Today’s helpful Dell blogging tip

Dell bloggers, I hope you are prepared for a sure flood of comments from customers with their specific sagas of woe. You’re going to have customers who will want answers to their own problems or who will want to hear about changes at Dell that will solve the problems they’ve had. It’s starting already. See this comment:

So please use this blog to tell us, *specifically* what is Dell doing to improve in this area? When will we, as customers, see significant change in this area? Is there light at the end of this long dark tunnel?

I see the Lionel Menchaca, the digital media manager, answering a few comments and that’s good. But you’d better be prepared for a mob.

I never intended to form a mob of unhappy Dell customers. They formed themselves. When I wrote my original post on June 21 last year, my only intent was to add to the wisdom of the crowds you find when searching Google for the wisdom of the pissed-off crowd, the true consumer reports you find when you look for any brand followed by the word “sucks.” But the response was incredible. That original post got 253 comments (which are now, unfortunately, broken); thousands more came in with comments to later posts, their own blog posts and links, and emails. The mob coalesced around my complaint with their own complaints; that is how the internet works. To this day, I get plaintive emails, comments, and links from people telling me their own stories and frustrations in the hope that I can help. I can’t, of course. It’s evident that I am the last person to have a link to Dell.

Just yesterday, I got an email from a nice minister — a gentle man of the cloth — who said:

please… omg… please help with a Dell question.

Not the ‘oh, my God’ reference from a pastor. The man’s desperate.

I, too am in Dell Hell right now…

Note the ‘hell’ reference. He knows whereof he preaches.

…something that has NEVER happened to me in working for at least 10 years with a dell machine. I have been so very happy up to now. I feel the only way I can get my point across is to write directly to Michael Dell … the problem? nowhere on their website can I find his information or his office’s info. please help, for the link on your website that i thought might go to it has been removed from their website. thank you in advance for your help.

I told him that I couldn’t help. As near as I can tell, Dell changed its email address structure after I got to a vice president’s person; that veep seems to have left anyway; and that veep’s person has not responded to other people I sent her way (she even refused to help me again should I have continued to be a Dell customer).

So I told the good padre to go to the new Dell blog because now they’re listening. He’s doing that I’ll watch with interest the rest of his tale.

Now I know someone at Dell will say that the company already has forums and phones where people are supposed to come. But as Laura Bosworth admitted on the Dell blog yesterday– and good for her — those systems aren’t working. She also warned that there are no magic wands to fix it. That’s fine.

But I guarantee that a mob will gather outside your door and if they don’t think they are being heard and don’t see reason to hope for improvement, they will get louder and pick up their pitchforks and torches and then we’ll hear people say, well, this is what happens when you venture into the frightening blogosphere. But on the other hand, if you deal with these people and their problems directly, you can win them over.

Can you respond to and solve every single problem in every comment and blog post? Probably not. But I’d start tackling the problems, one by one, in public, referring to the specific customers and their sagas. Dig into the problems; get to the employees they dealt with; be open with your own phone and customer records; talk to the managers involved; admit the problems; apologize; hear well what your customers are trying to tell you to help you — think of this as reporting on yourselves. Then share your solutions. Then track your solutions.

And be aware that your employees are reading, too. When they see you get to the bottom of a specific case, they will realize that they are being watched and not by their own cubiclemates — ‘this call may be recorded…’ — but by your customers.

Of course, a blog alone won’t solve Dell’s many problems with customer service and quality; you have to do that on your own. But it can help.

  • http://www.beatcanvas.com Brett Rogers

    Jeff,

    I think you’ve done a good thing in highlighting Dell’s issues. And from where I sit, it looks like they’re making the effort and allowing for a very public discourse, more so than any company I’ve seen with such dissatisfaction in its customer base.

    But don’t you think that they need a bit of time – like at least a month or so – to use this new medium and show us how they’re addressing things? You appear to be sticking your finger in their eye as opposed to just watching what transpires.

