Friday, January 09, 2015

Dell needs to empower its employees to keep the company's promises

As I've mentioned before, every computer I've owned has been from Dell, and I've been completely loyal to them my entire adult life, but I've been losing my trust in them during the life of my current computer.

I just realized that this loss of trust can be boiled down to one thing: the employees aren't fully empowered to keep the company's promises.

Here are two recent examples of lack of employee empowerment, how they made me lose trust in Dell, and how they would have won back my loyalty if the employees were fully empowered.

The Warranty Extension Problem

About 2 months before the four-year on-site service warranty I purchased with my computer expired, I got a mailing from Dell offering me the opportunity to extend my warranty.  The mailing was customized, with my name, computer type, purchase date, existing warranty details, and even my service tag number.  I called the number provided, and spoke to a gentleman who was prepared to sell me a warranty extension for a reasonable price.  I agreed, and as he verbally reviewed what I'd just purchased, he mentioned that this extension was for mail-in service.  "Wait," I objected, "My warranty is for on-site service!"  He insisted that there's no such thing as on-site service for laptops, even though that's what I have and I had successfully had a technician dispatched to my home for a previous issue with this computer. So I told him I had to think about it before paying that amount for mail-in service, and hung up.

Then I reached out to @DellCares on twitter.  When I told them the situation, they told me there's no such thing as an extension of a four-year warranty, even though I had a customized mailing offering me just that and the gentleman on the phone had just offered to sell me one, just not with on-site service.  I showed them a picture of the customized mailing, and they told me I must have received it by mistake.

Since @DellCares thought warranty extensions didn't exist, I figured I should take what I can get and called the phone number again. But the gentleman I spoke with this time told me this wasn't the number for Canadian service (even though it was printed on my customized mailing sent to my Canadian address and they'd offered to sell me a warranty not an hour earlier) and gave me another number to call.  I called that number and got what sounded like a US television provider (I forget the name), saying that they can't accept toll-free calls from outside the US.  So I called Dell back and, weirdly, got the same representative. He gave me another phone number that was one digit off what I'd written down.  I repeated it back to him and got it confirmed, but when I called it I got what sounded like a fax machine.

I went to the Dell website in an attempt to find the correct phone number and, as I was logged into my account, discovered I had the option to buy the warranty extension online!  Awesome!  The price was higher than the first gentleman I'd spoken with named, but it included on-site service and was available at the click of a mouse! I bought it, immediately got a confirmation email, and that was that!

Or so I thought.

A month later, when my hard drive began failing, I called tech support, and they mentioned that there was only about a month left on my warranty.  Wait, what?  I just bought an extension!  Long story short, my warranty extension somehow didn't go through.  It didn't appear on my account, and my credit card wasn't billed.  If the hard drive problem had come just a few weeks later, I would have been out of warranty without even knowing it!  Unfortunately, the warranty representative I spoke to wasn't able to sell me the same warranty I thought I'd already bought.  She could only sell me mail-in service.  I offered to send her the email showing that I'd bought it through the website previously, but she had no mechanism to receive emails from clients.  Nor could she put me in touch with someone who could fulfill this promise - the best her supervisor could do was reduce the price on the mail-in service.

So despite the fact that Dell twice promised me the opportunity to buy an extension of my on-site warranty, both times entirely on its own initiative with the promise generated by its computer systems that were well aware of the age and nature of my computer system and my geographical location, I couldn't get in contact with a person who could sell me this promised warranty, even though the price I was willing to pay was more than the cost of an entry-level laptop at a Boxing Day sale.

The On-Site Service Dispatching Problem

As I mentioned before, I'm currently going through some very mysterious technical problems. I've been through extensive troubleshooting over a period of weeks, and had every hardware part that could possibly be involved replaced, yet the problem persists.  The technician I've been working with says all that's left to be done is send it to the depot.

The problem is that this technician is not sufficiently empowered.  The entire process has been completely logical, and I totally understand from a diagnostic perspective that having it looked at in person is the next logical step, but he has no mechanism to dispatch an on-site technician to make a diagnosis.  They can only dispatch on-site technicians to install specific replacement parts that are dispatched as a result of remote diagnosis.

