Sunday, March 25, 2007

My ongoing drama with Alienware.

How much customer support time do you think it takes to get a graphics board swapped out? If you said almost 4 hours- you would be right.

So - last week I called Alienware because I was trying to get dual monitors hooked up to my Alienware desktop. Blogged about it here. The thing is, it isn't like we didn't know how to have a machine set up this way. My last machine was running with dual monitors.

We were fairly confident is was a hardware issue. But Alienware customer support wanted to have a go at "fixing" it.

First let me tell you folks. This shouldn't be an unusual request, or a particularly complicated issue to debug. Its either software settings, drivers, or a hardware problem. Thats it! But after 1 hour and 15 minutes talking to the first tech support guy - my husband finally had to tell him we would have to end the call. We had things to do, and just couldn't spend anymore time on the phone. The support guy did wind up sending us an email telling us to make sure we had the latest drivers installed and if that didn't work - we would need to have the board swapped out.

So - after updating the drivers to the requested revision we called into the support line. I really wanted to have an on-site guy come out because at this point the machine wasn't recognizing I had a sound card. Half of the video card was dead, and the machine wouldn't reboot without having to turn it off and letting it cool down.

Admittedly - the sound issue I should have caught sooner, but it wasn't a priority until I got the data closet finished. Now that I was having several problems - I might as well get everything fixed. The sound issue turned out to be a very simple fix. It was just disabled in the BIOS.

Now why Alienware ships a high end gaming system with the BIOS setting turned off is beyond me - but not a big deal. The support guy even said it happens sometimes when they are testing stuff before they send it out. Surely there must be some clever reason they need to waste a phone reps time for something they could quickly have checked. This took a few minutes to fix, and we thought it would be a good sign.

Yeah - not so much. We spent roughly 2 hours 45 minutes on the phone with this guy. Let me remind you, we had already spent over an hour diagnosing the problem on a previous call. The guy had the call notes right in front of him.

Most of the call centered around trying to get the NVIDIA Control Panel to come up. The problem was - the program would crash and wouldn't come up. This made the rep repeatedly tell us how to bring up the control panel. We would repeatedly tell him we were doing what he asked, and it resulted in a crash report.

After that - we went through un/reinstalling the drivers several times. This was all exacerbated the the fact that each time he wanted me to reboot - the machine would have to be turned off to cool down - or it refused to boot. Finally the rep tried telling us that "he couldn't reproduce the problem".

I think it was at this point I was starting to freak out. It was also right about the two hour mark. We firmly told him that just not being able to bring up the control panel didn't make a non-reproducible problem. In fact we were gaining new problems. And that the "Display Properties" setting still had my second monitor grayed out. Even though when the machine booted - both monitors would show an Alien logo, and would drop out when it was almost fully booted.

Finally after about 15 more minutes - he went to get authorization to have the board swapped. Finally I thought. But this guy wasn't done pissing me off.

Because I chose the option of having to pay for the card until we returned the bad one - I asked the him to make sure they were going to ship the card "signature required". It is a 600 dollar card and we already had a problem with FedEx.

After the rep added a few more notes - I again requested that he make sure a signature would be required. To which he replied "oh - I thought you said - no signature required". WHAT?!

And here is the absolute kicker. At the end of the call the rep asks " are you happy with the help I have provided today"? My head is spinning at this point, because after almost 3 hours on the phone what else am I going to say but "yes". I'm tired - and the last thing I want to do it talk to a manager, or get sucked into some conversation on why I'm not happy. Just ridiculous.

It constantly astounds me that companies can't figure out how much money they loose through inadequate customer support.

Other Alienware Blog Entries here, here, and here.


  1. I have no idea what all that computer-y stuff is, but anytime you have to spend that much time on the phone with anyone, ouch.

  2. Maybe you should get a typewriter or something similar which is within your abilities to operate. I can't believe you wasted so much of Alienware's time because you don't know how to configure your own motherboard bios.