    If this whole thing is just a PR prop for them, then they deserve that finger (and the one next to it too). But if they’re serious – and they appear to be serious – then why not just watch it happen? I think you’ve made your point. Abundantly.

    And by the way, I don’t see Apple’s blog. You know… Apple? The company that sues bloggers when they don’t like what they have to say about their products? I’m no Dell fan, but with the introduction of a pretty transparent blog, Dell is light years ahead of Apple. At least Dell didn’t sue you for your public trashing. Free speech and all that…

  • http://www.buzzmachine.com Jeff Jarvis

    Brett,

    I don’t think I’m poking them in the eye at all. I mean what I say: I’m trying to be helpful.

    I’m a bit amused by this meme of giving them time, though. They’ve had more than a year of feeling the hot breath of bloggers and if they haven’t figured out their strategy before startling, then it’s going to be tough making it up on the go. But I am happy to help. And so I’m giving them advice.

    As for Apple: Yes, they don’t have a blog. But they do have a product that works. I don’t say that every company has to blog. I do say that every company that takes my money has to have a product that works. And if it doesn’t, they have to answer my problem. And I’ll express that problem oftentimes through my blog if I think it’s a problem that may affect others. In fact, I’ve said that the first step into bloggling for any company is not to blog but to read and listen to blogs and then to enter into the conversation already happening there and then and only then to start a blog if they have something worthwhile to add to the conversation.

    As for Apple, well, at least there was report yesterday that they’re dropping their attack on blogs. I suppose that’s a first step, too. ;-)

  • http://www.beatcanvas.com Brett Rogers

    Your highlight of the whole issue has been helpful. Yes, it took them a while, so we’ll see how serious they are. Let’s hope for a good show!

    An Apple does work, you’re right. The reason an Apple works well is because its design has been well-conceived and well-implemented; Apple owns both the OS and the hardware and can control both.

    I believe that part of the reason Dell and other computer manufacturers (hardware) suffer is due to Windows (OS) and its erratic performance. Because the Windows OS is not in the control of computer manufacturers, reliability of hardware is as erratic as the OS. I know that this wasn’t your issue: Dell dropped the ball over and over with you, and to the benefit of Dell, you spotlighted the issue and here you are, famous for “Dell Hell.” You “yopped” until you were heard.

    But Microsoft deserves just as much (or more) angst. It’s nigh impossible to get to Microsoft and have an ear unless you’re Chris Pirillo. I think it’s that dichotomy of architecture that spurs problems and makes Apple look positively radiant by comparison. It’s often the case that if my hardware seems to be affected by the OS or hardware drivers, I waste time on the phone hearing each vendor point the finger at the other to no resolution. With Apple, they own both sides, so calling Apple will solve it. And I’m always in favor of products that work.

    Can you link that report of Apple dropping suit? If so, that’s great news, and as it should be.

  • http://www.njconcierges.com Serge Lescouarnec

    After hearing of the launch of DELL’s blog, I went and commented on the issues I encountered with them with the computer I use to type this. I do not see any link back to my blog so I assume their effort is just ‘lip service’ to paraphrase Elvis Costello.

    Serge
    Biz:
    http://www.njconcierges.com
    Blog:
    http://www.sergetheconcierge.com

  • Ben

    -As for Apple: Yes, they don’t have a blog. But they do have a product that works. I don’t say that every company has to blog. I do say that every company that takes my money has to have a product that works.-

    As I write this on my new Macbook (i know i know i deserve a cookie or something) I would add that a company has to have reliabe customer care as Apples consistently proves to have. If something is broke they will fix, much of the time a no extra expense.

    -Ben

  • http://corona.awestores.com/ Joel

    I myself have had plenty of great Apple customer support experiences, from bonus saving opportunities and rebates to flat replacement of damaged products. Apples may cost more, but they continually prove themselves to be reliable machines with reliable service.

