December 9, 2004 4:00 AM PST

Dell is swell, customers say

Reversing a recent slide in satisfaction rankings among its business customers, Dell beat out Hewlett-Packard and IBM in a measure that's closely watched for potential insights into future PC sales trends.

Dell scored 83.61 out of a possible 100 points in Technology Business Research's third-quarter report, up from 82.27 in the second quarter and 80.32 in the first quarter.

The third-quarter result gave Dell the highest satisfaction rating among the world's top three PC manufacturers. HP scored 81.95 for the period, while IBM came in third with 81.66.


What's new:
Reversing a yearlong slide, PC maker Dell topped competitors HP and IBM in an influential customer service ranking.

Bottom line:
TBR's report, which offers a rare glimpse into the thinking of hundreds of corporate-technology buyers, is good news for Dell. But rankings could shift in the wake of the Lenovo-IBM deal.

More stories on the top PC makers

Dell's showing reverses a yearlong slide in ratings from business customers, as measured by TBR. During the first quarter of this year, Dell's overall customer satisfaction rating fell behind that of HP for the first time since 2000, when TBR began the survey. Dell improved slightly during the second quarter, but only enough to tie with HP and IBM.

Customer complaints lobbed at Dell mainly centered around phone and on-site support, gripes readily acknowledged by the company. "We have a pretty fast-growing business, and unfortunately, we had staffing plans that didn't meet that" in areas such as phone support, said Bob Riazzi, director of services marketing for Dell. "We needed to grab hold of that, and we did."

TBR's influential reports offer a rare glimpse into the thinking of hundreds of corporate-technology buyers who participate in its quarterly surveys. A difference of 1 percent or more between two scores represents a significant advantage, according to the Hampton, N.H.-based researcher.

The rankings could face another shake-up following Lenovo Group's purchase of IBM's PC division, expected to be completed during the second quarter of 2005. Although IBM has taken measures to ensure that the transition is as painless as possible, and several customers have said they expect no reason to change brands, the deal could still help Dell or HP gain if Lenovo and IBM drop the ball during the hand-over.

TBR compiles the report by surveying several hundred IT executives at North American companies each quarter. It focuses on eight factors, including phone support, on-site technical expertise, pricing and value and overall satisfaction. The third-quarter report included 640 interviews and was completed between April 1 and Sept. 30.

"Phone support was having kind of a domino effect on some of the other areas."
--Julie Perron, TBR researcher

TBR's third-quarter report shows that Dell--whose fast-growing PC business was putting a strain on its customer support capabilities--has taken action to improve customer satisfaction among businesses, decreasing the likelihood of an exodus of customers due to service and support concerns.

Although TBR's third-quarter customer service and support satisfaction report reflects the opinions of a small sample of Dell's overall corporate customer base--and it only queries businesses with less than 1,000 employees--it provides insight into how customers at large businesses feel about the company's service and how those feelings have changed over time.

Dell executives have long said they consider large businesses to be the company's most important customer base.

This time around, customers felt better, experiencing at least some effect from measures Dell took in late 2003 and early 2004 to beef up its telephone and on-site support groups through staffing, training and the launch of its Enterprise Command Center. The center serves to track service personnel and follow replacement parts on the way to customers, as well as monitor weather and news reports so Dell can predict where its services might be needed most.

"Phone support was the area that was keeping Dell from doing better," said Julie Perron, manager of primary research at TBR. "Phone support was having kind of a domino effect on some of the other areas."

Indeed, TBR's report shows that Dell scored higher customer-satisfaction ratings for its telephone technical support and on-site service. Those improvements also boosted customers' views of the overall value of Dell's service and support, she said. Customer satisfaction for HP and IBM, meanwhile, has been much more stable over the last year.

Setting expectations
TBR's report also sheds light on customer expectations. Many report expecting more from Dell than they do from the other PC makers, Perron said. Thus, existing customers believe their service should remain the same or improve, while many new customers probably expect to get better service based on Dell's reputation. Either set of Dell customers is therefore more likely to be disappointed by Dell's service, Perron noted.

Aaron Lockey, a software developer and former network manager who works for a large company that purchases Dell PCs, said he recently had to call Dell tech support three times in order to get the motherboard on his work-issue Latitude D600 replaced. Lockey says he was made to troubleshoot the problem with tech support and then asked twice to leave his contact information to schedule an on-site service. Dell reps told him their server was down before Lockey made a third call; Dell then dispatched a technician to fix the machine.

"I was really disappointed because in the past I'd had so much better service," he said. "So I guess my expectations were a little bit higher...because I really expect more than that from Dell."

If Lockey were buying himself a computer in the future, "I think I'd

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The TBR polled Execs, not users...dumb.
When was the last time the executives in your enterprise phoned in your trouble call to Dell? When was the last time the executives in your enterprise took an active interest in the user's interaction with Dell support?

With this in mind how accurate are the TBR figures?

