The moderated message boards, which allowed Dell customers to post and reply to questions about general order support, rebate status, warranty information or invoice questions, were shut down July 8. The company notified customers of the change on Monday with a posted message that referred customers to Dell's Order Status Web site or its online chat feature that promises to link consumers with a Dell Customer Care representative.
Longtime contributors such as "Rick," who also runs a site called Rickmktg.com, expressed sadness at the changes.
"For those of us that have spent the past few years on these forums, we know the tens of thousands of people that the moderators have helped," Rick said in a post this week. "Shutting down the Customer Service (non technical) forums will only further the belief that Dell is focusing on business customers and doesn't care about the consumer."
A forum community assistant known as Mark said he also feels for the many moderators who spent hours monitoring the sites for customers in need of help.
"It is very disconcerting that we will lose access to the wonderful support that these individuals have supplied throughout the years," he said.
Even the moderators themselves said they were saddened by the news. Dell's "Chandler," who was selected as the first moderator of the customer service board, when it was originally known as WebTalk, in 1997, said he was proud of his Customer Care boards' reputation for being "the place where our customers could go to have their problems solved."
Dell spokeswoman Jennifer Davis said the closure was necessary because many of the issues that cropped up on the boards were of the type that should be addressed only by authorized Dell representatives and not other customers. Many of the answers, she said, required access to customers' personal information.
The No. 1 computer maker said how-to questions, preventative maintenance issues and other nontechnical concerns are better handled through other Dell Community Forum boards that cover the company's home and home office systems, consumer electronics and financial services.
"What this was all about was determining that we had channels that were better suited to handle these order-support type inquiries, and then we could move the presales and Dell financials services that used to be housed under Customer Care over to general boards," Davis said, noting that the company has spent nearly the last two years revamping its online customer service.
As to rumblings that Dell is cutting back on its forums to squelch any negative postings, Davis said moderators remove offensive language but leave even the most critical messages to stand intact. They're even archived.
A quick search for the word "horrible" on the presales board turned up 63 responses. A query for the words "rude technician" gathered 96 results, while a search for the phrase "bad service" came back with 9,044 hits.