New York suing Dell for bad customer service

June 20 2007 by Ellen Roseman

Eliot Spitzer, New York’s former Attorney General, was an activist for investor rights. Now he’s elected as governor, his successor Andrew Cuomo is fighting for consumer rights. Last month, he filed a lawsuit against Dell Inc. for misleading customers with its financing offers and not honouring warranties, service contracts and rebates.

The claim says Dell customers get a runaround when trying to receive a promised rebate on computers and are subject to a “telephonic version of hot potato” after enduring long wait times for technical support. “Dell’s service is anything but prompt and efficient,” the complaint says. “Customers are disconnected before they reach the elusive representative who presumably is able or willing to help them.”

I bring this up because Dell was one of the first to oursource customer service to India. Its difficulties with delays and disconnections apply also to Bell Canada, which has been diverting customer service overseas (particularly Sympatico technical support).

The Montreal Gazette, meanwhile, is writing about customer service and has a blog for contributions by readers. Tech reporter Roberto Rocha is focusing on what he thinks are the three worst offenders: Banks, wireless telephone carriers and technical support from Internet service providers.

Check out the part where I talk about customer service outsourcing, along with telecom industry analyst Troy Crandall.


  1. Recruiting Animal

    Jun 21 2007

    Here’s some synchronicity. I was just reading this article when a friend from the US called to say that he had just received a sales call from

    Caller ID showed a Massachusetts number (978 298 1649) but in fact, the call was coming from Hyderabad in southern India. He called to me to express his surprise. First, that Monster was outsourcing sales to India and, second, that the rep was so poorly trained.

    Actually, when he gave me the blow by blow, it simply sounded like the quality of a consumer telemarketing call.

    There are some recruiting firms working in North America from India. I’d be curious to know if language is a problem.

    Last year I met three Indian engineers who are studying for their MBAs at Queen’s University. They told me that they have to adjust their manners and mindset for callers from various parts of the world. And, although it’s obvious that not all Indian call centres do this well, I found these three guys very impressive. Intelligent, enthusiastic and articulate. And perhaps that’s because they were not servicing consumers, but corporate clients.

  2. ThickenMyWallet

    Jun 21 2007

    As bad as the allegations are of bad customer service, I would really worry if Dell affected my credit report negatively. I am not sure this is directly linked to outsourcing, more likely aggressive collection practices.

    Perhaps you should write a post on how to fend off collection agencies who have the wrong person/debt.

  3. RichardatDELL

    Jun 21 2007

    Hi Ms Roseman and Recruiting Animal

    Recruiting animal, I went to Queen’s and serve on business school advisory board, so was intrigued on your findings from student discussions.

    Ms. Roseman, just thought I should point out that most of our customer and technical support are Dell employees…not outsourced. As a global business, it is a network of some 25-30 centers around the globe that we are talking about. You might be interested in Dick Hunter’s 3 part interview here for additional insight to the many changes we have underway:

  4. A Dawn Journal

    Jun 22 2007

    I switched my internet and phone service from Primus to Sprint (Rogers bought Sprint in 2005) and my discount brokerage account from Scotia to TD for bad customer service. Whenever I called, Primus put me on hold for 50 minutes to an hour, and unlike TD, Scotia discount brokerage was not available to answer the phone after regular hours. It does not take a rocket scientist to realize that poor customer service does not take you anywhere. But why all these big companies never understand it?

  5. RichardatDELL

    Jun 22 2007

    Yes, Wal-Mart is just the beginning of a global retail and consumer strategy to make more computers available to more people around the world…..and we have made a lot of changes in the customer and tech support field with more to come.

  6. paul h

    Aug 4 2007

    Personally, I think people need to show more responsibility for their finances. If you have to claim bankruptcy that is fine, but you should have to pay back every cent you owe eventually. Bankruptcy should be for businesses only to stop the accumulation of interest and collection fees in order to eventually pay back the creditors without the overwhelming accumilation of extra interest debt.

    The consumer should NOT be able to claim bankruptcy as protection.

    As a small business owner, I’m sick of people claiming bankruptcy to get out of their responsibility and run away from their financial commitments, then expect their creditors to take the fall for their stupidity or lack of monetary sense.

  7. Nicole

    Aug 30 2007

    This is a comment about Dell and Best Buy. I purchased my computer from Best Buy with the promise of around $450 in rebates (can’t be sure of the exact amount as it was so long ago). I made copies of the rebate coupons and sales receipts for myself and I sent the originals to Dell.

    Waited six months, no refund. Called Dell, which said it takes time and would look into it. I called several more times, spoke with Best Buy also and never received the rebates. Eventually I just gave up.

    In retrospect, I should have sent more letters, rather than trusting my comments over the phone or email would be escalated. But as consumers, how much time and effort are we expected to spend to have the company fulfill a promise? The experience has changed my spending habits. I don’t purchase from companies that promise mail-in rebates.

  8. Doug

    Sep 6 2007

    I got a similar runaround with Future Shop and Western Digital. I bought two different hard drives with different rebate offers and sent them both in. One was paid and one was denied – the denial reasons were arbitrary (out of time limit, receipt not included, etc.) that were provably false. The Western Digital agents agreed that I should get the rebate but said that I needed to submit more paperwork. I did, but after 3 times I gave up.

    I was impressed when Future Shop stopped selling products with mail-in rebates. These things are deceptive and annoying to customers. I try to avoid them as much as I can and don’t factor them into the price of anything I buy.

    As for Western Digital, its dysfunction is all too typical of big companies these days. I went to buy two cell phones at AT&T (as I’ve moved to the U.S.) and sadly it took upwards of two hours to process in the store for a basic plan; the agent still got it wrong and I had to phone in and go back to the store to get it corrected. I don’t know why companies don’t take a sampling of their calls and complaints to look for root causes and implement appropriate fixes; it isn’t rocket science and it would improve customer service.

  9. Garrett

    Sep 14 2007

    Hey, I just wanted to say speak up on customer service in general, or should I say the significant lapse of even the basic principles.

    I wholly believe that the powerhouses out there, IE: Dell, Bell, Rogers, At&t, and various other large corporations have ignored the basic principles of business for far too long and have ultimately began a downward spiral. For years, this has lapsed into the short-term bottom line without a strategy in place for long-term customer retention.

    In previous years, a basic monopoly was in place to achieve results, even with this attitude. However, today’s consumer has become much more savvy and demanding. There’s a return to the trend in business to put the customer first and their interests above simply a bottom line increase. Hopefully this continues to be the way we go.
    Let’s all hope and pray that it was just a phase that is no more.

  10. Tibi

    Mar 25 2009

    Dell made a mistake and double-sent me an order and charged me twice. A few weeks later, I called Dell to ask for a refund, telling them that I will send back the extra copy unaltered.

    One representative and his manager told me that Dell’s policy is that if the customer is not satisfied with the product, he/she can return it and be reimbursed only within 21 days.

    I told Dell’s representatives that in this case 1) it is about Dell’s mistake and 2) there is no question of satisfaction.

    I was not reimbursed.