F for Dell Tech Support

Has anyone called Dell Gold Technical Support recently? Well, I have and let me tell you I am very disappointed in their technical support. Last week I called about a laptop not powering on and I was asked if I “rebooted it”. Hello, it’s not getting power! Just today my co-worker and I diagnosed bad memory in one of our new Dell machines. Here’s the Dell tech support excerpt:

09/29/2006 08:21:04AM PC Tech: “We were having problems while booting the PC so we ran Dell Diagnostics and we received the following system memory error codes: 2F00:0B1C & 2F2F:0119.”

Agent (GTSR Dell Rep): “has any additional troubleshooting been performed on the system?”

Now I ask: what additional testing would you do? What if I was Joe Customer calling about this problem? Joe Customer will not likely even run the diagnostics CD. However, Dell usually will not talk to you without you first running the diagnostic CD. We did that. When we moved the hard drive to another PC it worked fine and suspected memory even before running the test (random BSODs are usually memory related)

09/29/2006 08:27:57AM PC Tech: “Yes. The error code first told us that there was a system memory failure on DIMM_3 so we removed that stick of memory and ran the diagnostics again. We again received the same error code on the data bus stress and a very similar error code on the MATS test”

09/29/2006 08:31:27AM Agent (GTSR Dell Rep): “do you have any memory from a know good system that we could try out”

Again, I have to wonder if Joe Consumer has memory just lying around his house for Dell to test with, but OK, we do this to make the call center person happy.

09/29/2006 08:47:48AM PC Tech: “I am running the test right now with the new memory and have not encountered any errors. We put the bad memory into a known good system and the operating system blue screened and crashed.”

09/29/2006 08:48:45AM Agent (GTSR Dell Rep): “how long did it take before it errored out in the diags?

You have to wonder if this guy is for real or not. If your Dell diagnostics CD is throwing memory errors and the OS on the machine keeps BSODing from a fresh Ghost image, what difference does it make when it crashes?

09/29/2006 08:50:35AM PC Tech: “I was receiving the error in the Data Bus Stress test, which is the first memory test.”

09/29/2006 08:51:27AM Agent (GTSR Dell Rep): “how is it running now?”

Amazing, just amazing!

09/29/2006 08:55:02AM Agent (GTSR Dell Rep): “ok what i will do is replace the memory on the system”

35 minutes after initial contact, he finally decides we are worthy of a memory replacement.

09/29/2006 09:05:14AM Agent (GTSR Dell Rep): “still here thank you for your patience”

09/29/2006 09:09:31AM Agent (GTSR Dell Rep): “I have setup a parts-only dispatch. You may find a return airbill in the box if the part needs to be returned. If that is the case, replace all of the parts and affix the airbill to the box. Then you will need to call 1-800-CALL-DHL to have the box pic”

It takes him another 15 minutes to enter the order the part in the system. Overall, it took us 50 minutes to get a replacement of two faulty DIMMs.

Which leads me to this: if Dell wants to play this game, we can play it right along with them. We’ll say we did so and so and got so and so result just to make them happy, but we won’t do it. Dell: give technicians credit for having above average intelligence when it comes to computers! When we say the memory is bad and we ran your diagnostics
to prove it, please just replace the memory.

Speaking of help desks, checkout The Chronicles of George. Sort of mirrors what I have had to deal with in the past. 🙂

– Soli Deo Gloria

4 Replies to “F for Dell Tech Support”

  1. I am a technician for the GTS area of Dell. Another tech happened across this page by chance while working and forwarded it to me. I thought that I’d give you a reply to shed some light on things and offer my own opinion and ideas.

    You seem to derive a great deal of frustration from seemingly simple questions that you were asked. The GTSR area is a large business area (I’m in the small business area) and I’m sure it would be commonplace for lots of the customers they deal with to have performed their own troubleshooting (lots have their own full time tech support staff to do that for them). Plenty of mine do and they are very small businesses.

    Asking about any Known Good parts is far from absurd. If you have KG memory that can be tested it will eliminate possibilities instantaneously and save a lot of trouble. Getting a diagnostic failure on memory tells me that you have a) possibly bad memory b) possibly bad memory slots or c) other electronic failure in relation to memory. Using a KG part will whittle those options down a lot faster. Again, in GTS, it is common for a user to have KG parts to test with.

    Now, from the way this log is written, I would assume the time at the end was because of one thing. Any new hire employee that wants to dispatch a part has to first have his dispatch ‘approved’ by a higher level technician to make sure that they are sending correct parts based on the symptoms and therefore save Dell money by not letting fresh techs send out bundles of unnecessary parts. To get this approval, they have to prove that they’ve exercised all troubleshooting options which is why you were probably run through so many questions before being sent any memory. Waiting for this approval at the end of the call can take quite some time if the higher tech is swamped with several requests at once. It adds a little time to you, but it adds to the quality of our service overall by making sure you get the right things.

    I’m not on this approval system anymore and I would still run you through several questions regardless of your diagnostic failure to make sure that the failure was indeed the memory. After determining that, I’d troubleshoot to determine the failure down to the stick if possible.

