events, and she promises she'll get to the bottom of it, again... She'll call us back..

Maybe 5-10 minutes later the final call arrives. Halleluiah!





We're free! Free from the tentacles of Dell Financial Services and the monstrous bureaucracy that has ensnared us, holding us hostage for the last couple of weeks! Free at last!

Debbie also seems jubilant, I feel like sending her a fruitcake. But I remind myself, this should never have happened. It should never have taken days of vigilant effort, numerous phone calls, many form submissions, endless transfers and holds and ultimately a great deal of stress to:

1) find out why our account was on hold and,
2) to cancel our order and close the account

This has been, without a doubt, the most bizarre, frustrating, and at times infuriating customer service experience I've ever had. I have oscillated between puzzlement, rage, frustration and stark disbelieve in the inadequacies in what has to be a deeply flawed company approach to customer service. It should NEVER take a public blogging, hours of hard work and considerable frustration to get through a simple hold based on an account verification.

For all of this, Debbie offers me a $100 discount code that, get this, can only be used on orders of $100 or more. So the company that has robbed me of many hours of my life in a seemingly futile attempt to close an account, wants me to use a discount code that ultimately guarantees I will actually have to spend more money to use!

I have to say Debbie was helpful, she seemed as trapped as we did in this maze of telephone teleprompt systems and helpless support reps.

We're not going to use the code that will be emailed to us on principal. If it can be transferred, we're going to give it to a brave friend of ours who plans on buying a Dell monitor in the near future.

I would strongly caution potential dell customers out there to take heed. It took this customer a great deal of effort to do what should have taken a single phone call to clear up. A company I once revered for having some pretty stand up support for solid, well priced hardware, seems to be crushing itself under the weight of a very poorly designed system of service and support.

We have yet to receive the code, or verification that the account is closed, but…

Hopefully, The End.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Round 3 with Dell

If you will recall, we received an email from Mark Thompson in "Customer Support", in response to a support submission on Dell Financial Service's site :

Dear Ms. Kosloskey,

Thank you for contacting Dell Financial Services (DFS) regarding your account.

Unfortunately, DFS is no longer servicing this account and we are unable to provide you with any information regarding the status of it. For information regarding this account, please contact Asset Protection Service at (877) 574-5128. They will be able to assist you.

If you have additional questions regarding your Dell Preferred Account, please contact one of our Customer Service Representatives at (800) 283-2210 or respond by return e-mail. We will be happy to assist you.


Mark Thompson
Customer Support
Dell Financial Services L.P.


So time to make a call to the brand new number, the important sounding "Asset Protection Service". Finally, about to get to the bottom of this mess and close our account!

...dialing (877) 574-5128...


Fax machine...
Very amusing...
Called twice to make sure...

A funny guy, this Mark Thompson. But I must say, in all honesty, I felt better served by the electronic emminations. Although only mildly less intelligible than many of the Dell representatives I'd spoken to, there was a complexity and depth in the chirping tones and whistles not to be found on Dell Customer Care...

Anyway, I thought in the short term I'd make due with what I have, and decided to utilize the provided fax number. I've printed this entire blog up to date and faxed it to the provided Dell Fax Number.

Fingers crossed!

stay tuned...

Personal Thoughts on "Customer Service"

It occurs to me that people having read my earlier posts about my terrible experience with the support, or lack thereof, received from Dell, Dell Financial Services and it's other tentacles might think I'm being unfair. And, truth be told, there are many people who feel that this is the way customer service has to be.

I could not more strongly disagree.

I am a consumer, but also a business owner. I operate several online stores and process dozens of orders a day. My company is nowhere as large a Dell, with fewer reesources, and a smaller staff. But one thing we clearly whomp them on is customer service.

I expect companies I do business with to be capable of answering my questions and providing a decent level of support. I'd like to summarize what I mean by support, and pledge it to my many customers and customers to be:

  1. If we take your order, and we charge you for it, we take responsibility for making darn sure you know exactly how your order is progressing, and understand that you are absolutely entitiled to write or talk to someone who actually knows, or can quickly find out anything at all about your order.
  2. We will respond to EVERY email and EVERY phone call in a TIMELY manner.
  3. We will ALWAYS provide a contact information page no more than ONE STEP away from our home page that both provides a real email address and a real phone number that you can call.
  4. We will not subject you to a confusing and time consuming teleprompt system. We find them annoying, we would not want to have that forced on us either. The most hassle you'll find dealing with us is a voicemail system, and we check messages REGULARLY during the day.
  5. All our representatives speak fluent, clear English. We serve customers in the United States of America, and want you to understand what we say.
  6. We make mistakes on occasion, it's unavoidable. But we promise to strive to find prompt and fair solutions to any problems that arise.

