Dell customer service fails again

A few years back I had the misfortune of using a Dell Latitude D600 notebook computer for my work.  At the time I wrote about the problems I experienced with Dell customer service and it seems that Michael Dell’s return as CEO isn’t doing much to improve the customer experience.

Then, last week, I bought a Dell PowerEdge 840 server.  I did it because it was cheap.  So, one might ask what am I complaining about but, even though £391.98 is very inexpensive for a server, I expect some service when I’m trying to buy something from someone.

I suppose I’m spoilt because normally I buy many servers at a time, have a technical account manager to help me select the right options and it’s someone else’s money if I miss something and need to buy some more components.  Oh yes, and I buy HP servers where possible.  This time I was spending my own money and wanted the best deal possible.

As I worked through Dell’s "build your system" website, I wanted some technical support for the RAID connectivity options which, after telling me that the server supports up to 2 cabled or hot-plug SAS or SATA hard drives, the website listed as:

  • C1B – Motherboard SATA cabled, min 2, max 2 Hard Drives connected to onboard SATA controller.
  • C1C – Motherboard SATA cabled, min 3, max 3 Hard Drives connected to onboard SATA controller.
  • C1D – Motherboard SATA cabled, min 4, max 4 Hard Drives connected to onboard SATA controller.

I was confused.  If the server only supports 2 cabled or hot-plug drives, then why is there a no-cost option to have 3 or 4 hard drives connected to the on-board SATA controller?  So I called Dell.  Only to find after about 8 (no kidding) menu options on the phone system that the "small business" department I needed to speak to was closed and only works from 9 to 4.30 Monday to Friday (part-timers…).

I bought the server anyway because the discount was due to expire (it’s since been extended) and called back on Monday. After making 4 menu selections I got to a person who was somewhere in South Asia and sounded helpful but was clearly following a script.  She redirected me to someone in Ireland who sounded annoyed that I was taking up her time and told me that my query was a technical one (not sales). She put me through to technical support, who were confused when I said that I didn’t have a service tag because my system was still being built but put me through to the PowerEdge department anyway.  They were busy but after 5 minutes on hold I spoke to a person who was helpful but didn’t really fill me with confidence in his advice as first of all, he told me that the PowerEdge 840 supports up to 4 drives (good) but that the options may be for different backplanes.  Then he checked and said that the system supports 2 drives on the motherboard but drives 3 and 4 would need a separate RAID controller.  As that seemed to contradict the options at purchase time and he couldn’t comment on the "build your system" website, I’m still no clearer.

I guess I’ll find out how many drives I can get in this server (and what the C1B/C/D options mean) when it arrives next week…

6 thoughts on “Dell customer service fails again


  1. Since I wrote this post, Dell have been in contact and I’ve spoken to one of their product specialists. It seems that over the life of the PowerEdge 840 the configuration has changed a few times and although there is physical space inside the chassis for 4 drives Dell originally only supported two directly connected and an additional RAID controller was required for drives 3 and 4.

    Now there are backplane options for hot plug disks or it is possible to configure the system with directly cabled drives (on my server, there are 4 SATA ports on the motherboard and the drive cage has space for 4 disks).

    The wording on the “build your system” website is taken from Dell’s internal sales system and rather than (for example) “C1B – Motherboard SATA cabled, min 2, max 2 Hard Drives connected to onboard SATA controller” it should really read something like “C1B – Motherboard SATA cabled, 2 Hard Drives connected to onboard SATA controller (minimum 1, maximum 4)”.


  2. It’s a shame that Dell have stoofed it on the Customer Service front. For years I recommended Dell to anyone that asked, not because they were the cheapest, but because I’d never had any complaints about their Customer Service. I for one was willing to pay a bit more for a better service.

    It seems in recent years that it’s all gone pear shaped though and their customer service has gone down the pan. This is just another example of why they’re off my recommended list.

    Sorry to hear about your troubles.


  3. @Bert – thanks for your comments.

    To be fair to Dell one of their Technical Account Managers got in touch the morning after I posted this article. Some of the people at Dell have been working very hard to make things better for me and I have a blog post prepared and ready to publish as soon as I get everything sorted.

    The trouble is that other parts of the organisation are less willing to assist, which is why I got so annoyed with the parts “specialist” that I spoke to yesterday (who told me that the Kingston memory modules Dell sell were not compatible with my system and tried to sell me the more expensive Dell memory – he later retracted that statement after I gave him the correct part number!) and why I’m still waiting for a customer care team to send me a couple of SATA connector cables (or even to just give me a call for some customer care).

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