My Dell Hell has come to an end. The outcome is not entirely what I had hoped for, but at least the issue has been resolved and I understand what has beeng going on.
Thanks to John who took the time to follow through and look at the information that I had posted on this blog about the graphics card that was installed in my laptop. I had ‘spoken with data’ by presenting a screen shot of the diagnositics utility for the graphics card. John took this information and responded in kind – he provided information to me that explained that what I was seeing in the graphics card diagnostics confirmed that the graphics card that was installed in my laptop now is the graphics card that I ordered.
5 months of frustration on my part, half a dozen graphics cards sent to me by Dell and the root cause of the problem was a failure of the information provided about the graphics card to properly meet – or perhaps more accurately to properly set- my expectations as to the performance and capability of the graphics card.
5 months of costs that could easily have been avoided if the information provided about the graphics card had been complete and timely.
It transpires that the hypermemory technology used in the ATI graphics cards means that the card ships with 128mb dedicated video ram but it ‘borrows’ from the system memory as required, up to a maximum of 256MB. Unfortunately there is nothing in the laptop that shows this, leading to confusion. The bios registers 128mb, and the graphics card’s own diagnositics display 128MB with no mention of the ‘reserve tank’ that can be dipped into. There is no indication that the card has a greater capability in reserve.
John found only one specific reference to this in the on-line documentation for the model of laptop. This was in a footnote. This is important information… it should perhaps have been put in a more prominent position in the documentation?
In my email discussions with John on this topic we discussed various options that might be explored to improve the presentation of information about these types of graphics card technologies. He assured me he would bring them forward as suggestions to improve the customer experience for Dell customers. I hope he does so and some changes are implemented. The business case for doing this is simple.. it avoids support costs and increases customer satisfaction.
My suggestions to John included:
- Information about how the cards work should be presented at point of sale. In particular information about what customers should expect to see in any diagnostics tools should be provided.
- The information about how ‘hypermemory’ type graphics technologies work should be promoted from a footnote to a more prominent position in on-line and print documentation.
- Dell should request (or even require) the manufacturers of these graphics cards to modify their diagnostic tools to display the on-board video RAM and the maximum capacity of the ‘reserve tank’ in system memory that can be utilised. I’ll discuss this last suggestion in a bit more detail in a moment.
My suggestion regarding the change to the manufacturer’s own utilities would more accurately reflect the capabilities of the card and align what the utilities show and what the manufacturer (and by extension Dell) advertise the capacity of the card to be. This information could be displayed as follows:
Dedicated Video Ram = 128MB
Maximum Available System RAM = 128MB
Maximum Graphics Memory Available= 256MB
The maximum available system ram value could be hard-coded value based on the model of the card. This would allow a single software fix to address all models of graphics cards. The amended diagnostic control panels could be pushed to Dell customers as a software update. This is not a difficult fix and would quickly address the root cause of the issues at hand. If the diagnostic utility currently installed had shown a ‘memory audit’ like the one above I wouldn’t have raised the support issue in the first place and my blog would have been a quieter place for the last few months.
By increasing the completeness of the information, the accuracy of it improves and the risk of consumers such as myself from raising support cases and pursuing issues which, ultimately, are a result of poor quality information leading to a failure in clear communication as to what the capability of the card is and what the purchaser’s expectation should be.
Personally, I feel that this technology is a fudge and the way the information about the capability of the cards is presented by the manufacturers is misleading. I hope that Dell take this opportunity to implement simple changes to improve the quality of information.
The business case for these changes can be determined easily by Dell based on the number of support cases raised, the length of time/amount of resources expended on investigating and dealing with these cases and the costs of any replacement cards shipped to customers. This is the cost of non-quality.
The benefit to Dell of reducing the risk of confusion is the savings that would result through a reduction in these types of support calls. The return on investment would be straightforward to calculate from there, however based on my experience in information quality management I would suggest that the costs to Dell of the three remediation actions I have suggested would be far less than the costs of service issues arising simply from poor quality information.
The Information Quality lessons that I would suggest people take from this saga:
- Poor Information Quality can impact all processes
- The actions that can be taken to prevent Information Quality problems are often simple, straightforward and easy to implement. The key factor is to focus on the customer and determine what steps need to be taken to ensure your processes and information are meeting or exceeding their expectations
- Speak with Data– when I posted the screen shot from the graphic card utility I provided information to Dell (and to the world) about what I was seeing and the basis on which I felt there was a problem. This then allowed John to validate what I was saying, and he responded in kind with detailed information (including links to wikipedia and the footnote in the on-line Dell documentation). This enabled clear, accurate and effective communication based the facts, not anecdote or hearsay and lead to me being happy to close the issue.
I promised John I would eat some humble pie. I was wrong in my belief that the graphics card that was installed in my laptop was not the spec that was ordered. I am grateful to John and those in Dell who tried to resolve the issue.
However the fact that the issue arose in the first place has at its root the quality of information about the graphics card and its capability. The fact that the issue dragged on for 5 months is, in part, due to the fact that it seemed that there was a lack of information within some areas of Dell about what the capability of the card was and what the situation actually was and a failure to effectively communicate this.
And John’s explanation doesn’t address why the first replacement card that was shipped to me for my laptop was a graphics card for a desktop…
….that still makes me chuckle in bemusement.