cpg industry

Outsourcing and The Dell Machine: Chew Up the Little Guy & Spit Him Out

Like you, I bought into the Dell approach - no hassle, cheap, easy financing. What a marvel of modern business, I thought. Well, neither you, nor Mr. Dell himself realize the terrible psychological impact of Dell Financial Services' call center armies in the Far East and their poor management of the relationships Dell works so hard to establish. Frankly, even though I know the competition is nowhere near as effective, I'm switching all my business (at least until Dell regains control of their financing portfolio).

You launch your business and need computers. You go to the website, apply for that instant financing, get it, buy a few machines, and hurray, you're in business. Whether you realize it or not, Dell just sold you a machine using Dell Financial Services' money; CIT manages DFS for Dell and to make this arrangement profitable enough for CIT, small accounts are managed by call centers in other parts of the world.

If you're lucky, it's not likely you'll encounter substantial problems with your box, so you forgo customer support service fees and you're ok. But let your bill pass just one day and you'll understand where the problem is.

The calls probably start the first day late - day 1. On this day, your payment has already arrived, but hasn't been processed, so, naturally, "the system" queues you to request you pay your bill by phone. Of course, you don't want to pay by phone, because you've already paid. DFS believes they're your #1 priority and says, damn the payment that's on its way or already at our U.S. office, pay us now! Amused because the far eastern rep on the phone hasn't yet fully mastered American innuendo of tonality, you insist you're not paying by phone and hang up.

You figure you'll let this one time slide, because Dell is so cool. And continue diligently paying your bill, making Michael ever richer. But next month, another rep calls back requesting advanced payment now. So, you want me to pay a bill I already paid? And it'll be like credit for next month? No, thanks; my money's a whole lot more valuable in my bank account than in yours. They don't give up, almost as if they've got a quota, and you actually feel yourself getting irritated.

Month after month they call, for years. Dell has no clue that their "strategic" financing partner has irreparably obliterated my relationship with them. I'm a measly several thousand dollar account, barely a fraction of a fraction of Michael's wealth; but for them, I might as well owe them $10 billion for all the unwanted attention they give me. No other vendor our firm deals with is this dreadfully relentless.

So, I refuse to pay until I receive the respect I'm due a customer. It's not enough I abandon my machines and start using other vendors. Now, I've got a point to make and they're really going to listen, right?

Well, DFS has special protocols. After one week past the due date, they call twice a week; then thrice a week; then daily; then hourly; then every 10 minutes! And this is only after two months are due - Day 61! They'll call from different numbers, send letters, emails, all because that's just how their "system" works. After years of loyal, timely payments, you miss one because you're too busy doing something more important or maybe due to circumstances outside your control, and this is how they deal with you? After this "harassment", I no longer feel as though I'm paying for great products and service, I'm just making Dell richer, which of course, makes me less willing to make any payment.

What happens when your capital is idle? You find a way to redeploy it. Well, if employees are considered human capital (by outsourcers), then if they're sitting around doing nothing, they're pretty worthless. So DFS must put these far easterners to work on the phone in order to get their money's worth. This common sense doesn't actually sound so good when it's you they're calling every 10 minutes (which I still can't believe, but it's true).

Dell will receive their payment on our 5 machines before our account goes into delinquency, which is typically on the 90th day. But when our firm needs 5,000 terminals, it's the competition we'll be calling. You may want to consider that when evaluating your own outsourcing/offshoring strategy.

Write to Al Berrios at editor@alberrios.com


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