Dell’s abhorrent performance in our 2012 Tech Support Showdown earned it the dubious distinction of receiving the lowest overall score of any company in three years. The company’s failure was a result of deceitful practices employed by phone support representatives claiming we won a so-called contest that allowed us to pay less for a three-year extended warranty. Fortunately, Dell has seemed to clean up its act.
For 2013, Dell re-evaluated its warranty offerings. The company now provides three warranties: a basic hardware warranty, premium phone support for hardware and software questions, and Dell Tech Concierge support. All Dell Inspiron systems get 90 days of premium phone support, while XPS customers get a full year. If you want to use premium phone support outside of your laptop’s warranty, it will cost $224 for one year. The tech concierge service costs an additional $239 for a one-year subscription.
Tech Concierge installs software on your laptop that collects real-time performance data. Despite how much the service sounds like a “Big Brother” watching over your machine, Dell promises that the service doesn’t interact with your personal information.
To test Dell’s tech support, we sought answers for how to create a new user account in Windows 8, how to connect a Bluetooth speaker and how to create a boot drive on an external hard drive using our Dell Latitude 7000 notebook.
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Dell told us last year that the majority of its technical support questions can be answered via its tech support website. To access Dell’s phone and chat support, your laptop has to be within its warranty period, and you need to have your express service tag on hand. Without an active warranty, you can still find answers to questions on Dell’s site. Unfortunately, the site is a tangled mess of links that had us spinning in circles looking for answers. We searched for about 15 minutes for an explainer for connecting Bluetooth speakers to our laptop, but didn’t find anything useful. Other questions, such as how to create a system backup, were easier to locate.
Like most companies, Dell offers a live Web chat service, which was quick and easy to use. It took 10 minutes for customer service technician Vishal to explain how to connect our Bluetooth speakers to our laptop. Unfortunately, Dell has done away with its email support.
Dell’s social media team performed well when we asked it questions via Twitter and Facebook. We asked @DellCares how to connect a pair of Bluetooth speakers to our laptop and were sent a direct message with a link to an article on Dell’s site explaining how to do so. Surprisingly, Dell doesn’t allow you to post questions on its Facebook page, instead requiring that you post them to the Dell Community Forums.
We made our first phone call to Dell’s tech support at 12 p.m. EST and asked customer service technician Makash in India how to create a second user account on our Windows 8 laptop. He instantly asked if we would mind downloading Dell’s DellConnect service so he could take control of our laptop and create a second user account. Though we didn’t think it was necessary to use DellConnect to resolve this issue, the solution worked. The entire call lasted 16 minutes and 1 second.
During our second call, we asked customer service technician Sam how to connect a pair of Bluetooth speakers to our laptop. Like Makash, Sam asked if we would download DellConnect on our notebook so he could control our laptop and connect the speakers himself, which he did. He tested them by streaming a YouTube video. When we told him the audio was coming through our speakers, he asked us to restart our laptop to make sure that the speakers stayed connected after a shutdown. He then tested the speakers again, checked to see if our laptop needed to run any Windows 8 updates and ended the call. The call lasted 19 minutes and 59 seconds.
We made our last call to customer service technician Jaten and asked him how to create a boot disk on a separate hard drive. Like the others, Jaten took control of our computer via DellConnect and initiated the boot disk setup. The call took 28 minutes, though about 20 or so of those minutes were spent waiting for the disk to write.
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Though we were a bit perturbed by the technicians’ reliance on DellConnect to resolve our issues, we were glad to learn that we could, at any time, override the support representatives’ access to our laptop and disconnect the agent.
Dell has made some much-needed improvements to its phone support, doing away with the deceptive practice of telling consumers they won a contest to purchase a cheap warranty. In fact, our experiences with Dell’s phone representatives this year were quite positive, even if the reps were a bit over-reliant on remotely accessing our PC. The company’s live chat reps were equally helpful. Unfortunately, Dell’s support site isn’t easy to navigate. We’d also like to see more interaction with the company on Facebook, though our Twitter experience proved helpful. Overall, Dell has managed to rebound nicely from last year.