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[Discuss] WRT Dell trashing their own reputation by offshoring support to India [Was: Justify your existence]

I strongly object to being characterized as someone who "did not like 
the foreign accent".  And, based on my own experiences with Dell's 
support, I think that for most people who disliked Dell's offshoring of 
their support function, that characterization is wholly inaccurate.

I've been a software engineer since my first job writing BASIC 
interpreters and OS internals at DEC in the 1970s.  But by the late 
1990s I was a Unix expert, not an MS-DOS or Windows expert.  So, 
although I've never expected Dell's support people to have the same 
level of understanding of OS concepts that I do, I did expect them to 
have specific knowledge about Windows that I didn't.  And before Dell 
made their disastrous decision to move support out of the U.S., the 
level of support met my expectations.  When I called them for help, I 
was able to have an intelligent conversation with the support person 
handling my call.  There was an interactive back-and-forth in the 
conversation, the result of which was that their knowledge plus my 
knowledge allowed us to solve my problem.

After Dell fired their U.S. support people and outsourced the function 
to India, I found it impossible to have an intelligent conversation with 
their support people.  During my calls to them over the first few years 
after they did that, I naively assumed the support people were 
technically knowledgeable, and I continued trying to engage them in 
technical conversation to solve my problem, but that was always 
impossible.  I'd say something and they'd respond with a complete 
non-sequitur.  It took me years to figure out that: 1) they didn't have 
a clue what I was talking about, and 2) unlike the technical people I 
know who, when they don't understand what you're saying, will ask you 
questions until they do understand, Dell's outsourced support people 
would simply pretend to understand - which behavior inevitably resulted 
in absurd non-sequiturs, as well as them wasting huge amounts of my time.

After a few years of this, I figured out that Dell must have replaced 
the technically-knowledgeable U.S. support staff that they laid off, 
with un-knowledgeable but cheap staff, and then tried to make up for 
that abysmal decision by training them to read pre-written scripts.  It 
was also clear that the outsourced support staff was being incentivized 
to close calls rather than to solve problems.  So they were more than 
happy to give you a totally unworkable or irrelevant solution as long as 
they could get you off the line.  If you had to call back again 10 
times. that was somebody else's problem, not theirs.

Since customer objections to the extreme degradation of Dell's service 
were too often mischaracterized in the same way you just 
mischaracterized them, as people not liking the foreign accent, 
management in Round Rock, TX came up with the idiotic solution to simply 
look for other countries with cheap workers whose English sounded less 
accented to American ears.  So a few years later, I found I was talking 
to clueless people in the Philippines or in Panama instead of clueless 
people in India.

At some point during a call to Dell's outsourced support, I remembered a 
Dilbert strip I'd seen years before, in which the support rep tells him 
to do something ridiculous like reinstall the OS, the next panel shows 
him twiddling his thumbs, and in the next panel he tells the support 
rep, "OK, I've done that."  When I first saw that strip, I thought it 
was a funny joke.  But after years of frustration with Dell's atrocious 
time-wasting "service", I stopped thinking of it as a joke and started 
thinking of it as a strategy.  I tried it, and it worked far better than 
trying to hold an intelligent technical conversation with them.  
Eventually I started trying to predict the contents of their pre-written 
script, and figure out which answers would help me navigate them through 
the shortest path in their script to get to the point where they were 
willing to send me the particular replacement part I needed.  And, given 
their history of having wasted so much of my time, I no longer felt I 
needed to zero in on the right replacement part.  If I could narrow it 
down to one of 2 or 3 parts, I was happy to have them ship one part and 
send a tech out to swap it, and if that didn't work I'd call back and 
manipulate their script-readers through their script to the next 
replacement part I wanted to try.  With a company that didn't make a 
business out of wasting my time, it would never have occurred to me to 
do that.  I can't be the only one who figured this out.  Over the years, 
I'm sure Dell must have spent far more money on supporting customers' 
systems than they could possibly have saved by firing their technically 
knowledgeable U.S. support staff.  And they've also generated a great 
deal of ill will in the bargain.

This is what happens when management manages by the numbers and is 
totally out of touch with their customers.

        Mark Rosenthal
        mbr at <mailto:mbr at>

On 12/17/2011 9:40 AM, Jerry Feldman wrote:
> Just look at Dell. After years of pushing their great support, they
> moved it offshore. While my few times when I called Dell support before
> they moved it, I was never impressed. But a lot of people did not like
> the foreign accent, and this actually caused Michael Dell to take the
> reigns of the company again. But, their reputation took a serious hit.

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