|Dell Tech Support Results
|Average Call Length||17 minutes|
|Phone Grade 2012||F|
|Web Grade 2012||B|
|Overall Grade 2012||C-|
|Overall Grade 2011||A-|
|Overall Grade 2010||B-|
@DellCares, @DellCaresPro, #DellSolves
Last year, Dell earned a very good second-place finish. Since then, among other features, the company has added a “highly skilled” team for people who have to call more than twice to get customer support, called S3R3. Customers can now request a factory-imaged key that automatically tries to repair OS problems when plugged into a laptop.
The company has also significantly beefed up its social efforts. For instance, the Dell social team started working with YouTube to create how-to videos for common technical issues. And the company started its @DellCares Twitter account.
To test these improvements, we asked how to use three-finger swiping, how to lengthen our notebook’s battery life and how to use Dell DataSafe.
According to Dell, 80 percent of all technical support questions can be answered on support.dell.com, and we mostly believe it. We found pertinent information about Dell DataSafe using the search bar. And on battery life, we found tips in three clicks of drop-down menus. But on the third question — how to use three-finger swiping on our touchpad — we were unsuccessful in our search.
Using Dell’s Interactive Support Agent — a natural language wizard that processes questions — we asked “How do I enable three-finger swiping on my touchpad?” and had to clarify a few more details before the wizard suggested, “You are having trouble with multitouch gestures.”
We asked the same question using Dell’s live-chat feature. Paul slowly verified our system, service tag and other info. Then he advised us to install the touchpad driver, before pointing us to our manual. Our chat took 23 minutes. After disconnecting, we received a follow-up message with the transcript.
We posted our question about Dell DataSafe on the brand’s official Facebook page, and in 14 minutes, a representative responded, asking us to send a private message with the computer’s service tag and some more details about the issue.
After tweeting to @DellCares, we got a response 8 hours later with some basic information about Dell DataSafe and a link to a help article. We were asked to send a DM detailing the problem, which led to a helpful exchange.
Dell’s telephone support specialists require a lot of details before you can get help, including our system’s service tag number, our name, phone number, address and the date and place where our notebook was purchased. Then we ran into much bigger problems.
On our first call at 3 p.m. EST, Sakhi from India (where all of Dell’s representatives were based) answered our call with a curt tone. We asked about three-finger swiping, but he needed our details first. After 3 minutes on hold, Sakhi said our problem was a software issue, which requires a paid warranty before he could assist us. A one-time fee would run us $129, or a value-bundled plan would cover four major incidents for one year. Sakhi said we shouldn’t even take the time to think about accepting the offer. He offered us a manager-approved discount that would expire if we hung up. He then asked to arrange a callback. We weren’t sure whether Sakhi meant to sound abrasive or whether it was his accent. The call took 15 minutes and 20 seconds with no answers.
We asked about DataSafe on our second call, to Denzil, at 11:19 a.m. He also told us that software questions — even those about Dell-specific software — required a $239 software warranty. We demurred, and he asked us to speak to his manager, Raj. He explained the costs and features of DataSafe, but suggested we buy an external hard drive from Dell instead. He said this would ultimately cost us less. The call lasted 17 minutes and 48 seconds.
On our third call at 2 p.m., we asked Sherma about improving battery life. He only recommended we never let the battery’s charge drop below 40 or 50 percent and then announced we were one of three to win the chance to purchase a four-year extended hardware warranty. If we didn’t want the offer, he would give it to his next caller. When we declined, he became agitated and tried to sell us a software warranty, before suggesting we go online to resolve technical issues on our own. Our call lasted 5 minutes.
Dell has retained its stellar response in terms of helpful online support on most channels, including live chat and social media. Too bad Dell’s phone service dropped off a cliff since last year. A new policy — excluding simple how-to questions from the standard hardware warranty — barred us from getting satisfactory service from the computer manufacturer’s phone support reps, who also tried to sell us new (and often pricey) services. The reps were downright pushy.