My experience with Dell Support

Trying to solve the problem of eSATA port multiplier not working,
and having to deal with Dell's poor customer & technical service.

My name is Bruce A. Johnson.  I'm a computer tech.  I help people in my area with their computer problems (See: http://BruceJohnson.ca/).

I bought a Dell XPS 420 in March, 2008.  Earlier this year, I looked at buying a dual hard drive dock that connects to a computer using eSATA.  It required that the eSATA port be capable of port multiplying.  That means that the eSATA port needs to be able to read both hard drives in the dock as separate hard drives.

I spent some time looking at the specifications of my computer to figure out if it had eSATA port multiplying capability.  The storage controller is an "Intel ICH8R/ICH9R SATA RAID Controller".  I looked on the Intel website to learn what I could about this, and found that it does indeed support eSATA port multiplying up to 5 devices for the one eSATA port.

Before spending money on this new device (dual hard drive dock), I called Dell to ask them if my computer (and my father's one week old Dell XPS 430), had eSATA port multiplier capability.

 

April 16, 2009

I telephoned Dell Technical Support (1-800-874-4096), and got "Aaron".  He hadn't even heard of eSATA, much less eSATA port multiplying.  He transferred me to "Jose".

Jose knew what eSATA was, but not eSATA port multiplying.  I explained the concept to him, and he started searching the specifications for the Dell XPS 420.  He couldn't find it for the XPS 420, so I asked him to check the specifications for the XPS 430, which my father had just bought.  After awhile, he said he found for the specs for the XPS 430, that it supported eSATA port multiplying up to 5 devices for the one eSATA port.  With that found, he went back to the specs for the XPS 420, and said that it said the same thing in the same place about eSATA port multiplying.  He thus categorically stated that both models had eSATA port multiplying.

 

Since both my own research, and a Dell support person said it was so, I then ordered the dual hard drive dock I was looking at.

When I received the device, I immediately tested it on my Dell XPS 420, as well as my father's brand new Dell XPS 430 that he had for less than a week.  When connected up to a USB port, both slots on the dock worked fine.  When connected up to the eSATA port, only one of the slots worked.  Tests showed nothing wrong with the device.

 

April 25, 2009

I called Dell (1-800-874-4096), and got "Joseph".  I started to describe the problem but he asked to put me on hold before I said much.  Instead of being put on hold, the call was disconnected.

New call to Dell (1-800-874-4096), and got "James".  "James" took the information, but didn't know what to do.  He transferred me to the Dell-On-Call Department, 15 minutes into the call.

Dell On Call: "Veera", East Indian woman.  The sound quality of the call was very bad.  I had to go through everything again (who I was, my contact info, the problem, what I'd already tried to fix the problem, etc.), even though I had just said all that to "James", and he said he had recorded it in the case file.  "Veera" gave me a case number to write down for future use.

"Veera" didn't understand the problem.  She asked me to repeat everything about the problem again and again.  She had me let her take control of my computer remotely.  She had my computer download a zip file that contained a driver, and she thought that the sole act of downloading that zip file was the entirety of installing that driver.  She didn't understand when I told her it was a zip file and had to be extracted first, then the driver installed through the device manager (there was no .exe file that would automatically install the driver).  She was flustered and didn't know what to do.  She put me on hold while she asked someone else for help.  While on hold, I determined that the driver she wanted to install was "Intel ICH8R/ICH9R SATA RAID Controller", and it was two years older than the same driver already installed on my computer.

When she eventually came back on the line, I told her that the driver she was trying to install was an older version than what was already on my computer.  She didn't know what to do, and was going to transfer me back to the same people who transferred me to her.  When I told her this, she then came up with another phone number, 1-800-822-8965, which is for business support.

So I called 1-800-822-8965, and got "Pradyamna".  After going through everything again with him, he said he couldn't help me, and transferred me to another department.

This department was XPS Support, and I talked to "Jenn" (a man).  Again, I had to go through everything, even though previous technicians had supposedly recorded it all in the case file.  When I asked him if he knew what eSATA port multiplying was, he avoided the question.  He suggested some things to try, all of which I had done already (like make sure that RAID was turned on in the BIOS, uninstalling and reinstalling the Windows RAID driver, updating the RAID driver, plugging in and starting the device first before turning on the computer, etc.).  Eventually, he gave up and said that he was referring the case to a "Level 3 Support" technician, who would telephone me in two or three days.

 

May 4, 2009

I decided I had waited patiently long enough for that call from "Level 3 Support" that never came, and it was time for me to call Dell again.  I tried calling 1-800-874-4096 (which I had done before), but their customer service telephone system was not working (PATLive not configured).

Having dealt with XPS Support last, I tracked down their phone number (866-398-8977), and called them.  I got "Dennis".  After the prerequisite amount of asking me the same questions over again, he said that there was nothing in my casefile after the case was referred to "Level 3 Support".  He didn't know why "Level 3 Support" had not gotten ahold of me, and would put a note in my case file that I was still waiting for the call.  I had him also add to my case file the hours during which I could be reached.

 

August 14, 2009

Still no call from "Level 3 Support".

I called XPS Systems Support (866-398-8977), and got "Beverly", who actually spoke English without an accent.  She asked me the same questions over again about the problem, the device I was using, etc.  She expressed disappointment that there was not many notes in my case file from the other Dell people I talked with.  When I gave her the rundown of all the Dell people I talked to, she said that most of them hadn't even logged that they dealt with my calls at all!  She was sympathetic to my frustration with Dell Customer/Technical Service, and issued me a "Service Request Number" before going any further.

