`We acknowledge there are issues . . .'\nLuddite reporter finds herself in `Dell Hell'\n\nIndustry-wide, tech support in decline\n\n\nTHERESA BOYLE\nSTAFF REPORTER\n\nSome advice before phoning Dell computer's technical support line: Park\nyourself in front of the television or have a good book to read. Make sure\nthere's lots of battery power in your phone. Empty your bladder. And, if\nyou're prone to high blood pressure, you might want to have your medication\nhandy.\n\nIf your experience is anything like mine, you're in for a long, frustrating\nwait.\n\nMy new Inspiron 1150 wireless laptop was delivered in late August. While it\nhasn't been of much use in surfing the Web, I've had a gazillion good games\nof Solitaire on it.\n\nMy problems started as soon as the laptop arrived. The router was missing.\nThere were no instructions for hooking up to the three months of free Bell\nSympatico service that came with the computer.\n\nI lost two hours of my life trying to sort this out, much of that time\nlistening to muzak on Dell's technical support line. Dell ended up sending a\nnew router.\n\nBell said Dell should have assisted in setting up the free Sympatico\nservice. Dell said the onus was on me to get in touch with Bell.\n\nArrggh.\n\nThe new router arrived, but didn't work. This was determined after more than\ntwo hours on the phone with a representative from the Dell call centre in\nIndia. A second router was sent.\n\nBut I had no luck in setting that one up either. I admit I'm a Luddite, but\nI think it's beyond most laypeople to make sense of instructions like this:\n\n"If the external networking device that you are attaching to the RG1000 has\nan integrated dynamic host configuration protocol (DHCP) server or network\naddress translator (NAT), you must disable the wireless DHCP server and NAT\nfeatures in the RG1000 during the setup process."\n\nWha?\n\nSo I waited for a free evening in anticipation of spending more time on the\nphone with Dell. For an hour and a half last Wednesday, I listened to more\nmuzak and countless messages saying, "We are experiencing a high volume of\ncalls ..." I got rerouted three times only to be told the last department I\nwas put through wasn't the right one.\n\n"We're trained only in hardware, but not wireless configuration," explained\nan apologetic Chris Lee from the India call centre.\n\nHe said the department I needed had closed while I was on hold.\n\nAt this point I felt like crying.\n\nI asked if I could speak to his manager, but he told me it was 6 a.m. in\nIndia and there were no managers on the floor.\n\nTo make matters worse, the connection was bad and I had trouble\nunderstanding what he was saying.\n\nOn the upside, I got in an episode of the West Wing and Sex in the City. I\nwon a few more games of Solitaire. And I got started in writing this\narticle.\n\nThinking I couldn't be alone in having these problems, I did some research\nat work in preparation for this story.\n\nLo and behold, I learned of the phenomenon known as "Dell Hell."\n\nType those two words into Google and you'll get lots of similar horror\nstories.\n\nIn a May 2003 article, entitled "On the line to Dell hell," here's what\nPhillip Inman at the Guardian Unlimited wrote about his experience:\n\n"In the many calls I made to the Dell centre, the staff I spoke to stuck\nstrictly to a pre-prepared script. In fact most of my attempts to re-phrase\nquestions in order to elicit an answer would be rewarded with a robotic\nresponse."\n\nIn an October 2003 article in the Detroit News, Daniel Howes writes about\nthe frustration he felt during his numerous calls to Dell technical support\nin India:\n\n"I dial again. I give her my service tag, again. I give her my name, address\nand phone, again. Another voice from far away - kind, polite and incapable\nof comprehending how maddening it is to spend more than </body>,000 for a new\ncomputer only to have it reject, freeze or block anything you do."\n\nSurvey results published in Consumer Reports last June state: "Dell was\nworse than average at delivering service that was free of problems with\nEnglish. Overall, though, Dell was average for communication problems."\n\nLast September's issue of Consumer Reports gave Dell a score of 60 out of a\n100 on technical support for laptops. This trails Apple, which outranked all\ncompetitors with an impressive score of 82. On the bottom of the list was\nCompaq with a score of 49.\n\nSubscribers were asked about such problems as long telephone hold times and\ndifficulties navigating voice-messaging systems.\n\nLate last year, Dell stopped using its technical support centre in India to\nhandle calls from corporate customers in response to their concerns.\n\nBut what about us non-corporate shmoes?\n\nI ended up phoning Dell's media relations office and have been promised\nimmediate help. But I know ordinary customers can't rattle that cage.\n\nStill, there is hope. Vivian Kobeh, of Dell's corporate communications\noffice in Austin, Texas, said a new call centre is being opened in Edmonton\non Monday. It will complement Dell's 20 customer contact centres worldwide.\n\n"We just want to be as global as we can and provide as much service as\npossible in more time zones, more geographies, and be closer to customers\nlike you," she said.\n\n"We acknowledge there are issues and our main goal is to give you the best\nservice we can," she added.