I wasn’t going to post this on the blog, as it has nothing to do with banking, but it’s August and no-one’s bothered what I post. It does also have some relevance as I blogged yesterday about banks being stuck with 20th century processes. That blog entry received this response from Nick Bush: a more customer-centric approach would help. Your piece shows that existing players have yet to fully adopt this.
This got me thinking about customer service.
In fact, we had a long conversation about customercentricity yesterday.
The word ‘customercentricity’ is completely made-up but appeared twenty years ago, and was heavily hyped by technology vendors I worked for.
Customercentricity, customerisation, 1:1 service and mass personalisation were all the rage in the 1990s, but it was all tosh and balderdash.
The ideas were not stupid – a dissatisfied customer is far more likely to share their negative views than a satisfied one – but the whole push to cut costs and provide a basic service has meant that all industries have moved downhill in the last twenty years.
Telephone based services combined with automated menu systems and offshore outsourcing has driven customer service through the floor.
Here’s why: the internet and telephone has driven the world to self-service. Self-service is fine as long as everything goes right. Self-service is appalling when something goes wrong and you need to telephone the provider to get it sorted out.
This is when the majority of firms – banks, airlines, media companies, utility firms and more – get it totally wrong and you end up with a frustrating or even downright appalling customer experience.
That’s what happened to me with Dell.
I hate Dell.
I don’t just hate Dell, I detest them with a vengeance.
In fact, I have had many experiences of poor customer service of late, but the worst service in the world comes from Dell.
To show how bad it is, I recently told one telephone company that I would rather have cancer than deal with them ever again. Now, that was extreme and in poor taste – of course, I don’t want to have this awful disease – but it shows how far they had pushed me over the edge.
Dell pushed me a step further.
In fact, I think I would rather be dead than deal with Dell again.
It’s November 2012 and I decide to order two new computers from Dell. Yes, they are Windows 8 Dell PC’s because I’d fallen out of love with Apple, having tried to become a Mac boy over the past year before.
So I order an all-in-one XPS desktop machine (£1,700) and a 17” Inspiron laptop (£999).
The whole thing comes to almost £3,000 and Dell’s checkout process has a nice offer - interest free credit for six months – so I click this option and the deal is done.
Of course, Dell takes a while to deliver the equipment, as they claim each PC is custom built, so it finally arrives in mid-December.
I start setting up both PC’s and life is good.
For one day.
The next day, a Saturday, both PC’s are not working.
The XPS won’t even boot whilst the laptop’s lost its wifi capability.
I ring up Dell’s 0844 number, which costs a whopping 12.41p a minute plus 13.24p connection charge, and find that they don’t offer technical support on a Saturday, only sales.
So I’m stuck with two brand new broken computers for 48 hours, when the weekend was the perfect time to set them up.
On the Monday, I call Dell’s technical support, an offshore service in India, and begin what turns into a month of hell.
I won’t repeat all the calls and frustrations here, but just to say that I spent about 14 hours on the telephone (think how much that costs!) talking with people in India who had no idea how to resolve the issues.
In fact, the fact that Dell rely on this as their first, second and third line of support and this causes issues because:(a) they are dealing with highly technical and emotive issues remotely and work to a script; and
(b) they use internet telephony with poor quality on occasion.
Combine this with some challenges of understanding accents and this does create a barrier to customer empathy.
The XPS issue turned out to be a simple one: a Windows 8 change to the root structure of the operating system that was sorted out in one call.
The Inspiron wifi issue was harder, and started with the technical guys asking me to reinstall the wifi software from the CD-rom that came with the system.
That is probably when the first error occurred and it escalated from there.
What should have been a simple replacement offer – oh, it doesn’t work sir? as it’s a new laptop, let us send you a replacement – turns into a technical nightmare.
After a month of trying to get it sorted out – and bear in mind that a laptop without wireless connectivity is about as useful as walking around with a plastic brick – they decide to send a hardware engineer over, as it’s not a software problem anymore.
The engineer arrives and replaces the wireless board.
It still doesn’t work.
At this point – after hours of calls and even more hours of my time rebooting, restoring, replacing and reviving this brand new broken PC – I tell them to stuff it and take the computer back.
This is mid-January, two months after the original order and a month after delivery.
I’m actually so fed up at this stage, due to the hours of frustration with the call centre who keep trying to force me to resolve their broken PC issue rather than just replacing it, that I never want to deal with Dell again.
If they’d just made some conciliatory offers, a replacement unit with a £100 voucher to say sorry, it wouldn’t have been so bad, but they offered nothing.
Just hours of work on my part on their premium telephone support service that was about as useful as a fart in a spacesuit.
But it’s not that bad.
I’ve had worse service.
Or I thought so until a few months later, June to be exact, and I discover that Dell’s taken the whole £3,000 from my bank via direct debit.
I hadn’t noticed these creepy little payments going over the £2,000 mark, but soon realised that I was over-paying.
I ring Dell’s premium 0844 telephone number again and talk to the offshore call centre again.
Once more, I don’t want to bore you with all the details here but suffice to say, after many calls, it turns out that I have to pay the total amount - £3,000 – before they will reimburse me the £1,000 for the returned Inspiron laptop.
This is June and I returned the laptop in January, so why are you charging me for it, I ask.
Because you purchased the PC through a finance agreement with a separate firm, they reply.
In toher words, the finance company are nothing to do with Dell – it’s a firm called Creation by the way, who were and are above board – and their agreement needs to end with payment in full before any reimbursement can take place.
Again, I had spent a long time on the phone to Dell and Creation to understand the final outcome and once again, Dell offered no recompense, service, offer, support or generosity, just a spiteful and terse response from an offshore call centre with zero empowerment.
I pay the final payment to Creation and Dell wire the £1,000 refund for the returned laptop eventually. The £1,000 refund that would not have happened if I had not noticed the overpayment and rang them up.
All in all, it is the worst service I’ve ever received anywhere, anytime and will never buy Dell again.
No wonder Michael Dell wants to buy his company back, because it’s not surprising it’s going bust with this sort of service.
Oh and by the way, I’m not the only one who feels this way:
- I hate Dell, a website dedicated to Dell haters like me
- Why I will never buy a Dell computer again, Wine Rambler, February 2012
- My Dell Hell, Love Money, April 2012
And here’s the reason why: Dell's Poisonous Culture Is Sinking Its Ship -- and Raises Questions for Potential Buyers, Forbes, April 2013
Bye bye Dell, and welcome to Chapter 11 soon I hope.