Dell at a crossroads
I’ve been a fan of Dell for well over a decade. Recall ordering my first desktop from them in the summer of 1993 when I returned to Toronto after five years with the government in Ottawa. In fact, since then, I’ve probably ordered 9 or 10 different Dell computers, either for home or our firm.
What Michael Dell built is truly amazing, and serves as encourangement for every entrepreneur around the world.
In the past couple of years the customer experience has been brutal. I now understand why Dell has been under such tremendous pressure as a firm; and the stock reflects the nagging concerns.
I was amazed that after over a decade as the global leader, the ordering process was a schmozzle.
Order a computer, wait up to 5 days to have the order confirmed. They will call you to confirm the credit card, and if you don’t call back immediately (less than 24 hrs.) their fraud department (call centre) cancels the order. The fact that you might have ordered a computer from them a few months earlier, with the same credit card and from the same address and telephone number is irrelevant. If you are unable to call within a short window, there must be fraudsters at work; what trouble they must have had with stolen credit card info to become so concerned even when repeat customers are involved?
I tried to escalate it to the Canadian head office during the Spring of 2005, but it is awfully hard to find a telephone number. Well hidden, indeed. Check the corporate website; no one has email addresses. So a blind guess email to Michael Dell was redirected to the Canadian customer care team. Progress, but all they could do was reorder the same machine for you. “We’ll try to expedite it for you.” Hmmmm. And after three weeks of trial and error they offered a $100 discount on a $4,000 machine.
Next order: When I got the vmail I tried to confirm the order with the fraud people; left a vmail into the appropriate 5 digit voicemail box in India, as directed. A few days later I called to ask why I wasn’t able to track the order online. Oh, “you never confirmed the credit card.” “But I did.” “It appears that the billing address (home) for the card is different than the delivery address (work), so we cancelled the order. Please call Amex and give them your work address.”
Of course, Amex already had such info.
The XPS took about 5 weeks to arrive in the end. Complain away, but no discount.
The next time I ordered a laptop some little birdie had put a note on my account and things sailed along. Took just over two and a half weeks. Not bad.
On Monday, I tried again. New person helping out at our firm, new machine required. Here is some anecdotal support for the Wall Street Journal stories: ongoing hiring boom leads to industrial capex.
Used the same old account, password, etc. Hope they remember me.
Nothing much different happened this time. Order interface looks a bit different. A “confirmation” email followed about a minute after the order “acknowledgement” email. This looked exciting, at first, as though I had survived the fraud department without a telephone call. But I await the call. The Dell ordering timeline says it is “shipping”. (A check of my Amex bill online reveals no charge to the account, but its only been 6 hours.)
Estimated shipping dates are: Jan 15, 17 and 18 for the 3 pieces. Let’s see how they do. If it works, and you buy into Peter Lynch’s approach to stock picking, Dell might be a buy.