My experiences with Dell's end-user support are that they want YOU to prove that there is a problem before they will take any action.

Dell support is no better or worse than any of the other consumer oriented computer companies even when dealing with enterprise customers.

I will give them this, their back-end technical folks do know what they are doing but unless you go through your enterprise sales rep you'll never know who they are or how to contact them.
Posted by fred dunn (793 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Proof of Dell computers poor quality
This University's lab computers have 18.55% Dell computer
failure for the last month. Thats around 1 in five computers.
Students were standing around hunting for people leaving the
<a class="jive-link-external" href="" target="_newWindow"></a>
Posted by audiophilecc (65 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Quite frankly, we love Dell
We've been using dell for all of our servers for many years, and almost every server in our datacenter is a Dell. The machines are very reliable (we've only had one failure in 4 years) and the support (for business, anyway) as been quite outstanding. Best of all, their pricing is aggressive, and I choose them over the competition every time. My only gripe is that it can take anywhere from 7 days to 30 days to receive an order, but hey... for a 30% savings over the competition, I'm happy to wait. Obviously the just-in-time system building model is what it takes to extend great prices.

Jonathan Hoppe
Chief Technology Officer
Netriplex Premium Managed Hosting
<a class="jive-link-external" href="" target="_newWindow"></a>
Posted by (3 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Not True...
I have had a Dell SmartStep 250N for 3 days less than two years. It restarts automatically, the screen does not hold steady... the hinges are not working... the floppy drive does not work.. the USB broke off...

I tried to get in touch with their Support (Before my 1 year contract expired) and they did not return my calls. I am surprised that they say so... as a matter of fact I have noticed a lot of complain about SmartStep's all models...

I think they are doing a selective report.
Posted by (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
It's a Snow Job!
Poppycock! Anybody who has spent time on the phone with those syrupy-sweet plasticly-polite bottom-level phone operators in India knows how much of a relief it is to finally work your way up to a real tech on the phone based here in the USA. Dell wastes tons of their customer's time! And another thing ... their lower-end PC's use cheap motherboards produced in China. They are inferior and have a high failure rate. Dell is riding on a history of past quality. The present is an entirely different story. But they sure put a good spin on the story and produce a nice snow job!
Posted by akhenatonelmarna (3 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Satisifed with Dell? Not as much as I'd like to be.
Imagine you buy a brand new Mac or PC, and a month later there's an upgrade released for the OS. (Well, maybe it would take a bit longer for Microsoft.) Then imagine that you're told by the manufacturer that no upgrade for your PC will be available, even though the hardware is compatible and you're willing to pay for for upgrade.

That's what happened to me (and many others) with my new Axim X3i Pocket PC. Windows Mobile 2003 Second Edition came out for the Dell Axim X3i a little more than a month after I bought mine, but after months of hemming and hawing, Dell announced that there would be no upgrade.

I really like my Axim - much faster than my old PDA, bright screen, nice form factor, etc. But it doesn't have 2 key features that WM2003 SE offers - landscape mode and the ability to connect to WiFi networks using Cisco LEAP. After a positive upgrade experience with an early Compaq Aero 2130, I'd come to expect the ability upgrade the OS as long as the hardware requirements were met, but not with Dell.
Posted by (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
they didn't ask me
Dell - unbelievable - in terms of lousy. Can't get the order right, inserts wayward items in your quote, screws up deliveries, can't get the customer rep to respond...what else can I say, if it were my money, I wouldn't be spending it there. I even resorted to sending an email to which got a phone call from some company exec. She agreed this was no way to run a business and said she would resolve it and call me back. She then immediately took a 3 week vacation without a callback.
Posted by ebabin (6 comments )
Reply Link Flag
All PC's are shitty...
No matter what computer you use that is Windows based, it is a piece of crap. I think a computer is only as good as it's OS.
Posted by PCCRomeo (432 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Dell customer service is run by SCAM ARTISTS
I purchased my Dell demension from Dell on 4-3-01

NOW I have a problem with my MONITOR inverter, they sent me to India FOUR TIMES!!! to no avail,
(they could not reach the monitor from there)!!!!!
If the people in INDIA do not know the answer they hang up.
Yesterday I had a problem with my HP printer,today at 9:30 am I had a new printer delivered,&#38; a return lable enclosed so I could return the old one at NO CHARGE!!! UPS will pick up my old one tomorrow again at no charge!!!!
Bill Jelen
Posted by Bill Jelen (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
dell smartstep
well i dont know if you know that all laptops come standered like that. it is a setting that can be changed in the bios or system settings.
it is a power save seting. if it was running at 2.4ghz the battery would only last about 1/2hr at most. dell was not false advertising. i know this because i am typing this report on my dell smartstep 250n and i am a computer technition.
the only problem with the laptop is it overheats while on ac power.

please dont put down dell because yopu dont know how a laptop works.
Posted by coombsy16 (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
pc's are !@#$
mac is better
Posted by coombsy16 (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag

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