Back many years ago in the early days of my IT career I worked for Dell Direct. Yes, I was one of those drones (there were actually about 500 of us in those days) who took inbound telephone calls on technical support lines. I was lucky enough to be on the corporate support line, so fortuantely for me, I was on the not-so-busy (and much less braindead) large corporate line, which I believed at the time to be mostly corporate helpdesks. (Later on I discovered that many of the calls were not in fact from helpdesks, but from asset managers, PAs, facilities support teams etc - but thats another days story - as I went on to work for some of the companies who were my customers, or the outsourced support partners).
Now I noticed something interesting early on in my days at Dell. Though loyalty was demanded by the company more than any company I have ever worked for, most employees were disgruntled with the company and there was high levels of hostility towards customers, especially the less technical ones, a hostility which often found itself pitched at those unfortunate enough to have to deal with us over the phone. I remember enjoying the feeling of power at reducing customers to tears (though of course looking back many of them were probably trying to be just as manipulative as we were), though I also remember the pompous and superious attitude many of the callers had: I distinctively remember once being told by a guy on the phone that he had "lowered himself" to talk to me. Needless to say, he made a bad move there, instinctively on the defence, any chance he had of getting his problem solved, was flushed down the toilets by that remark: one thing I did learn for later on was, don't insult the guy who has the power to fix your problem, its in your interest to keep him on your side as much as possible.
Having said that, I understand the frustration of customers who've been won over by a pushy Dell salesperson only to discover that they were told blatant lies about the level of support they thought they were buying.
However, Dell move new technology onto the market at a good price, so on noticing that they offer finance deals, I decided that they wouldn't be a bad place to buy a notebook computer from.
The Dell ordering system is simple as pie. I'd been through it years ago, using my employee status to get great discounts for family members. What I didn't realise was that although it appears to be automated, much of the processing is still done manually, and so fraught with points of failure.
Now as those who've been reading my writing for years will no, I have no great credit record, having had some difficulties 4 years ago. However anything I owed back then was paid off 2-3 years ago, and I've managed to get a credit card and loan at high street rates since, so I'm not a total credit write-off. However one thing I do know is that high-interest financing deals like that offered through Dell (which is at a higher rate than a credit card) usually are a little more welcoming to people like me, so I thought I'd give it a try.
Filling out my old address on the system I marvelled at the simplicity of the system, which wasn't much different than the Dell website back in the old days around 2000 when I worked there. Oh how wrong I was. I got an email confirmation telling me my internet receipt number, and that written documentation would be needed from the financing company before the order would go through.
And that was the last communication I had from Dell for 9 days.
Now I was left wondering was there a problem with my mediocre credit (which is a good possibility), or if the order had simply disappeared into the ether.
I sent 2 emails to customer care. There was no response.
Then I sent an email to "complaints". They responded asking me for my order number, even though I'd clearly explained that my order hadn't gone that far.
I phoned customer care and spoke to guy who may have been in Bangalore. Now I am totally non-racist, but one unfortunate element of outsourcing to India is that for a native Hiberno-English speaker, these guys are very difficult to understand. And they find us equally hard to understand. So I didn't catch his name, and I think he said that the order hadn't been processed. He took my name and number, and said he would get somebody to ring me back. I asked if he could give me a rough idea. By close of business, he said. I was outwardly overjoyed, but deep down I remembered all the old tricks we played on customers in Dell, promising callbacks that never happened as you were just too busy (and in Dell we had to ask permission to make outbound calls, unlike my days on service desks were people were considered to be adult enough to decide when was an appropriate time to call out). So I knew he wouldn't call me again. That was 2 days ago. Still nothing.
So now I've been left in limbo. Not knowing if my order has been actually cancelled or just delayed for a ridiculous length of time, I don't know whether or not to try to formally cancel the order, or just wait and see if they do respond.
Anyway I decided in the end to give them 3 working days, and if there is still no response (I've decided that a company who can't get the order right probably won't get the system right either) I'll mail them a letter asking for the order to be cancelled formally. And I'll buy a laptop from somebody else instead. Bye bye again Dell, and this time its for good.
I'll keep you posted.