Eight years ago, Tim Bergman was the finance manager for a Ford dealership based out of Glenwood Springs, Colorado. As is typical in a growing business, Tim had to wear several hats; one of those was IT. Although Glenwood Springs Ford had dealt with local IT consultants, the dealership needed someone who knew the ins and outs of the company and could proactively address its IT needs. The owners were negotiating a sale to build and incorporate a new dealership 30 miles away. Both stores needed to share a common database of contacts as well as an uplink to Ford Motor Company. Although he had limited experience executing IT solutions, Tim knew what the needs were, and most importantly he was willing to learn how to get them implemented.

By the summer of 1998, Tim was in the unique position to start with a veritable clean slate. He needed to buy and set up all the desktops for the new dealership, buy a server to replace the desktop database at the original store, and set up VoIP connections for both stores.

The job could have been piecemealed out, but a recent experience with his home computer made him a bit leery. Tim bought all of the components, which were top of the line (back in 1998), but nothing seemed to work very well together. There were constant hardware conflicts and he spent most of his time struggling to get Windows 98 to respond. For the expanding business, he just couldn't take the chance of having hardware break down. In the end, Tim decided to take advantage of a business alliance between Ford and Dell and contracted with Dell to provide all the hardware and technical support for the dealership. Using Dell as his sole IT supplier was an easy choice for Tim, who had a limited amount of time in his schedule to deal with IT issues. He'd get all the equipment he needed from one place, at a reasonable cost, and he knew that the products would function reliably without the need for constant monitoring.

In the 7 years since that initial purchase, Tim has been pleased with the service Dell has given his company. Several incidents early on convinced him that he'd made a wise choice. "At one point, we had some major conflicts between Windows Me and the new \[application\] software we were using. Dell went out of their way to change the OS to Windows 2000 even though the conflict was not their fault." The incident that surprised him the most, however, was when a laptop's keyboard stopped working. Tim called the Dell service center hoping that he could get the laptop sent off, fixed, and returned to the small Colorado mountain town within a few weeks. Less than 1 hour after the call to Dell, a service technician arrived at the dealership to repair the keyboard.

The group of individuals that owned the dealership in Glenwood Springs has since expanded to four dealerships in three Colorado towns. Together, the dealerships serve a customer base of more than 20,000, which makes maintaining the seamless flow of information between the stores more crucial than ever. Tim still has his finger on the IT department, although with a recent purchase of another dealership he has been promoted to general manager of Glenwood Springs Chrysler Dodge. Those early Dell purchases still provide a ROI for the company. Tim estimates that the longevity of the Dell servers he initially set up, combined with Dell's outstanding customer service, saved the owners more than $15,000 in upgrades after its most recent dealership acquisition. "We just added another partition to our 'Mothership' \[a Dell PowerEdge 4200 server\], and everything has been working well, including shared data services, wireless connections, VoIP phones, and weekly videoconferences," he says.

Like most IT pros, Tim Bergman doesn't take customer service and technical support for granted. For many small-to-midsized businesses (SMBs) like the one Tim works for, a vendor's tech support isn't merely a convenience; it's a business-critical IT service. As the winner of the 2005 Readers' Choice Best Service and Support award, Dell shows that it continues to live up to its reputation as a superior service and support provider.