Friday, March 13, 2009

Dell: Fail

Last week, I got a virus that caused my hard drive to make a sound reminiscent of an egg on a griddle. To bring my computer back up to working order, I had to call Dell to get the recovery disks for the drivers and the operating system.

This is when things took a strange turn. That calm, Westworld-like female voice that Dell uses to assure you that everything is fine asked me two pointed questions.

"Would you like to ensure that your calls are answered in two minutes or less?"

"Sure I would," I thought. I waited for about 12 minutes for service on this call.

"Would you like to speak with one of our expert technical support staff right here in North America?"

Now that's an interesting question. Yes, I guess I would. There have been times when I ordered from Dell and talked to someone who spoke English, but not American English, and there was still a communication gap. Once, my salesperson even sent me the wrong computer.

"Stay on the line and for a few dollars more, become a member of Dell's gold protection plus platinum, or whatever-the-hell its called."

Seriously. Dell is going to *charge you* so that you don't have to speak with someone in India or the Phillipines or sub-Saharan Africa. Put another way, if you want to talk with a technician who speaks English with the same orientation and understanding of fine meaning that you are used to, than you're going to have to pay extra for that.

When I ordered my recovery disks earlier this week, the Dell technician and salesperson I spoke to did indeed drop the ball. I asked for two recovery discs for a home PC, and they sent only one disk. It was not for a home PC.

I called Dell, went through three operators/technicians/salespeople, and this time, I got the right discs. I also got two extra discs I didn't need, but which were good to have and might be useful given my problem. Clearly, this second group was on the ball, thinking about what I, the customer, needed or might need.

But, they were trying to fix a problem created by their colleagues failing to understand me the first time. I know my story isn't unique: Dell gets a lot of complaints, and the problems Dell has experienced with outsourcing are significant enough that they needed to find a solution. They found the wrong one.

Instead of spending some time and money on increasing the quality of their outsource staff (which is clearly the right thing to do), or to discontinue outsourcing (the more expensive route), they want to charge you, the customer who already paid for a unit under warranty, to pay more, a lot more, for the promise of service you should have been entitled to in the first place.

I say "the promise of service", because even with this laughable paid upgrade from sub-standard to standard service, you have no guarantee that the technicians and operators whom Dell employs in North America will be any better than their counterparts overseas.

In fact, I know that they're no better. I've dealt with U.S. based Dell techs who are kind, anticipate your needs, and actually give you a break on certain products. I've dealt with lazy, tired, slow, American techs who just couldn't be bothered with your call.

So Dell, you fail. Your promise to give us the service we already paid for by paying you "just a little more" is ethically wrong, a poor business move. Your response to complaints that Dell outsource techs don't always get things right should have been to make sure they get things right.

The decision you made to create a putatively better quality service in America instead of improving service all around smacks of the worst decision making. One has to feel it's a weak move informed in some part by racist attitudes evinced by customers and perhaps by Dell corporation itself.

You've lost me as a customer, Dell. I'm going with another Mac next time around.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Feeling Unsociable

Every now and then, I have a Facebook friend request from someone I don't know. I'm sure you've gotten one of these on occasion. Its from someone you've never heard of, and your response is a straightforward 'ignore', or if you're feeling charitable, an email asking "how exactly do you know me?", which never prompts a response.

But what do you do when someone you know but not terribly well or perhaps don't even like sends you a friend request? What's the proper social networking etiquette when you don't particularly feel like being sociable?

I'm afraid I knuckle under. Always. I know that's not what I want to do, but it seems the best of several poor alternatives.

So far, everyone who's sent me a friend request from my past has been a real pleasure to reconnect with. I've re-established friendships with dear people and we've gone out and done things together, and that's been remarkable and good.

But its not the people in my past I want to avoid. Its the people in my present. The people I have little in common with, who I don't have philosophical agreement with, the ex-co-worker now embroiled in controversy I don't understand and don't want to be dragged into or the ex-boyfriend of an acquaintance who wants to 'hang out' and get a 'falafel' some day next week.

I don't usually equate getting a falafel from a tiny hole-in-the-wall with one table on Sullivan Street with "hanging out". First, there's no place to 'hang' and second, who IS this insta-friend that now wants to be buds via facebook? Where did this guy, whose name I don't remember and whose number I was careful not to take, find the memory cells to remember my name and put it together with Facebook?

Honestly, what do *you* do? This is the new social conundrum; a real-life acquaintance who didn't even register when you met them, who now wants to be your online bff. How do you decline sociability in the world of social media?