Right before school started last year I bought my son a new Dell laptop, a Windows 8 machine with a touchscreen. He loves it.

Fast forward to a month ago when our family rented a vacation house. My son brought his laptop along so he could play DVDs on it – online gaming was right out because we had purposefully rented a house with no Internet connection so we could unplug from work.

The first time my son tried to log on he found that Windows did not want to accept his password because he was not online. I’m going to skip the lengthy explanation of why this is not supposed to happen, why it happened anyway, all the things we tried to do to fix the problem ourselves, etc. (Maybe they’ll end up in a different post – who knows?)

Suffice it to say that since the laptop was still under warranty, and the problem seemed simple enough, I decide to call Dell. I assumed they’d encountered this situation a million times and could tell me a fix in their sleep. Well, I was wrong. After talking to five different people (could have been four, could have been six, I lost count after a while) I realized that I had made a mistake and hung up on the hold music.

Since I hate to let an interesting customer experience go to waste, though, I’d like to offer some hopefully helpful advice to the Dell customer service people – because, in fact, we do like that machine we bought from them and would love them to be around for our next laptop purchase. With that in mind, here are my top suggestions for the people who tried to help me as well as anyone else who runs a customer service operation.

1) Transfer my data with my call. I’m okay with turning the laptop over to read the tiny serial number on the back of the machine to the first person I talk to. But do I really need to do that every time I get transferred to a new person? In 2014, I should not. So if you need to do some good old fashioned systems integration work in order to pass my data from rep to rep, please bite the bullet and do it. In the meantime, do warm handoffs where the rep I’ve been talking to reads my information to the rep he’s passing me on to through a communications protocol we refer to as “human speech.” (And if this problem was caused by a misguided policy issue, please change it.)

2) Stop empathizing with me and solve my problem. Empathy is great, but resolving a customer’s problem quickly is far more important when it comes to driving customer loyalty – as proven by some of our most recent research. The first time I heard a rep express sorrow over my problem, tell me how she understood why it was upsetting, and reassure me that solving my problem was her top priority, I thought that her script was a little over the top. The second time I heard a rep go through the script, I knew it was over the top. Every time after that made me want to scream, “Please stop empathizing and tell me how to log into my son’s computer!”

3) Don’t be afraid to tell me you can’t solve my problem when you really can’t. The first rep could have told me that unfortunately, this was a problem that only a visit to the Microsoft site (or a call to MSFT) could solve. I would have been okay with that. Instead, one rep after another tried to find a person who could solve my problem. Their intentions were great! But I’m sure you know what the road to hell is paved with… Anyway, I really want that hour of my vacation back.

4) Don’t try to sell me something expensive before you solve my seemingly simple problem. Either the second or third person I spoke with offered to sell me a $230 service contract, or else solve just my current problem for $130.  Hahahahahaha. He made the pitch very politely, did not pressure me at all, and after I (also politely) declined he transferred me to someone who he thought might be able to help for free. So I do not blame him, I blame whatever broken process sent me to him in the first place – a classic example of a misaligned customer experience ecosystem.

5) Don’t ask me to do something catastrophic without making sure I get what you’re suggesting. One rep told me she could solve my problem. She casually asked if we had backed up the computer recently. I asked why that was important. After some back and forth which made it clear we were operating from very different sets of assumptions, I realized that she wanted to do something with Windows that would wipe out all the files on my son’s computer. Yikes! No thanks, I’d like to explore other options (with Microsoft if necessary – see 3 above). 

6) Once it’s clear that you’ve failed, give up and don’t nag me. I hung up on some hold music after being transferred multiple times and listening to a lot of hold music. Later, I got a voicemail message: Do you want to continue to go through this process? (That would be the process where I wipe out all my son’s files.) No thanks! I’m sure this message – and at least one other message I got after that – seemed like being conscientious. Ditto for the email that began, “Thank you again for contacting Dell Basic Technical Support. We are dedicated to delivering outstanding service and customer satisfaction, and we truly appreciate having you as a customer.” Sure, some follow up was in order, but how about looking at the context of my customer journey and instead sending me a note asking me for insight into why things didn’t work out?