Wednesday, February 20, 2008

When Customer Service Isn't

I recently purchased a refurbished laptop from Dell's Web Outlet. I received it on Valentine's Day. Unfortunately, it was refurbished in name only. Dell's website points purchasers who wish to return products to their Customer Care number. One is then routed to India. The CSR (Customer Service Representative) I spoke to on February 15th, was helpful and she routed me to another agent who could help me. He in turn directed me back to Dell's web site which had their Change Ownership page. After following the directions and filling it out with a minor oops from me, (you have to enter xxx for the first and last name of the previous owner for it to go through), I was told that it would be 5-10 business days before the change took affect after which they could help me. I was amazed at how broken and hidden this process is. All Dell had to do was tell people that if they want to return a refurbished system, that they have to change ownership first. They could have done this on the web page directing people to call Customer Care. Instead they waste 45 minutes of a CSR's time and the customer's directing the customer back to Dell's own website. Then there's the Customer Care voice menu. To get the Returns Department which is only open 0900-2100 Central Standard Time, you have to tell the voice recognition software, "none of those" for an option. Once you do that, you are eventually directed to the Returns Department. That CSR helped me over a 10 minute period and it was relatively painless. I was notified that the ownership was changed yesterday, and today was the earliest I could call them. The laptop and the battery I ordered are going back to Dell. Perhaps my credit card will be credited by the end of the week. This was a most unfortunate mess and it was made more painful by intentionally hidden options and by a bad process. The CSR was not at fault at all. Perhaps by not revealing the Returns Option, the company is making money in some way such as interest off of the transaction. So it comes down to making a buck or being insensitive to your customers, I'm not sure which. I won't be buying a Dell laptop any time soon however.


Interesting John

I never did trust the Dell set up. Found in the early days I always needed to bring my PC at least once into the Shop where I bought it. The fixit guys were accountable cos they lived close.

I'll be even more cautious now about mail order computers advertising a price advantage.

John: Stefanie from Dell Outlet here. Just wanted you to know that we saw your post and are truly sorry you had such an unfortunate experience attempting to return your purchase. We agree, the process should not be so complicated, and we are looking into your specific purchase so we can understand how we can do better. Again, apologies for your experience, and thank you for pointing out how we can improve.
While this Stefanie may be sincere, in the end, talk is cheap. I'm waiting for Dell to spend 30 minutes to fix their web page and an hour to fix the voice menu phone system so that:

1. Customers who receive defective refurbished systems are told to visit the Take Ownership web page to change the owner information of the system, or better yet, Dell changes the information when they sell the system to the customer. Shouldn't be too hard to have the sales database talk to the customer service database and "fix" things. That's what XML was supposedly developed for.
2.Fix their voice menu system so that the Returns Department isn't hidden from customers.

Surely it wouldn't cost them as much money to make these simple changes as it is losing the business of a customer. But then, I'm not thinking of all the time lost by managers in meetings agonizing over the implications of making such simple changes that would actually improve their customer service. If they'd actually tested the system before it left the refurb shop, this incident would never have happened.
Stefanie here again. Yes, we agree talk is cheap, and we are still investigating the issue. To your point, customers should not have to change ownership of their system in order to return it - this is an error in our system and we are currently working to fix it. Thanks to you for making us aware of this problem and helping us improve. It is taking longer than we thought, but I hope to have an update for you soon.

In regards to computer being tested before being sold to you, all Dell Outlet systems are tested to meet original factory specifications before put into Dell Outlet inventory. While we wish 100% of the systems purchased work perfectly, there will always be a small percentage that sneak through the system. Unfortunately, you appear to have received one of these, and it's our job to remedy the situation.

Again, apologies for your experience, and thank you for taking the time to help us understand how we can improve.

"For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for nature cannot be fooled."
Richard Feynmann

Feynmann's remark was about the loss of the Challenger shuttle and NASA management's deluding themselves about how safe their product was. While Dell doesn't build space shuttles, it does build or assemble computers that allow people who buy them to be more productive. If Dell upsets its customers through poor customer service, it loses business and market share.You can spin this situation any way you like and claim that it is isolated, but the flaws I pointed out are easily remedied and saves the company money and time. Possibly customers as well, but who knows? Dell has to remember that when you outsource a service, the contract is written in such a way that the incentives are likely not what Dell intended. If the Indian firm that customer service is outsourced to gets x amount of money per phone call answered, it is not in their interests to solve an issue on the first phone call or the second, or the third. If Dell worded the contract such that the firm receives a bonus for every issue fixed the first time, so that they make more money for resolving problems quickly, your customer service would be unsurpassed. I realize that there would have to be measures put in place to keep techs from throwing parts at the problem or running a full factory image restore on the hard drive, but a carefully thought out process which Dell should have all of the experience and data to craft by now should be on paper. The web site should be as efficiently designed and crafted as well, to save money and make money. The sales part is, why not the customer service part? You've been running the web site for years. Surely, some one knows what's broken or flawed. Why did a knowledgeable customer have to get your attention about this problem?


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