Dell: why Customer Care had to die

Forums full of people with problems - now all gone!

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We notice that you were very interested by the news that Dell has closed its customer support boards (on the US site). We had asked the company itself to explain why; and within just two days of our urgent request, it managed to unburden itself of the following response, which we quote in full.

"Effective Friday, July 8, 2005 Dell's Customer Care board on the Dell Community Forum (DCF) is no longer available. Customers are therefore no longer able to post questions to the Customer Care board on the DCF. Customers seeking general order support, rebate status, warranty information or invoice questions, can now visit Dell's Customer Care website or talk directly with a Dell Customer Care representative on - 0870 906 0010 or visit the UK website: www.dell.co.uk. Because many of these non-technical issues can only be addressed by authorised Dell representatives, with access to customer information, Dell believes that questions are best handled through other secure online tools. Even though the Customer Care board has been closed down and posts will no longer be accepted, customers can still access archived posts and information through the DCF search tool or FAQs under the general board. Pre-sales and Dell Financial Services boards have moved and can now be found under the General Support board. Dell constantly evaluates the effectiveness of our support tools and determined that order support and related questions are best addressed through FAQs, and chat. We continue to enhance, reorganise and add boards to make DCF a valuable tool for customers."

Annoyingly, Dell has 404'd the link we had to its own announcement. So much for archiving. In fact, researching this article was like being in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (remember?), with multiple messages saying "The Message you are trying to access has been deleted. Please update your bookmarks." Those below were all working at posting time.

So what can we infer about why the forums got shut? The key sentence, according to a Delldroid, is "Because many of these non-technical issues can only be addressed by authorised Dell representatives, with access to customer information, Dell believes that questions are best handled through other secure online tools."

But we think they're wrong. A quick perusal of the posts remaining there shows that there are plenty of things that Dell's customers told each other on the boards within just the past three months that are unlikely to make it into an FAQ, or online chat with a Dell person, but are very helpful nonetheless.

1) Yes, you can go to lunch leaving your speakerphone on hold waiting for Dell Customer Service to answer. It'll still be ringing when you get back. (Here.)

2) If you are going to be late on one of your bills, better not let it be a Dell bill. You will pay a very high price. You might want to consider paying off your account and closing it. (Here.)

3) Got a problem? Complain to the Better Business Bureau. Maybe by the time you come to buy a new computer, Mr Dell will be living in the cardboard box outside the store where you buy it. (Here.)

4) The quickest way to get help from Customer Service is by posting as you have in this room [forum] Mon-thru Fri, with your customer number, specifics and addressing it to a Dell Rep. (Here.) Obviously, this isn't an option now.

5) If you're a small company, be prepared to wait, wait, wait for your gear to arrive. Not so for the big guys. Deal with it. (Here.)

6) Denny Denham (warning: sunglasses required) is a regular poster with a wealth of information about Dell gear, the forums, and how to get the best out of customer support. But he's not employed by Dell.

7) "Dell doesn't want the input. People can write to the corporate address listed on the About Dell section of the website. And yes, some people are losing jobs. People need to understand that Dell is outsourcing the support of consumers and minimizing the costs in every way possible. They don't want to make it easier to contact them." (Here.)

And lastly, Dell's response to those imploring it to keep the boards open. "That train has already left the station. The technical boards will still be thriving for you to post any questions." (Here.) Except, of course, for one particular question...

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