Dell Tech Support: 2015 Rating

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If you have a problem with a Dell notebook or desktop, chances are you'll get your problem resolved a lot faster if you look for the answer online. We found that, while Dell's website and online chat were great for resolving issues with our laptop, the company's phone support not only took a long time, but also failed to resolve any of our issues.

I had three questions I wanted Dell to answer: How do I get "Hey, Cortana" up and running, how do I change the audio on my notebook, and how do I reverse the direction of two-finger scrolling on my touchpad. For this test, I used a Dell Inspiron 15 3000 Series notebook.

Web and Social Support

Among other upgrades, Dell told us that it has worked in the last year to make its support site easier to navigate. Indeed, I found it fairly easy to find what I was looking for. The support home-page has three large tabs: Product Support, Top Resources, and Orders and Support Requests. Here, you can find multiple ways to connect to tech support.

dell-tss15_pq_ask_a_questionOn the main support page, a small tab on the right says, "Contact Us." I selected Get Technical Support, which then opened a page with three options in the middle: Phone, Chat and Email.

All three options directed me, essentially, to the same page, which prompted me to enter a service tag to identify my notebook first.

interactive support agent   cortanaAn Interactive Support Agent (the Ask a Question button) proved very useful. Under Hot Topics, an item named Meet Cortana brought me to a page with a number of Cortana-related topics, including "Turn Cortana on and off," "Reasons Cortana doesn't talk to me" and "Cortana can't hear me." All led to Microsoft support pages, but the answers there were very easy to follow.

interactive support agent touchpadWhen I used the Interactive Support Agent to ask, "How do I reverse scrolling on my touchpad?" it asked me first if I had a notebook or desktop, then listed a number of other topic items, including Cursor Is Erratic, Multi-Touch Gestures and Slow-Moving Cursor. I selected Multi-Touch Gestures, which brought up two additional topics: Enable Gestures and Gestures Explained. Selecting either option opened the same page, which had an illustrated guide not just explaining how to enable gestures, but also showing what they did. I even learned about a new one.

I also used Dell's online chat tool, which connected me with a rep named Syed after about a minute's wait. This time, I asked about a different issue: The Dell Audio control panel wasn't displaying menu items and words, just a bunch of blank spaces and a few slider bars. I uploaded a screenshot of the problem to him, after which he took control of the system remotely. He informed me that it could take 30 to 40 minutes to resolve.

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After taking remote control of the notebook, he had me show him where the problem was on the notebook. Next, he disabled the Digital Display Audio in the generic Windows sound control panel, to no effect. Following that, he updated the BIOS and restarted the computer, and the Dell Audio control panel was back to normal. In all, the entire exchange took about 40 minutes.

Dell also has a tool called SupportAssist that you can download to your notebook or desktop, which will monitor your system and automatically notify Technical Support if something goes wrong. You can set the utility to run scheduled scans, and send you desktop alerts for a number of issues, including those concerning Hardware, Software, Security and BIOS.

The company said that its social team typically responds to queries in an hour or less, but don't expect a prompt reply. When I tweeted at @DellCares, asking how I could change the scrolling direction on my Inspiron 15, the account responded 37 minutes later, asking for clarification. I then sent a message back, but it was another 53 minutes before I heard back again. This time, the team sent a link to a Dell support page that showed how to adjust the touchpad.

I also reached out to the Dell TechCenter Facebook page by posting a screenshot of the issue and asking for help, but didn't receive a response until 3 and a half hours later.

Phone Support

Dell said that consumers should experience fewer transfers when they call tech support versus in previous years. The first person you talk to should identify the issue, then transfer you to a second person who can resolve it. While that was largely true during my testing, I found calls were just as tedious this time around, and less than helpful.

I made one call during the day (around 4:45 p.m. EDT) to ask how I could get "Hey, Cortana" to work. After answering a few questions to an automated voice, I was put on hold for 15 minutes before being connected to a rep named Chad. After I described the problem, he then said it was probably more of a Microsoft issue, and gave me that company's support line, before transferring me to Dell's software-support services. However, the call was suddenly disconnected. I called back on a landline, and, after explaining my problem to Sangyam, was told that, because I didn't have a software warranty, I would need to purchase a year's subscription ($239) or pay a one-time service fee of $89, which was good for three days.

dell-tss15_pq_revertLater that evening (9 p.m. EDT), I called to find out how I could change the direction of scrolling on the touchpad. After going through the same automated process, I was put on hold for 12 minutes before Jalvin picked up. While explaining my issue, I told him that I had upgraded my notebook to Windows 10. He told me that the company was getting a lot of calls from customers who had upgraded, and recommended that I revert my notebook back to Windows 8.1, and that I should wait three to five months to upgrade.

