In defense of Dell's customer service

Readers weigh in on Dell's poor customer service rankings, pointing out that not all of Dell's service offerings are the same

A few readers weighed in to dig a bit deeper into the rock-bottom ranking Dell got in Forrester's annual "Customer Experience Index 2010: PC Manufacturers" that I covered in "How does your PC manufacturer rate?"

Gripe Line reader Bill told of two wildly different experiences he had with Dell support. One of these experiences, in which his issue was never resolved despite a lot of polite but annoying questions and silly solutions, was handled by Dell's support in India. Bill was so unimpressed with that experience that the next machine he bought was an iMac. But later, he picked up a Dell business laptop at Costco, and when he had some problems with that machine, the support fell to a Dell support center in the United States.

[ Also on InfoWorld.com: Find out how your PC vendor rates in customer satisfaction. | Frustrated by tech support? Get answers in InfoWorld's Gripe Line newsletter. ]

"The people in the U.S. were much more competent," Bill says. "The first person I spoke to worked with me for two hours before apologizing and suggesting we reinstall Windows. I believe he did everything possible before suggesting this, and that it was indeed the only solution. I have had very little problem with this computer since."

Bill suggests that Dell could make tremendous improvements in its customer satisfaction ratings simply by routing the people who need a higher level of support straight to these teams in the United States.

Gripe Line reader Harvey wrote to say that getting routed to the right support team is already an option -- albeit one that will cost some green. But Harvey believes this is money well spent.

"I certainly agree that support is dismal in general," he writes. "But I think it's worth noting that Dell offers two different levels of support: Basic and Pro. I'm willing to bet that a large majority of the people who rated Dell support poorly chose the Basic Support option. I am a computer consultant, and as part of my service, I recommend and set up systems for my clients. I always recommend Dell Pro Support."

At Dell's Website, there's plenty of information on how this customizable support offering works, as well as some educational podcasts if you prefer to kick back, listen, and learn. The gist, though, is that the support you choose -- and pay for -- is based around who is using the system, not the machine that the person is using.

If you are a highly skilled IT pro, you can bypass the entry-line support and go right to someone who, instead of insisting you suffer through a script, believes that you know what you are doing, accepts your diagnosis, and moves forward from there. Even if you are using a consumer machine, you won't have to suffer through entry-level support questions. Other offerings might suit small businesses with a high level of tech savvy, a self-employed person in need of a help desk, virtual teams, and other situations.

"With Basic Support," writes Harvey, "you get to speak to somebody in some other part of the world who may or may not speak understandable English. He will repeat everything you say, go through a little script, and rarely solve anything. When you call Pro Support, you usually speak to someone within two minutes who speaks honest-to-goodness English, is well trained, and is allowed to make decisions. I've had clients call me after they've spoken with Dell Pro Support and thank me for making them spend the extra money to get it."

I found Harvey's endorsement encouraging, but think it would also be interesting to see a survey that breaks out these tiered service offerings so that we can get some hard, unbiased numbers to back up the choice to spend money. I couldn't find such a thing, though, and Dell didn't respond to my call in time for this post.

Got gripes? Send them to christina_tynan-wood@infoworld.com.

This story, "In defense of Dell's customer service," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more of Christina Tynan-Wood's Gripe Line blog at InfoWorld.com.

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