She then put me on hold while she checked with "Level 3 Support" about my case.  After awhile on hold, someone transferred the call without talking to me first.  After another long time on hold, "Advanced Software Support" answered and asked what they could do for me.  I said they could tell me why I was transferred to them, when I was waiting on hold for "Beverly" in XPS Systems Support to get back to me.

Yes, I know.  That wasn't helpful.  I was frustrated and angry.  He, of course, had no idea who transferred me to him, or why.

Just in case the transfer to "Advanced Software Support" was intentional, I gave my case number, the service request number I had just been given, and went through all the questions and answers again about the problem.  The man I talked to eventually said that he couldn't help me, since it was a hardware problem, and that wasn't his area.  I said I would call XPS Support again.  I never got the name of this man in "Advanced Software Support".

So I called XPS Systems Support again (866-398-8977), and got "Johnny", who was overseas.  I asked him to connect me with "Beverly", who would be identified in my case file.  He said he couldn't get ahold of her, so I asked him to find out who in "Level 3 Support" was dealing with my case, and connect me to them.  He said that my case file didn't have that information, and that he was going to transfer me to "Dell On Call".  I told him that I had already dealt with Dell On Call with this case previously, they couldn't solve the problem, and transferred me to XPS Systems Support.  I asked him again to please find out who in "Level 3 Support" was dealing with my case.  He kept insisting that I should be transferred to "Dell On Call".  I told him no.

I told him that the female technician ("Beverly"), had told me that "Level 3 Support" had supposedly tried to call me at some time, and asked if he could see that in the case notes.   He said yes, so I asked him for the date and time of that call (which I should have asked the female technician about), and he gave me a time one hour ago, when I was talking to the female technician.   When I reiterated what call I was talking about, he still gave me the same date and time.   Only to him, it was tomorrow's date, since he was overseas.

At this point, I had had enough for one day.  I had spent a couple hours on the phone, and got absolutely nowhere.  I bid useless "Johnny" goodbye.

 

August 19, 2009

I called XPS Systems Support (866-398-8977), and got "Benny", who was in Manila, Philippines.

"Benny" had never heard of "Level 3 Support", and he wanted to schedule a call-back.  I said I've already been through that, and Dell-On-Call, and no one could help me, so the case was elevated to Level 3 Support.  I told him that I wanted to talk to a XPS support person in North America, and he resisted.  He said he could transfer me to paid support, which is in North America.  I said I wasn't going to pay for support for a computer that was on warranty.  I asked if I could talk to "Beverly" who I had talked to a few days before, who I thought was based in North America.  He said that "Beverly" was also based in Manila, but he had no way of contacting her.

I then expressed the opinion that "Level 3 Support" does not exist, and that no one could help me, so the case was being ignored.  He then changed his mind, and said that they do have "Level 3 Support" there in Manila, and he put me on hold while he checked with them.  I figured that he was just asking his supervisor what to do with me.

When he came back on the line, he asked me all the questions about the problem again.  It seemed that he did really not understand about the eSATA port multiplier capability.  He said that the case file did not have any notes in it about the port multiplier device I was using, despite the fact that I have given details about it to multiple Dell technicians.

After putting me on hold a number of times, he eventually stated categorically that the Dell XPS 420 does not have eSATA port multiplier capability.  I told him about my call before I bought my dual hard drive dock, asking about the eSATA port multiplier capability.  That the technician I had talked to said that both the Dell XPS 420 and 430 had the capability, and that's why I bought my device.  He just reiterated that the XPS 420 does not have the capability.

Since there was nothing left to talk about, I ended the call.

 

My Conclusions

Given my own experience with computers (I'm a computer technician), and my interactions with Dell support, I have come to some conclusions about Dell technical support.

Dell technical support consists of the lowest paid people they can get, who follow scripts and instructions about how to deal with issues and customers.  Their own knowledge of computers is limited, and when their scripts and instructions fail them, they pass on the problem and customer to someone (anyone), else.

The supposedly most knowledgeable technician was with "Dell-On-Call", and she was completely unable to understand the issue.  When she took control of my computer remotely, it was clear she didn't know what she was doing.  She had my computer download a zip file that contained a driver, and she thought that the sole act of downloading that zip file was the entirety of installing that driver.  She didn't understand when I told her it was a zip file and had to be extracted first, then the driver installed through the device manager (there was no .exe file that would automatically install the driver).  It turned out that the driver she wanted to install was two years older than the same driver already installed on my computer anyway.

My conclusion about eSATA port multiplier capability in Dell computers:
Dell probably intended to have the capability.  Both the hardware and software in their computers is supposed to have the capability.  For some reason, though, it doesn't work, and Dell is actively ignoring the problem.

 

I and others posted about this eSATA port multiplier capability in Dell's Community Forum:
http://en.community.dell.com/forums/t/19243035.aspx

 

Over the years, I have been a Dell customer, but no longer.  I will also recommend to my clients that they avoid Dell.

This particular hardware problem would not have come up if I had bought a different brand of computer.  Other brands of computers have this capability and it works, or they do not say that the computer has the capability.

In my opinion, the key to having a good relationship with your computer manufacturer, is if you never contact them afterward for any reason.  It is clear that they prefer it that way, since in my experience, all computer companies have bad customer and technical service.

 

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