June 12, 2004

Dell's Horrific Tech Support

True story that just happened to me (Warning Will Robinson! -- my first big blog rant lies ahead):

I have a Dell-branded USB Flash Memory Key (a flash memory thumb drive) that was ordered with my new laptop since it doesn't have a floppy drive. It works great, no complaints. However, one of my older PC's runs Win98, so naturally I simply need to download the driver for it.

I head on over to Dell's site, click on Support, go to Downloads and look around. Even after performing over a half dozen well-crafted searches, I come up with nothing even close. So I go to the product page which tells me that no driver is needed after Win98 (but naturally no link for the Win98 driver).

I then call Dell tech support -- twice. Both times I got a heavily-accented person who I could barely understand and both told me they weren't well trained for this area. Lovely, and oh, by the way, could we have your Dell tag number for the memory key? (Hint: There's no tag number on it.)

Windows reports it as a Lexar Digital Film USB Device. So I head on over to Lexar's site. Nope, nothing under their driver downloads that even resembles my drive.

So in a fit of desperation, I did what I should've done in the first place -- gone a-Googlin'. Sure enough, after two failed searches, the third delivers (searched for: dell driver "flash memory key"). It leads me to this wonderful gem of a support forum discussion with a Dell Support Forum Moderator (and you absolutely must read this one -- it puts Abbott & Costello's "Who's on First" routine to shame.) I begin to hear Janice's (from "Friends") voice in my ear: "Oh -- My -- God!" If the Dell forum site is unavailable, here's the Google cached version.

Bottom line, Dell's tech support is truly clueless. Short answer to a long problem: The driver appears to be at memorykeytools.com all along, from the link in the last post of the forum thread above. Surely that's completely self-evident for a Dell-branded product, right? (And no, I didn't order the memory key from Dell myself.) Again, the device works just fine. I just needed the driver. (A driver! My kingdom for a driver!)

Which made me realize that Dell didn't lose me because of the product they delivered. They lost me because of the terrible service and the terrible web site. Relating that back a little closer to home, I think there's a lesson in there for attorneys who believe that competent and affordable representation is enough, and that good content doesn't matter as long as you've got a web site with your name and services on it.

Another lesson learned is that Google is arguably the best way to usefully navigate through a huge commercial web site. I wanted to look at Sony's MicroVault since it includes some nice extras. So I head on over to Sony.com. I look and click and search, but I can't find the exact one I saw in the store. I Google for Sony MicroVault, and bam, it's in the top five or so results. Some of these big commercial sites are fundamentally broken from a usability perspective. If a good product exists in a forest, but no one can see it, does it sell?

Okay, bad computer day, rant over. You may now return to your regularly-scheduled surfing. ;^)

[Update 6.15.04: Thanks to Google, Dell might actually read this. Today, Googling for the words "Dell tech support" returns this site in the top ten results. Actually, a fair amount of the other nine results weren't too complimentary either. If you don't want to speak to a foreign support center, it sounds like your best bet is to go through their corporate support program.]

Topic(s):   Mobile Tech & Gadgets  |  Other Musings
Posted by Jeff Beard


That Dell support forum was down for me too just now, so I updated my post to add a link to the Google cached version. Which nicely demonstrates how hard it is to remove data from the web once it's been there for a little while (although I'm not saying Dell pulled the content, it could just be down for other reasons).

Posted by: Jeff Beard at June 12, 2004 11:10 PM

That support forum discussion is presently down. Hmmm. . . could the Dell folks be reading legal blogs?!

I too am a veteran of the support forum. I love my Dell Inspiron notebook, but I had to tirelessly chase down my rebate. I did finally get it, months late, and after shaming them on the board, but it does ultimately work.

Posted by: David at June 12, 2004 10:13 PM