To: Michael Dell….
CC: Michael George, chief marketing officer and vice president for the U.S. consumer business, Dell
Let me give you some indication of why, from one consumer’s perspective. I won’t bore you with all the details of my saga of Dell hell; you can read all about it here and here. The bottom line is that a low-price coupon may have gotten me to buy a Dell, but your product was a lemon and your customer service was appalling.
I shipped back my computer today and only — only — because I wrote an email to you, Mr. George, did I manage to get a refund. I’m typing this on an Apple Powerbook. I also have bought two more Apples for our home.
But you didn’t just lose three PC sales and me as a customer.
Today, when you lose a customer, you don’t lose just that customer, you risk losing that customer’s friends. And thanks to the internet and blogs and consumer rate-and-review services, your customers have lots and lots of friends all around the world.
And then have them read all the many posts of other bloggers who pointed to my posts and shared their dissatisfaction with your products, service, and brand and, in many cases, announced that they were no longer going to buy your name: See some of those posts here or here and you’ll learn a lot.
Heard of those new podcast things? Well, you’re in one.
Now go read the press this generated, because the press is reading blogs, even if you’re not: here (where Fast company turned consumer dissatisfaction into a verb: you got Dell’d), here (ZDnet not just in America but in India, where your many customer-service people are probably reading this, even if you’re not), here (a mainstream newspaper), here (an influential online news service), here (a consumer PC magazine), here (BusinessWeek, guys), and plenty more here: Just Google it; you should be doing that every day.
Or nevermind the press and even the blogs and just go to a food court to listen to what your customers are really saying about you. A VC in Toronto named Rick Segal happened to be in his building’s food court when he witnessed this scene:
I happened to be sitting across from a couple of bank tellers from TD Canada Trust, the bank in our building. These two ladies I’d seen before so I knew where they worked.
Lady one: I was going to buy a new Dell but did you hear about Jeff Jarvis and the absolute hell he is going through with them.
Lady two: Yeah, I know the IT guy told me that the cobler blog was recommending we stay away from Dell.
Okay, after you are done laughing at this; laughing at Scoble’s name being mangled, laughing at two random bank tellers talking about some one line blog entry about some guy pissed off about his Dell experience; after you are done: Pay Attention.
I’ll accept that an IT guy would be reading scoble’s blog. I’ll even accept the IT guy offering an opinion which, randomly, I overheard.
The pay attention part: Lots of people (Dell?) are making the assumption that “average people” or “the masses” don’t really see/read blogs so, we take a little heat and move on.
At the same time, as the tech columnist in the Houston Chronicle reported, you closed down one of your consumer forums and your own spokesman said that you have a corporate policy of not talking to your customers on blogs.
So allow me to give you some friendly and free advice about these blog things. You can pay for more.
1. Read blogs. Go to Technorati, Icerocket, Google, Bloglines, Pubsub, and search for Dell and read what they’re saying about you. Get it out of your head that these are “bloggers,” just strange beasts blathering. These are consumers, your marketplace, your customers — if you’re lucky. They are just people. You surely spend a fortune on consumer research, on surveys and focus groups and thinktanks to find out what people are thinking. On blogs, they will tell you for free. All you have to do is read them. All you have to do is listen.
2. Talk with your consumers. One of your executives said you have a look-don’t-touch policy regarding blogs. How insulting that is: You ignore your consumers? You act as if we’re not here? How would you like it if you gave someone thousands of dollars and they ignored you? You’re not used to being treated that way. Neither are we. It’s just rude. These bloggers care enough to talk about your products and service and brands. The least you can do is engage them and join the conversation. You will learn more than any think tank can ever tell you about what the market thinks of your products. But go to the next step: Ask ask your consumers what they think you should do. You’ll end up with better products and you’ll do a better job selling them to more satisfied customers who can even help each other, if you’ll let them. It’s good business, gentlemen.
3. Blog. If Microsoft and Sun and even GM, fercapitalismsake, can have their smartest blogging. So why shouldn’t you? Or the better question: Why should you? Because it’s a fad? No. Because it will make you cool with your kids? No. Blog because it shows that you are open and unafraid — no, eager — to engage your consumers, eye-to-eye.
4. Listen to all your bad press and bad blog PR and consumer dissatisfaction and falling stock price and to the failure of your low-price strategy and use that blog to admit that you have a problem. Then show us how you are going to improve quality and let us help. Make better computers and hire customer service people who serve customers.
It sounds so simple, so downright silly, doesn’t it? But that’s what you’re not doing now. And that’s why you lost me as a customer. But if you join the conversation your customers are having without you, it may not be too late.
P.S. I have one Dell left in the house, my son‘s. And just last night, he said he had to buy a fan to put under his machine to suck the heat out so the graphics card won’t overheat and slow down every time he plays a game. He looked online and found that people have complained to Dell… but no one would listen. Do you hear us now?