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Jalvin then transferred me to Ajith, who, after spending 10 minutes registering the computer in my name, had me install remote-access software so he could check the drivers on the laptop. He, too, then said that I needed to purchase a software warranty in order for him to help me. "There are a lot of glitches in Windows 10," he said.

He did add that a yearly subscription includes 5GB of online storage, a monthly phone call for maintenance and the Dell Tech Concierge tool. He also quoted a different price for the one-time fee: $129, valid for one week, plus a call back from a senior technician.

When I balked at the price — the notebook itself cost less than $400 — Ajith then put his supervisor on the phone, who said that they would need to install new drivers to get the touchpad working correctly. When I told him that the price was too high, he suggested I go to In all, the call lasted 1 hour.

For the record, the correct drivers were installed. Right-clicking on the Dell Touchpad icon in the task bar let me select Touchpad Properties, which then opened the Dell Pointing Devices control panel. From there, it was a simple matter of unchecking the Reverse Scroll Direction box.

To be fair, both issues are software based, but when the resolution to both is a matter of clicking a single button, it hardly seems worth the cost of the software warranty.

Bottom Line

Dell does a good job offering multiple channels to help resolve any issues you have: Its notebooks have a proactive diagnostic tool, and through the company's website, you can call, email or chat online with a representative. Even if you try and fix the problem yourself, the site is fairly helpful in guiding you along the process. The least efficient, or effective, way of getting a problem resolved is through Dell's call center. Phoning tech support may seem antiquated to many, but that doesn't mean it can't be as good as other methods. Based on my experience, the live chat was the best method of getting my problem solved.

Tech Support Showdown 2015

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  • Jim Roberts Says:

    I read all these negative comments with great amusement, I broke my laptop screen, and expect Dell to repair it for free. When you crack your windshield do you expect Caddilac to fix it? to I spent $2000 on a laptop but couldn't be bothered protecting my investment my upgrading to a decent warranty and complain when you receive the "YGWYPF" service. If you have an onsite warranty and they refuse service, you ask for a supervisor. An amateurish article responded to by amateur Computer users....

  • Charlene Says:

    I bought a dell and was reminded again today why that was a terrible decision. Poor customer service, long wait times and reps blaming customers for substandard dell product problems. My screen cracked, was told that warranty only covers mother board and that if have to pay sell 269 plus wait 12 to 15 days to have it fixed and then additional time to send it back.
    I was on the phone for 40 plus minutes with three different people. Half of that waiting.

  • Kris Says:

    This review is laughable. Did the writer preface contact with, "Hello Dell Representative. I'm researching an article for Laptop Magazine. Tell me, how much is the company willing to bid for an A rating? Anything below 50 million puts you in the running for a C minus".... In the past 6 weeks I have suffered through 45 emails, phone calls and live chat sessions with Dell customer support. The option to speak with an English speaking rep is non-existent. I spoke with many reps named Karash and PuhLeep. I typed with many reps named Jay and Jenna. Exactly 1 day after the return period lapsed, Dell admitted that my brand new $1500 computer was a lemon. A replacement computer was authorized. 7 phone calls later, it was processed and shipped. The brand new replacement computer is also a lemon.

  • Adam Says:

    I'm sorry but your review doesn't address more important customer service issues.

    Like when your computer simply isn't working properly. Every case you gave them was a relatively simple task for anyone who has basic computer skills.

    I've been buying from Dell for nearly a decade now. Purchasing my first laptop from them in 2005. I've loved them over the years. The ease of custom putting together a computer, ordering it, and getting service for it.

    Enough so that I've gotten several family members on their computers.

    Over the past decade I've purchased more and more valuable models from them. With the most recent model I bought in May 2013. It was their top line XPS laptop, costing me nearly $2000.

    Unfortunately it's been nothing but a headache of a product. Being the only laptop that I've had wifi card issues in... on top of that compared to the past where I could get a technician to help me with those small things (like finding certain applications or components to re-install drivers) for free, I learned the harsh way that anything outside of basic troubleshoot problems is now a $30 charge. An unfortunate change from service I've been given in the past.

    Not to mention that many barely understand your issue, and anything more complicated then "how to set up the basics takes a lot longer then a half hour". This review got the top of the ice berg. There's a whole lot of trouble below water level though.

    Suffice to say I will be doing a lot of reconsidering before I purchase my next computer from them. Especially since overall I think the products they are creating now are inferior in their design compared to past models.

  • Robert Deck Says:

    Your amateur review of Dell shows. If you want to talk to a script reader in India, Dell is your company. They wouldn't give me onsite repair for a failed fan though I had an onsite warranty. They sent me a windows installation disk with a windows 8 set of drivers. They insisted I wipe off the feed tray of my printer with a damp cloth for a wifi connectivity problem. What a joke! How much did Dell pay you?

  • Dennis Gagnon Says:

    I recently purchase Dells Inspiron desktop computer and nee

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