Economising on Customer Service

I am sure most of us have experienced some dismal experience when calling a technical helpdesk, being put through a maze of automated menus before finally getting through to some bored, half-trained “engineer”. An example of this from my own past is here. However usually the one bit of an organisation that is fairly responsive is the sales function, for obvious reasons. I relate the following personal example of the risks that a high-tech company can take when it decides to “economise” in this area.

I recently needed to buy a new printer and rang up Dell to do this. Dell now pushes its “consumer” (for which read “cattle class”) sales though to an offshore centre. I placed my order and awaited the confirmation email: nothing. The following day I called, went through the menus again and explained what had happened to another Dell sales person. He told me that there was no trace of my order in the system, do I duly went through the whole thing again, wondering quite what happened to the original details, which after all included my credit card details. I specifically said to he salesman “please make sure that the order was not duplicated”, and I even gave him the name of the sales lady I had originally spoken to. “No problem” I was assured.

A week or so a printer duly arrived, and all seemed well. A couple of days later there was another knock on the door, and, surprise surprise, a second identical printer arrived. I declined delivery, explaining the situation. Well, you can probably guess by now that, despite me sending back the duplicate printer, I was charged twice, so I duly rang up and spoke to the original sales lady who took the initial, seemingly lost order. At least I did this after gong through no less than five separate people at Dell, each of them insisting that I tell the story again and each taking full details (name address, order number, …) every time, as if computers had never been invented.

The thing that reduced me to apoplexy at the end of this was that the sales lady (I could not make this up) suggested that in order to get a refund, I would have to take delivery of a fresh printer, uninstall the one I have sitting on my desk, rebox the current one and sent it back to Dell. Oddly enough, I have declined to do this – pesky customers eh?

So, if anyone from Dell is reading this, please give my money back. For any company executives considering outsourcing their sales operation to a cheap location, just consider what effect this may have on your customers. I can’t say I am exactly itching to order another Dell product at the moment. A customer’s perception of a brand, after all, is significantly derived from their personal interactions with the company. The irony is that Dell used to have an award winning call centre based in Ireland, but seemingly decided that this was all a bit expensive. I am not suggesting that the precipitous decline in their share price over the last eight years can be specifically linked back to their decision to save money on their call centres, but I suspect that it will not have helped.

4 thoughts on “Economising on Customer Service”

  1. We had a very similar problem upgrading server memory. They charged mycard, failed to deliver for more than 3 weeks, ignored phone calls and email requests for information then delivered the wrong memory ( it doesn’t fit my server).

    Despite numerous phone calls and a week after delivery I still have 16gig of useless memory, they still have my money and their customer service people are still promising to phone me back in 24 hours. I have reported this as fraud to my credit card company. I will never buy Dell kit again.

  2. This is a breeze. Have you ever tried returning a faulty power cord to Dell. After the number of hoops I had to jump through I changed my name to Fido!

    The problem is not necessarily people — I’m pretty sure 90% of call center staff don’t consciously go out to of thwir way to annoy people. Rather its robotic processes governed by incompatile systems into which call center agents are hard wired…leaving no room for common sense.

    I always said the failure of IT-enabled CRM is most evident when users’ eyes remain glued to a screen rather than to the customer they are serving.

  3. Can you just decline the second charge via the credit card company? Let Dell prove you received two. If you still have the delivery tracking numbers, you may be able to get a printout of the declined shipment for additional proof on your side.

  4. Isn’t your experience symptomatic of “business by the numbers” rather than the service?

    People in service industries are now perceived as commodities on the global market, for example 3 East-europeans for 1 UK employee. So for 1 UK worker you get 3 workers of roughly equivalent skill/ability equating to 150% extra productivity (+50% to account for language/cultural issues) and hey tesco everybody’s happy, or are they?

    Apparently not.

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