The Sorry State of Dell's Tech Support
Enjoying the Fruits of My Labor
Last weekend I had the pleasure of setting up my first 30” LCD, so I could use it for future video card and overall system testing. Previously I had a 22” Viewsonic CRT that lasted me a good 6 years before it finally bit the dust. That particular product was able to support resolutions up to 2038x1536, which allowed me to test in the 3.3 mega-pixel range. Once that died I had to stop doing any vid card reviews since the only other monitor at my disposal was a 1600x1200 model, which is a resolution that does not even phase most $99 level cards these days (unless of course we are talking about Crysis).
This is what 30 inches of Joy is supposed to look like. Now picture it with a black screen...
A few weeks ago I experienced the joy of a good sized tax return, thanks in large part to adopting a child last year (as well as having two large exemptions in the form of two little boys named Tai and Mindoe). After much debate (and discussion with the wife) I decided to splurge some of that money on getting a refurbished Dell 30” LCD, namely the 3007WFP-HC. Ryan, the owner of PCPer, also has a 30” refurb from Dell, and his experience has been without issue. Considering that Dell support on their server side is pretty decent, and that the refurb monitor comes with a 3 year warranty with advanced return, I thought it would be a safe bet. Guess again.
What is a Bird Doing in my LAN Room?
Wednesday morning I came downstairs, cajoling my children to hurry up so I won’t be late for work, when I noticed this strange chirping sound coming from what I call “the LAN room”, which is basically a decent sized room where I have my three primary test beds set up (and where I sometimes have friends over for some LAN action). After nosing around for a couple of minutes to find out where this high pitched chirping was coming from, I fearfully looked towards my latest purchase. Sure enough, the power button was blue, but where a screensaver should have been displayed was only a blank screen.
Upon closer inspection the chirping sound was coming from near the power supply on the 30” (which is built into the monitor). When I turned the power button off, the chirping would stop. When I turned off the computer it was attached to and the power button went to orange (sleep mode) the chirping would again stop. Once the monitor was active, the chirping would commence.
I went through all of the troubleshooting options I could think of. I attached the monitor to a known working configuration. Nothing. I swapped out the power and DVI cables. No positive results whatsoever. I had a sneaking suspicion that most LCDs are not supposed to be making that particular sound. So after exhausting what reasonable troubleshooting a guy can do, I decided to contact Dell.
My first attempt was to go online under my account with them. I attempted to set up an RMA, or at least contact tech support. Once there I discovered that Dell had listed my monitor as an international shipment (even though when I ordered it I was asked quite explicitly if I was going to be shipping this product out of country, and I responded “No”). Hard to imagine a monitor going to Laramie, Wyoming, smack dab in the middle of the USA, would be considered a product meant for the international market. So, doing the online option was unavailable to me because of how they had mistakenly characterized my product in their database. On to the phones.
No Really, Phone Tag Should be Considered a Game
Off to the phones I went. Using the Customer Service and Technical Support numbers that are on my invoice, I attempted to speak to someone who would be able to resolve my issue, and get me a replacement monitor. As I mentioned before, the LCD I bought comes with a 3 year warranty and advanced replacement (which means if my LCD goes bad, then Dell ships me a new one and I ship the old one back in that new box along with an included shipping label). I figured this would be a piece of cake. How naïve I was…
Calling the customer service number was a mistake which took me about 30 minutes to realize. There were no automated options that would lead me to an area where I could request an RMA for this product. When I finally was able to talk to someone, they gave me the technical support number. So, off to tech support land I went.
Tech Support: Designed to Frustrate and Impede
It took a total of two hours to actually get a hold of someone who could at least attempt to help me out. During that two hours I had my call dropped twice, I was sent to the Optiplex support team who then transferred me to the Axim support area, and finally one helpful person gave me the number to the Canadian tech support area (which I didn’t realize they were the Canadian folks until they informed me of such, and of course were not authorized to help me with my situation).
Needless to say, I was a little frustrated, but I understand that with the state of the economy, and how hard the tech industry has been hit, Dell is likely making some budget cuts here and tech support would be one of them. What I didn’t understand was how hard it apparently has been cut. I am not an imbecile, and I can listen as well as anyone to the options that Dell gives on their support site. It still took me that long to get a hold of someone who could actually help me.
The next person I was able to get on the line was actually set up to help me out. I was at work at this time, so I didn’t have the monitor with me. I explained to him the situation, what sound I was hearing from the monitor, and what troubleshooting I had done to this point. The technician was a pleasant Indian gentleman who had excellent English skills, so I was not upset in the least with talking to him. Unfortunately, my word on what I was able to do and what I was able to find was not good enough. He would have to contact me when I was at home so we could go through many of those same steps again while he was on the phone with me. So we set up a time between 5:00 pm and 6:30 pm MST to go over the troubleshooting again, as well as have all the necessary numbers and tags available for a quick and painless advanced replacement.
Do you really think a phone call was forthcoming at that time? Of course not. Oddly enough, when I came to work on Thursday morning a gentleman had called my work and left me a message, but they failed to call me at home (where I stated I would be, along with the monitor). Dell was good enough to send me an email with all of the case number information, as well as a way to contact them through email about the situation. I was then able to schedule another time for them to call me, instead of going through the hassle of another 30 minutes on the phone getting to where I need to go. I did have the direct number of the person who is assisting me, but that goes straight to voicemail and they have to call back when they have a chance.