  • Alan

    I think that is a very unfair statement. “Apple has a product that works.” Yes they do, so does Dell, so does IBM, so does HP, so does Gateway. 90%+ of computers work, every day for years with little or no problems. If PC’s didn’t work, Apple would have more than a 2-3% market share.

    From Apple insider: http://www.appleinsider.com/article.php?id=1781

    According to research firm Gartner, worldwide PC shipments totaled 57 million units in the first quarter of 2006, representing a 13.1 percent increase over the same period last year. But in that time, Apple’s share of the worldwide market slipped from 2.2 percent to a mere 2.0 percent, the firm’s data shows.
    Meanwhile, Apple rival Dell was able to maintain its No. 1 position in worldwide PC shipments during the first quarter with a 16.5 percent share. However, the company’s shipment increase of 10 percent year-over-year marked its weakest performance since the third quarter of 2001, according to Gartner.

    I’m pretty weak in math but I’m pretty sure 16.5 is a lot bigger than 2 so, my guess is that Dell, and I’ll bet even Gateway, have more working products than Apple.

  • http://www.beatcanvas.com Brett Rogers

    Alan

    I don’t really think I need to go over this, but… PC’s gained traction over Apple because of their suitability for business applications: spreadsheets and databases and the ease of programming custom solutions through Visual Basic and such in the early 90′s. Was Windows 3.1 a better product on a Gateway than an Apple system? Not at all, but if I wanted to scrub a list and do a custom merge with an accounting system to print personalized letters, a PC-based solution was within view. A Mac wasn’t. There was more software for the PC, which is why PC’s hold sway in the market today – I can do more with a PC, but make no mistake: Apple offers far more integrated and easier computers that are more reliable. And with soft applications making their way to corporate Intranets and with the disappearance of client/server and terminal applications, Macs become more viable.

    Two years ago, I wouldn’t have seriously considered a Mac because of the custom programming I once did. I don’t do that any longer, and I find that I have needs that suit themselves to a Mac these days (creative endeavors – film, photos, web, sound, music). I find my PC becoming more a roadblock to these pursuits than a help to me. All PC manufacturers – and notoriously Dell – suffer this problem, which is why I wrote above that the root issue is Windows itself. Smother that problem with shoddy PC and lousy customer service, and that’s why Jeff chose a Mac. More people will too.

  • Alan

    Brett,

    Excellent points! I was around when Apple could have been the leader in personal computers way back in the day, then IBM took the lead and the rest is history. Apple chose to be proprietary, IBM chose to be semi-open, and the clone makers were fully open, fully open eventually won. IBM and Apple both lost the PC wars because they tried to keep too much control, not offering customers all of the options they wanted at prices they could afford.

    It is a new day, now a $300 computer can do a 1000 times what a $5000 IBM PC could do. Except for high end games, any computer can do what we want it to do, so syle, good looks and decent performance and the cool factor start to become important, so Apple will certainly be a player in the future of computing.

    What I was trying so poorly to point out is that Dell will ship about 37-40 million computers this year, Apple will ship 4-5 million according to the article. Say Dell really sucks and 10% of their computers never work right from the start, they will have just disappointed more customers than Apple sold to all year. It is an economy of scale, Dell and HP are so big that little mistakes are magnified, and big mistakes are disasterous.

    Apple is still a boutique, where the IPod can literally put the company back into the black and on the map again.

    Jeff’s comment just seemed a bit unfair, that is all.

  • http://oceanclub.blogspot.com Paul Moloney

    Interesting site. I recently bought my first Dell computer; it will definitely be my last. I’ve gone through the support mill now for _2_ months, having everything up to and including performing a complete re-installation, yet Dell support keep claiming that my video card problem is a “software issue”. Which is handy for them, since I’ll be charged for software support! Not to mention the fact that according to the Dell newsgroup, all that software support involves is someone talking you through a re-installation yet again, something I’m quite practised at doing already, and even more so now that I’m the not-proud owner of an Inspiron 9300. My only recourse seems to be to try the Irish small claim court system and see what happens.