If there's anything that convinces me that most consumers have been beaten down by the current state of Customer Service, particularly with online stores, it's the reesponse I get when talking to our customers.

For instance, we had this customer on one of our shoe and boot sites that had placed an order. For whatever reason, the order confirmation email and tracking information emails had not made it through to her email account.

She emailed us, very concerned about the status of her order. When we tried her billing phone number, it appeared not to be working. We noticed she had opted to have the package delivered to her place of business, so we looked up the business, called, and used the directory to locate her.

Now to us, this does not seem like an unreasonable amount of effort. We always try to imagine what we'd feel like if we were in our customer's shoes. In this case, the customer had no information about her order except the charge showing up on her credit card. That would be unsettling.

When we got her on the phone and gave her the relevant information about her order, you could almost hear her jaw drop. People are repeatedly floored by a company that actually tracks them down and calls them on the phone to resolve an issue, but to me, this is what being in business is all about.

Most of our customers never have to talk with us at all, and everything just works out fine. But I believe a company is not defined by how it treats the usual customers, but how it addresses the problems and issues that arise.

And in that respect, based on my experience, we kick Dell's ass.


Sandeep and DFS Response... Ugh!!

Sandeep writes back!

Amazing, a response from a real person. Don't get too excited...
First of all I sincerely apologise for any inconveniences caused. See we at Customer care dont have access to close your account , however I would suggest you to contact 1-866-213-3355. And let them know your concerns they might be able to help you .Thanks
Hmmm... Steve... Must be referring to my wife Stevi.. I can deal with that. Polite as always, these folks are, but again incapable of doing anything to resolve the problem.

DFS Gets Back to Us

Wow, this one's exciting, I thought, as I received a response from one of my dozen or so submissions to DFS's support submission page...

Dear Ms. Kosloskey,

Thank you for contacting Dell Financial Services (DFS) regarding your account.

Unfortunately, DFS is no longer servicing this account and we are unable to provide you with any information regarding the status of it. For information regarding this account, please contact Asset Protection Service at (877) 574-5128. They will be able to assist you.

If you have additional questions regarding your Dell Preferred Account, please contact one of our Customer Service Representatives at (800) 283-2210 or respond by return e-mail. We will be happy to assist you.


Mark Thompson
Customer Support
Dell Financial Services L.P.

Amazing... 3 more phone numbers in total to call... Again, not really surprised that we cannot be helped by anyone at Dell yet. Today, my wife and I will call the new and mysterious "Asset Protection Service", maybe they are the department that has "protected" us from finding anything out about our original "On Hold" order...

On a different note, I had this great idea for a new call script for the Dell fo9lks. It would simplify the process dramatically and cut to the chase:

DellRep1: Hello, thank you for calling Dell, how can I assist you?
Customer: ..insert question here...
DellRep1: I am sorry, Dell Customer Care cannot help you with that Dell Question you have...
DellRep1: Can I transfer you to another Dell department that can't assiist you?
Customer: &!@?@!
DellRep1: Alright then...

DellRep2: Hello, thank you for calling Dell, how can I assist you?
..repeat question here...
DellRep2: Can I put you on hold for an extended period of time while I see if there's any chance I can assist you?
Customer: Um, Sure...

...2 minutes later...
DellRep2: I'm sorry, you need to call (xxx) xxx-xxxx..., can I connect you directly?
Customer: Thank you sir, can I have another?

stay tuned...

Thursday, October 12, 2006

A Dell Customer Service Nightmare

Forget weight issues, salt, lack of exercise and family genetic disposition. If you want to catapult your blood pressure into the stratosphere, maybe bust a few blood vessels, have a coronary or lose your mind, try talking to the friendly folks at Dell Customer Support.

But wait, I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's start at the beginning...

In the Beginning, there was a need for a laptop. Now I'd steered friends and family to Dell before, having heard of their great hardware support, easy to use website, and well priced products. So my wife and I popped open a soda, and sat down to configure and buy a Dell laptop.

Configuration went swimmingly. All the way through we kept seeing this little reminder near the price of how our monthly payments could be as low as so-and-so per month, so as we neared the end, we decided we'd go ahead and applied for a "Dell Preferred Account".

Let me pause and iterate that the site appeared to indicate that an approval decision would take moments. And, as we clicked the final button, it indeed appeared as if we were "approved". I say "appeared as if" because as of now, the 4th day after the original order, I still do not know the disposition of that decision.


So we placed the order, got a nice little confirm in the email, and figured all was good in the world of Dell.

