How to lose a customer (or a few) in 3 easy steps


OK, I have been neglecting my blog a bit.  It has been a busy summer.  Transitioning into a new position and a lot of fun over the summer.  Look for more regular posts from me, and I hope to return to 1X/week posts.

I wanted to recount my coworkers experience, over the past week, with Dell.  This was so egregious, I felt is was appropriate to name names.

My coworker has a Dell notebook that is a couple years old.  It has been super slow and flaky lately.  We aren’t really sure why it is misbehaving, but the battery is completely dead right now, and it could be causing a few of the issues.

He decided to contact Dell to order a replacement battery.  He calls Dell support, sits on hold (typical) and eventually places an order for a replacement battery.  His computer was no longer under warranty, so he had to pay for the battery with his credit card.  The customer service representative said “we’ll ship this overnight, so you should have it tomorrow.”  My coworker was happy, because it looked like the resolution was on the way.  This was last Thursday.

On Monday he comes into the office, no battery arrived on Friday or over the weekend.  He calls the Dell team to check on his battery. This time around customer service wasn’t so friendly:

  • My coworker: Hi, I called last week and ordered a battery, the service rep told me to expect it in 24 hours.  It has been three days and it is not here.
  • Dell customer “care”:  Please check with UPS, here is the tracking number.  [End Call]

My coworker calls UPS to find out where his package is:

  • UPS customer service:  Dell did not use overnight shipping.  The package is currently in IL, and there is nothing we can do to expedite this, it will arrive on Thursday.


My coworker, obviously irritated, since he has a dead laptop and needs to wait 3 more days for a possible solution.  He decides to call the Dell support team again.

  • Coworker: I am disappointed that my package did not ship overnight as you promised.  How can we resolve this?
  • Dell: Sorry sir, there is nothing I can do.
  • Coworker: Your team did not set my expectations appropriately, if the package was going to ship ground the rep should have told me that.  I am without a computer now, and you did not keep your promises.  Can we expedite my request.
  • Dell: Sorry there is nothing I can do, please check with UPS on the shipping status.
  • Coworker: Can you please overnight a replacement battery to me, if you ship it now, it will still get to me before this package.
  • Dell: Our policies do not allow us to do anything like that.
  • Coworker: Since you guys messed up, don’t you feel that it is your responsibility to make this situation right, by delivering me a battery sooner or something else?
  • Dell: Sorry sir, we cannot do anything like that.  We do not feel it is necessary.  The package has already shipped, so we have resolved this situation.

This goes on for a few more minutes with the same negative result.  The “customer care” refuses to acknowledge the inconvenience this situation has caused, refuse to do anything, even a 10% discount to appease the customer.  They proceed to say: “Nope, we don’t need to help you.”

So at this point my coworker has decided to never do business with Dell again.  The “customer care” could care less.  They were completely unhelpful and unwilling to offer the tiniest of gestures to make the customer feel better.

On Tuesday my coworker made a second failed attempt to get some compensation.  Denied.  Some people think asking for compensation is out of line, and a ploy to get some extra $$.  I am sure if you were in the same situation, you would be P.O.ed too.  It really wasn’t about the amount here, more about the gesture.

How much would it have cost Dell to do the right thing here

  • A discount on the order? $5-10
  • Expedited shipping? $10-15
  • Coupon/or discount towards a future order? $2
  • A free battery? $50

Ask yourself, how much is it worth to retain a customer?  Do you empower your service team to make the customer happy?  Or is your customer care team a roadblock on the path to customer happiness?

Today is Thursday, and there is still no sign of the battery.  It turns out the customer service representative didn’t bother to note my coworkers requested shipping address.  When he checked in with UPS he found out the package was delivered to a former address,.  The package was not delivered, it was only an attempt, luckily.  UPS of course, couldn’t adjust the address, so it was back to Dell.

  • Dell:  Sorry sir we cannot change the delivery address.
  • Coworker: You did not use the address I requested when I placed the order.
  • Dell: Sorry sir there is nothing I can do.
  • Coworker: Would you like me to facilitate a call between you and UPS to get this straightened out?
  • Dell:  No sir, that will not be necessary, I’ll adjust your address now and we’ll get this out for delivery for tomorrow.

I know this entire account sounds absolutely ridiculous.  I personally heard all of the exchanges during the course of this unending transaction (paraphrased here).  At no point in time was my coworker overtly rude or condescending towards the support team, so I really have no idea why this incident played out the way it did.

How do you lose a customer in 3 easy steps?

  1. set expectations incorrectly
  2. refuse to correct your mistake
  3. refuse to acknowledge the negative impact to the customer

And that is one easy way to lose customers in a flash.

At this point, I don’t foresee a happy ending.


4 thoughts on “How to lose a customer (or a few) in 3 easy steps

  1. Brad L

    I work for Dell and would like to help your coworker get this resolved. Please contact me back directly at my email address and I will help in any way I can.

    Brad L
    Community Liaison

    • anonymous

      Too little too late I think. Not at all personally, I’m sure you mean well, but it’s pretty obvious whoever was on the phone should have had the same customer oriented approach to conflict resolution as you Brad, the first time. Good luck with damage control…

  2. I could feel your friend’s frustration as I read this post, as I think we all have gone through situations like this.

    I think we see one common theme through all of this- poor customer service. In the first case they were friendly but didn’t provide good/accurate service, in the 2nd case they were unfriendly, and didn’t help correct the previous situation, in the final call they were the same. And this poor customer service is why we see sites like

    I understand when a company doesn’t want to give extra discounts, benefits, etc, but they wouldn’t have had to if they gave proper service. If they save money by having horrible service they should be willing to pass on a portion of those savings to unsatisfied customers.

    When they receive the battery I would dispute the charge with my credit card, since he did not get what he was expecting for the price (a battery delivered in one day).

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