    You may think it is frustrating to take the time to beyond a doubt prove which part(s) needs to be replaced, but I can guarantee that you’d be even more frustrated (with yourself) if you demanded that we send you a specific part only to find that the failure was elsewhere and that you were going to have to wait an additional day or more for the other parts rather than the hour it might have taken to figure out which parts were bad to begin with.

    GTS Tech

  2. Frustration? Absolutely! GTS is geared towards businesses and specifically, technicians that work on PCs on a daily basis. On the GTS FAQ page, it states: “Your IT staff can bypass troubleshooting and access advanced level technicians who help diagnose the problem quickly and accurately.” Do you think 35 minutes is a reasonable amount of time to diagnosis bad memory in a system? The initial Dell chat problem text box allows about 120 characters maximum: maybe a sentence’s worth to input what I already tried.

    We identified the problem long before the technician came into the chat and just wanted the memory. If we were unsure of the diagnosis, we definitely would have gone through the “script troubleshooting steps.”

    We order a batch of GX520s and quickly run out of them performing PC upgrades. Asking us to switch in “known good” parts is absurd, because we usually do not have GX520s just lying around idle. Maybe when you work at Dell spare parts are abound, but here they are not. We also do quite amount of business with Dell, far more than “regular Joe” that buys your product and sits for hours on end with your tech support personnel. Trust me, you will lose far more money on “Joe Customer” than you will sending me the wrong part.

    I now keep a chart of error codes depending on what situation I am dealing with Dell. If Windows is reporting disk errors in the event log, I can tell you right now that’s the hard drive going bad. I don’t need to switch in a new hard drive or run your diagnostics CD to prove that. That will only waste several hours getting the magical error code you want before dispatching a hard drive.

    In terms of the bad part: sure, that happens. We have had a rash of GX270s where the power light just blinks orange and eventually turns on. Usually Dell will send us the power supply first and if that doesn’t work, they send us a motherboard. Between these two parts, the probably is usually fixed. Given the duties I have supporting my users, I do not have time to tear apart Dells and start switching parts at random.

    Again, you are dealing with technicians, not “Joe Customer”. Give us some credit, please!

    P.S. I fully understand where you are coming from and that the technician is doing what his superior is training him to do. That still does not make it right.


  3. Like I said before, it is fine if you don’t want to switch in known good parts, but you should then be prepared to troubleshoot the issue in a longer manner. If you’re getting a memory error in the diagnostic, it doesn’t mean the memory is definitely bad. You will have to minimally move the memory around in order to determine which stick is going bad, or if a slot on the motherboard has failed. If you don’t want to do that on the phone, then do it ahead of time and be ready for it.

    Time or not, your contract indicates that troubleshooting is required on your end before parts can be replaced on the system. Surely you must understand that it is quite fair that we’d rather find out which memory stick is failed, or if the motherboard has gone out instead of sending you every stick and a motherboard ‘just in case’. Dell, like any business, is here to make money.

    Ultimately, if you don’t WANT to troubleshoot a system then you should investigate buying a contract where someone will troubleshoot the system for you. Until then, the responsibility is yours. As a GTS tech, I am held to a standard of not having to send out multiple different parts to resolve one issue. If I screw that up too many times I could lose my job. So be assured that I’ll be as thorough as necessary to make sure that doesn’t happen. Repeating before, getting you the right part does also in the end serve you. If you don’t get the right one, the time expended to fix the issue goes from maybe half an hour or an hour, to 3-4 days minimally. Dell isn’t here to purposely make things hard on you. Obviously we want you to continue buying our systems. I just don’t think that anything that’s been requested of you is outside the realm of ‘fair’. If you examined the situation from both sides I think you’d find that it is the best solution overall as well. Yes, the one incident you have listed here might have had a couple ‘strange’ questions involved and dragged on a little longer than normal, but overall the system we have in place is a pretty good one.

    GTS Tech

  4. I think we agree to disagree. There has never been a time where I requested parts and it turned out that it wasn’t the part at fault. Especially when it comes to hard drives, Dell GTS will not replace a hard drive that I know to be bad unless I throw them an error code. So I just keep an error code on hand and throw that to tech support whenever I have a known bad hard drive.

    I’ve worked on computers for the past 13 years, two of which I was a PC technician at Best Buy. I’m pretty good when it comes to identifying what the problem is and I don’t need to go through 35 minutes of troubleshooting, especially in this case where the Dell diagnostics program clearly identifies the memory as being the problem. The memory was sent, replaced and it did fix the problem in question.

    Now I have a Dell laptop (D620) where a student types a key and it comes up as a different key. I am not quite sure of what the problem is, so I’m going to rebuild it from the Dell CD and run the diagnostics before calling Dell. Since I don’t know what the underlying cause is, I will definitely go through the full troubleshooting steps with GTS.

    Again, I go back to the statement from the GTS FAQ: “Your IT staff can bypass troubleshooting and access advanced level technicians who help diagnose the problem quickly and accurately.“. This is the way the system should work. If I was Joe Customer, sure, I should have to go through all of the troubleshooting steps (check the device manager, download the latest drivers, etc ). As an PC Technician, however, I should not. As a living, breathing PC technician, I perform these rituals on a daily basis and I don’t need to relive them with Dell tech support.

    Thanks for reading,

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