For many years I have been a happy and loyal Dell customer, using Dell machines at home and at work. Those were the days when my Dell PCs were trusty. Those were the days when I associated Dell with good service. Those were the days when I recommended Dell to friends, colleagues and contacts. Well, those good old times are over as the Dell I bought last summer is still not working properly, and more importantly as Dell have stopped responding to my emails.
This is not a wine-related topic, but as three Dell computers were used to initially build and now to maintain the Wine Rambler I have decided to ramble about how a small problem was made big by a service failure.
Since the 1990s I have used six different Dell computers for work and personal use, and I never had a single problem with them. Until last summer that is, when I ordered a Dell Inspiron 2310. This is a stylish all-in-one PC that is a joy to use. Well, apart from one of the plastic feet coming off the keyboard when I unpacked it and the built-in microphone suffering from so much background noise to make it unusable for recording and, more importantly, for voice-over-IP and Skype.
Having worked with computers for over fifteen years I checked all the software settings carefully - no change -, and then tested the machine with an external microphone. As that worked fine I concluded the built-in microphone was faulty and contacted Dell. They apologised and declared that as the machine was delivered faulty they would send an engineer to fix both problems. A few days later both the keyboard and microphone were replaced. All should have been fine.
However, the keyboard that I received was a US version. And the microphone problems persisted. So I contacted Dell again who sent another engineer - giving me a very different service experience. The engineer at first refused to exchange the keyboard as his notes said I had complained about the damaged foot - and as the foot was working fine he could not replace it. When he finally realised I had an American keyboard he suggested I should just change the software settings as he would not replace the keyboard. After debating this for several minutes he called his supervisor who permitted him to give me the British keyboard I had originally paid for.
Eventually, we got round to looking at the microphone issue. The engineer called his wife on Skype to test the audio quality, but she said it was fine - although the background noise I could hear suggested she was in a noise environment. The call was very short and I pointed out to the engineer that the audio problems were not always immediately obvious - and I suggested calling one of my contacts or doing a recording so I could demonstrate the issue. The engineer denied me this opportunity and explained that the microphone was fine - after all it had been replaced by his colleague. If anything it was a software issue and I should call support who would solve it for me. Then he disappeared.
Calling support was not easy, after all I was informed my contact was only available weekdays after 11am. I could have called them from the office, but without access to my home machine such a call would not have been much use. The other option was to call general support, who thankfully seem to wake up earlier. So some time later - I was travelling a lot in-between - I rang the support number to fix the issue with the faulty microphone. This was on January 13th.
The Dell support number is an 0844 number that costs £0.40 per minute to call from my mobile phone, so you hope for speedy and competent people at the other end. Let's just say it took Dell 61 minutes of my time and over £24 of my money until the support found someone who was willing to address my issue and call me back. Before that software support passed me on to hardware, hardware to support in New York City, they passed back to software support and so on - I had to speak to seven different people, explain my story seven times, and in-between listen to lovely music while on hold.
Eventually an engineer did some remote checks on the machine and told me it would have to be sent to the factory to be checked. That I was initially promised Dell would, as the PC had been delivered faulty, solve the issue through sending an engineer to do the repair at my place was forgotten.
After this experience I decided that buying an external microphone would be easier than being without PC for up to two weeks and then spending a day to re-install all applications (I was told Dell would wipe the hard drive) - with no guarantee that the fault would be addressed. What I was not prepared to do is pay the telephone bill though, so I sent Dell an email on the same day, 13th January, expressing my dissatisfaction with the service and suggesting they should at least compensate me for the telephone bill. I received no response. So I resent the email on 24th January. Until today no response.
The computer still works fine, minus the microphone of course, and I still think it is a great machine for a decent price. However, after this experience I doubt I will ever recommend Dell again, nor I am likely to ever buy Dell again. It was not the microphone fault that brought this up, but how Dell did not deal with it.
Update, 17 April 2012
After posting this and tweeting about it Dell contacted me - very soon in fact. A friendly customer service agent apologised and promised to look into the matter. A little later (see also comments below) I was told they may be able to refund the money for the phone call, which was eventually confirmed. The agent told me they might be able to credit the £24 to the credit card I had used for the purchase, or they would need my bank details. He would be in touch. This is the last communication I have had from Dell since February.
The £24 did indeed show up on my next credit card statement, but Dell did not confirm this, nor did they get back to me about how to address the overall issue. No mention of the promise that was made originally that as the PC had been delivered faulty an engineer would fix it at my home without a need to send it off and then to spend at least a day reinstalling everything again. So here I am, having wasted quite a bit of time, including staying at home for two full days last year, and the microphone still does not work. I appreciate that Dell at least refunded the £24 for the telephone bill, but the overall experience - well, I guess it speaks for itself.