The mandated purgatory of offshore tech support

Gripe Line readers share insight on Dell tech support and why you're bound for endless frustration when your call lands offshore

When I posted "In defense of Dell's customer service" last week, I expected it to bring a little heat. The comments on that post are -- for the most part -- hot, but the responses that came in via email were a different matter. They contained excellent information about offshore support and more kudus for Dell's U.S. support.

"The portion [of that post] on Dell's higher-tier service offerings hit a very important point," says Gripe Line reader Eric. "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."

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That decision-making power is a key difference between the support you receive from Dell's U.S.-based support techs versus what you get when your call lands offshore, says Eric, who himself works for an organization with major support offices on other continents.

"The business culture in India, and to a lesser extent other low-wage enclaves, is to deny decision-making power to lower-level employees," Eric says. "Worse, most support centers have a huge Level-One–to–Level-Two ratio so that getting to the Level Two engineer might be easy to request but impossible to actuate."

The frustrations Gripe Line readers have been expressing with offshore support, says Eric, develop in large part because offshore support techs are locked into processes they've been trained to fulfill. They will not -- and cannot -- deviate from these processes, even if they know there's a better way.

"They don't dare deviate -- to do so is to be fired," Eric says. "Here we call it using initiative or empowering employees. In India, it is grounds for dismissal."

Gripe Line reader Vaughn also wrote to say how surprised he was recently with support he got from Dell.

"I am an IT professional," he says, "but I bought a Dell desktop from Costco for personal use. After a couple of months my NIC started failing. I tried several things -- including re-installing the OS -- but it always failed again within a short time." He picked up the phone, resigned to suffering through a long and frustrating experience with Dell tech support in order to get the part he needed.

He reports, "I spoke with a native English speaker, and after describing my problems and steps I had taken, he suggested a few more reasonable things to try. He did not suggest that I duplicate anything I had already done. Then he declared that my motherboard was defective and he would have a tech onsite to replace it within 48 hours. And that did indeed happen! I was very pleasantly surprised at how smoothly it went. Stunned would be a better way to put it. I bought the PC from Costco because of its return policy but the support level that accompanied the computer made a return a moot point."

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This story, "The mandated purgatory of offshore tech support," was originally published at Read more of Christina Tynan-Wood's Gripe Line blog at


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