Yesterday morning, the first sings of trouble crept in. When logged into the Dell site to take a look at the status of our order, I noticed our status was "Order On Hold". So I decide to call and find out what that means.

Now you'd think that would be easy.

First I try the online chat. Several questions and delays later, I discover they cannot help me, and I should call customer care for an answer to my question. Why someone at Dell can't explain why an order at Dell is "On Hold", I do not know.

So I called the provided number.. First gentleman I spoke to, who was in, I believe, "Customer Care", though it sounded a lot like India, suggested I needed to talk to someone else. I asked why. He said something about the "Dell Preferred Account" taking time to process.. I asked why it said that "approval" would be immediate on the web site during ordering. He said it sometimes takes 48 hours for things to somehow work themselves out. I said the order was more than 48 hours old. He said he'd transfer me to someone who could help...

Next set of teleprompts. Asking me for an account number. Account number? Where do I find the account number... I search on the Dell site I am logged in to. Can't find an account number. I click zero hoping for an operator. ...bad account number, try again... I wait for a long pause to see if someone will come on the line.. ...bad account number, try again... (I am paraphrasing of course, the actual message was longer and more time wasteing, like "We're sorry, but we could verify the account number you just entered, please try....... you get the picture)

So back to chat. Maybe the chat person can tell me where I would look on the website to find the account number. After the usual delay, waiting to work my way up the queue, I get someone. I ask the question. They ask if they can help me.. Yes, account number location on the site.. So they give me a number actually.. Wow, this is finally getting somewhere...

Back on the phone with "Customer Care". New "barely capable of speaking the language" rep to assist me. Explain the situation again. Transferred to another department again. Asked for the account number again. Bingo, now we're cooking.

Only the account number they gave me on chat wasn't correct. "...bad account number, try again... ...bad account number, try again... ...bad account number, try again... ...bad account number, try again..."


Back to square one. Back to "Customer Care". Cool, this time the english seems marginally better. Insist that I speak with someone as when they keep transferring me I can never get through the account number prompt. They ask my name, I tell them.

It is then, after better than an hour trying to figure out why the order is "On Hold", that they tell me my wife, who's name was used, has to be on the call for them to proceed.

I'll skip the part about my tirals and tribulations trying to set up a 3-way call with my wife's cellular and Dell "Customer Care"

back to "customer care"

So my wife and I, 3-wayed in, talk to the next rep. This time, our bad luck, it's a really thick accent. During the entire conversation my wife and I took turns letting the other know what was said after we managed to guess it first.

So we discover "Customer Care" cannot help us, and we have to talk to "Dell Financial Services". At this point we want to get the guy's assurance that he will remain on the line until there's another real human on the line who can actually help us. He promises us this. Then, click, phone ringing, telepromt system takes over, rep nowhere to be found.


At this point we are ready to just cancel the whole order and go somewhere else. Of course, we're now connected with another department. Another rep answers, politely. I must stress that these reps were all polite. Polite as they said they couldn't help us, polite as they put us on hold, polite as they transferred us from queue to queue, polite to the end. But TOTALLY useless.

At this point, the rep merry-go-round becomes a bit of a blur. It took maybe 2 or 3 more transfers to get to someone who could actually cancel the order.

One thing left to do... Close the "Dell Preferred Account"...

Since we didn't want the laptop, and cancelled our order, we erroneously thought it would be possible to get the "Dell Preferred Account" closed with minimal hassle.

Let me say this clearly: I have never had a more frustrating experience in my life. If I were just a tad more superstitious, I'd say that "Dell Financial Services" was an agency of the underworld.

Sometime yesterday late afternoon my wife had to leave the call for an obligation, and I ran out of patience. I started up chat sessions with support, asking where I could tell my lawyer to direct the lawsuit I wanted to file. Threatening to go the the FTC, the BBB, the PTA!

I'd get responses like: "I understand you've been transferred a lot today..."

Um, yes.

An email address is given to me that is supposed to be this rep's manager's account, a fine gentleman by the name of "Sandeep Goswami". When I say "fine gentleman" I am generously giving the benefit of the doubt, as I've not heard a peep from him. Sent an email yesterday evening. It's 3:00 PM the next day, still no response.

To sooth my nerves, I've been posting service requests on Dell Financial Services submission page. Started with "Account Closure", no response... Moved on to "Other", same thing... Tried "Credit Line", and working my way through the other departments.


Well, the Dell Preferred Account still exists, still shows a balance for the canceled order, and nobody has contacted us.

Let that be a lessson. I cannot more strongly urge anyone to avoid this company and it's financial department like the plague.