Thursday, March 2, 2006


Put down your drink before you read this, less you splatter slightly used beverage all over your monitor. This was written by John Stumpf, a former Chief Information Officer, now retired:

Preparatory Work

So it has happened: you have fired up your Dell PC, and - nothing. Or the dreaded “cannot find boot drive” or something like that. Now you are forced into the unenviable position of having to call Dell Off-shore Hardware Support. Look at it as a journey, one on which you will be tested, much like Job or Arthur Dent. You will descend into the ninth circle, but with the proper preparation, tools and attitude, you will return, a better person for it.

First, before you call, prepare. Raid your kids' library and find some simple reading primers along the lines of “See Spot Run.” This will help you speak in non-complex sentences and monosyllabic words.

Make an appointment for that root canal you have been putting off. After what you are about to experience, you will look forward to it.

Buy a speakerphone; it’s tough to stay rational when your neck is cramped.

When you are ready to MAKE THE CALL, go to the bathroom, take an aspirin, get a book or crossword, stock up on water and nibbles (preferably ones with high sugar content and no nutritional value; Twinkies are good). Shoo the kids out of your den; it’s possible that they will hear things that could cause serious psychological issues later.

Do your relaxation exercises; take a sip of water; remember Dan Rather’s closing, “Courage.” And MAKE THE CALL.

What Happens Next

The first thing that you will get is a recorded announcement saying that you can go to online to get help. This is your first test. Refrain from screaming that your PC is broken and you can’t GET to the Internet. This is where it is handy to have a towel to bite on, so your family doesn’t hear you screaming at a recording.

You may also be asked to enter your “Express Service Code.” (The discussion of why you have an “Express” Service Code when you are spending a long time on hold is best put off for another time.)

Eventually you will get to a person. You will tell him/her why you are calling, and most likely you will be told you have to call someone else. They will offer to transfer you, but before they do, GET THE EXENSION NUMBER. This is very important, especially when (not if) you get cut off. Note that it is a seven-digit extension number.

While waiting, pause and ponder the size and complexity of a company that needs an extension number the size of your phone number.

Now you are getting close. You will eventually get to someone who after getting your name, address, problem, and again, Express Service code, will say the magic words, “I can help you with that problem.” You have now contacted a Dell Offshore Personal Expert - a DOPE.

Some notes on this part of the process:

* The DOPE will probably call you by your first name, because he/she wants to be your new best friend.

* He/she will profusely thank you at every step of the way for the same reason.

* He/she will have a notable American name like Patrick, Matthew or even a Shaun. Do not react to this.

But congratulations; YOU HAVE REACHED SOMEONE WHO IS TRYING TO HELP YOU! You reached the ninth circle, and all you have to do is return.

The Return

What happens now will vary depending on your problem. But here are some guidelines for dealing with the DOPES.

* Do not yell at them. Aside from the fact that it is rude, I think the phone system has a volume limiter that will cut you off. Bite the towel instead.

* Do not try sarcasm; DOPES don’t understand it. Again, bite the towel.

* Ditto humor.

* Do not use words like “escalate” or “supervisor.” In my case, they were greeted by a frosty silence. My guess is that they sound like obscenities in the local language.

* Do not ask if there is U.S.-based support. You will be told that there is “no U.S.-based Dell support."

* You may be told that the DOPE will take personal responsibility for your problem. Loosely translated, this means you will never hear from him/her again.

There is Hope

At some point in this process, you may reach a Newly Oriented Dell Off-shore Personal Expert - a NO-DOPE. This is a person that has recently joined Dell who hasn’t been fully trained and therefore will approach your problem in a friendly, knowledgeable and professional manner. He/she will solve your problem in less time than it took to write this.

The moral of the story is to keep trying; eventually you will reach a NO-DOPE.

You Have Done It

See, I told you that you could do it. Let the kids and pets back in, throw out the towel, and start using complex sentences and polysyllabic words again. And late that night, after everyone has gone to bed, break out the 12-year-old stuff, and toast yourself. Tomorrow you can reload all your programs and restore your data from your backup. You do have a backup, don’t you?

(All of the events related here are based on my experience with two incidents. The process was so frustrating that I probably will not buy another Dell. And of course apologies to Dante, Doug Adams, Greek mythology and those at Dell Off-shore Support who are great.)

I can definitely relate to this <smile>…

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