On top of that, he also has no mechanism to dispatch a different brand of hard drive.  This is an issue because the boot-up failure only happened with Western Digital drives, not with the previous Samsung drive, so it's a variable that hasn't been eliminated.  (Also, it's the only remaining variable to eliminate that either I or the telephone tech can identify.)

So, despite the fact that I cheerfully paid a premium for on-site warranty service back when I purchased the computer, I still have to send it in to the depot (and therefore be computerless for two weeks).

What would have happened if these Dell employees had been empowered

If these employees had been empowered, I would be singing Dell's praises and they would have won back my blind loyalty.

For the warranty issue, if either the warranty rep or the @DellCares person had been empowered to extend my on-site service warranty, I would have been thrilled.  It never occurred to me that a warranty could be extended before I got the mailing in the first place, and when I got the mailing I thought "This is the solution to all my problems!"  (My problems being that the early signs of hard drive failure were manifesting themselves without my recognizing them, and I don't really want to buy a new computer this year, hoping instead to wait for Windows 10.)  If I'd gotten a warranty extension, I would have blogged and tweeted enthusiastically about how awesome Dell is for anticipating my needs.

But because they weren't empowered, I feel tricked and abandoned, and have lost trust in them since a transaction just somehow didn't go through despite my being sent a confirmation email, I got no notice whatsoever that it had failed, and resolving the problem was simply not possible.

For the tech support dispatch issue, if the telephone rep had been empowered to dispatch a different brand of hard drive to rule out that variable, or to dispatch a tech to diagnose on site when it became apparent that we'd eliminated every avenue for remote support, I would take this as a reminder of why I was loyal to Dell in the first place. Even if it took multiple tech visits to solve, I'd be delighted that they're taking such good care of me. Dell's on-site warranty support has saved my ass with every computer I've owned, and if they'd been able to do the same with this one, they'd have completely won me over. I'd be totally loyal to them once again. I'd be blogging and tweeting their praises. When buying my next computer, I'd go to the Dell site without even considering comparison shopping and buy the best gaming laptop available with the best warranty possible.  When people are discussing what kind of computer to buy, I'd say "I always go with Dell because their warranty service is so awesome!"

But because the tech wasn't empowered to do anything except have me send my computer to the depot and therefore spend at least two weeks computerless, I'm stressing out, I'm googling for information about Dell's depot service and finding horror stories, and I feel betrayed and tricked and abandoned that I have to send my computer out despite having purchased on-site service.

One Dell innovation that I appreciate is after you call tech support, the tech you speak to is assigned ownership of the issue.  You get an email with a tracking number, and you can email the same tech back if you  have further problems.  They'll give you further support by email or arrange a callback at a convenient time.  I love this because it means you only  have to wait on hold and explain your problem once.  After that, it's just a continuation of the same conversation, occurring at your convenience.

And the telephone tech I've been working with is awesome. He's perfectly polite at all times and above-and-beyond patient.  I have no objection to his technical skills - his initial pre-googling knowledge is greater than mine, and there was nothing I could google up that he didn't already suggest.  Thanks to Dell's system of having a single tech take ownership of the issue, he's gotten back to me promptly every time I've emailed him, and I've been notified of his expected return on days when I've emailed him while he's out of office. Dell just needs to extend this to its logical conclusion, so my awesome tech has the authority to do everything necessary to solve my problem rather than being forced to leave me with the stress and uncertainty of sending my computer into a void.


laura k said...

To me it sounds like Dell instructs their front-line reps to obstruct and deny, kind of like how health insurance operates in the US.

Allan spent hours attempting to prove that his extended warranty was still in effect - information that Dell should have had (and probably does have). Once he finally got tech help, it was competent and fast.

I always think all that obstruction can't be coincidental.

impudent strumpet said...

And the obstruction is exactly why Dell has lost my blind loyalty. Part of the reason why I'm dreading sending my poor computer to the depot is I've googled up horror stories of the depot losing or breaking other people's computers and Dell obstructs and refuses to do anything.

Before this computer, I could trust that I didn't have to worry because Dell would take good care of me. If there was something wrong, they'd fix it. If I still felt that way, if I could trust that even if the depot loses or breaks my computer, a comparable replacement will be dispatched to me, I wouldn't be worried as much. But as it stands, I feel like I'm taking the risk of throwing away something I paid thousands of dollars for that's still perfectly functional except that it takes several tries to boot up.