Well, I got to test Dell's support over the weekend. On Saturday afternoon, December 17th, my Dell Dimension 9100 (bought in July, nice and zippy, and extremely quiet) decided to get temperamental. I was editing a Word document when all of a sudden a notice popped up, announcing that the system had lost contact with my printer. At the same time, my mouse stopped working. After a little testing here and there, I discovered that all of my USB ports had failed -- kind of a toughie when you have a USB-connected mouse and keyboard -- even though they were all giving off power.
So, I called Dell Support. After about five minutes on hold and listening to pre-recorded suggestions such as, "Most computer problems can be solved by rebooting the machine. Go to the Start menu, select Turn Off Computer...," Veronica came on the line -- with a heavy Indian accent. She asked me what my support number was (even though I'd been forced to give that earlier to just access the line) and then we started through the list, asking me things such as, "Are you sure both your mouse and keyboard haven't failed?" [Nope, tried them on my laptop and the work], and "Why don't you reboot and try to go into Windows Safe Mode" [OK, but considering that the screen shows "Keyboard failure" after the POST test, I don't think the system is going to register that I'm hitting a function key.]
Eventually she decided that my motherboard had failed, and so Dell would send out a technician to replace it. Having been a Customer Support Rep (or CSR as we say in the biz) for three years, it wasn't too bad an experience. Some of her requests were nonsensical (such as asking me to go into Safe Mode when the keyboard wasn't being recognized), but at least she was thorough. I have certainly kicked myself more than once for debugging a customer's problem for hours only to find out I didn't ask the most obvious question that could have resolved the problem in two minutes. She was polite and her accent wasn't too thick, although I did have to ask her to repeat her questions about half the time. [Now that would be an interesting study -- how much longer call times are when support is done offshore because the customer and CSR have to repeat themselves.]
So, we'll see how things go. First, when the technician turns up -- Veronica was predicting a four-day wait -- and whether the motherboard swap actually fixes the problem. I'll keep you posted. (And in case you're wondering how I'm able to post to my blog with a non-working PC, I've pressed my laptop into service.)
Continued: Testing Dell's Support - Part 2