    P.

  • Alan

    Paul,

    This is where I have a big problem with the Jeff’s solutiuon to his Dell computer problems. Writing about it on a web site is a lot like the commercial with the guy trying to buy a cell in a hardware store!

    If you have an issue with Dell, take it to Dell, ask for a manager, ask for their manager, write a letter, send an e-mail, chat, google the problem, do something active, not passive.

    Oh I know it makes people feel powerful to be influential, to sway public opinion, to bring down a giant. That is why tabloids are so big, we love to put something up on a pedestal and then knock them off as soon as they screw up.

    Dell is not Enron, despite the similar E’s. Dell hasn’t screwed anyone out of their pension, killed anyone, stolen money, broken any laws, all they have done is hired foreign people to do jobs cheaper than Americans, like they are the first to pull that stunt.

    Was it the right thing to do? Hell No, but they would have found out without someone blogging about it.

    I refinanced my house, with the SAME finance company. They screwed up paying my taxes. I called, I was prepared had all the refinance info, all the account numbers, the tax bill, my escrow payments and I was told it would be handled. It wasn’t. So let me think, the state is sending me notices to pay my taxes, do I blog about how unfair it is or do I call the GD finance company and get it fixed? I called, raised heck, talked to a manager, everything is Ok, the taxes will be paid. Next month, another bill for taxes from the state, well shoot maybe I should have blogged, I called again and this time I wasn’t off the phone until I had proof the check was being cut. No more tax notices.

    I love reading blogs, but it just isn’t the way to get problems resolved. Not sure about you, but I don’t have Jeff’s cash to go replace all my computers just because a company isn’t reading my blog to see how unhappy I am.

    Aw the heck with it, no one listens to an old fart like me, anyway.

  • http://oceanclub.blogspot.com Paul Moloney

    “If you have an issue with Dell, take it to Dell, ask for a manager, ask for their manager, write a letter, send an e-mail, chat, google the problem, do something active, not passive.”

    I’m not sure if you are trying to be genuinely helpful or just patronising, but I will assume the former. I have already taken this to Dell, and of course, Googled solutions (do a search for my surname and “inspiron”). I’ve posted 29 postings to the Dell official forums, and spoken to a support person for the last month.

    Each time I have suggested that she escalate the problem to someone else, she refuses to do so, and tries to fob me off to paid support. I have asked several times about the latter, as in (a) how much do they cost and (b) what do they actually _do_ apart from walk customers through re-installations. Again, no answer.

    Her last email attempted to wash Dell’s hands of the matter by saying “these systems are not meant for gaming”. This is despite the fact that (a) the Inspiron 9300 comes with a high-end graphics card whose only possible function is gaming and (b) they specially mention gaming as a use of the laptop on their own website! I’ve already reported this to the advertising standards authority in Ireland.

    P.

  • Alan

    Ok, in that case, I do see your point. I still say you have to call and insist but 2 months is a long time. Ask for a second opinion, they have to have some kind of higher technician support.

    I’ll probably hate myself in the morning, but what is happening with the game and video card? What game, what video card? Have you updated the video driver? Are you getting some kind of error?

    I’ll be honest, I have no clue about the computer you are talking about, but I know games and video cards.

    Sorry Jeff, if this is inappropriate, I apologize.

  • http://oceanclub.blogspot.com Paul Moloney

    As you say, Jeff, someone else’s blog probably isn’t the place to go into detail about my problem. Here’s my latest post to the Dell forum which goes into detail of all the steps I’ve taken so far. (After that post, I also thought to turn off indexing.)

    Regards,

    P.

  • http://www.spokenring.com/ Robert Oschler

    I have several Dells and when they work they work great but when I need help, nowadays it’s a pain. 6 years ago it wasn’t like this, at least for me. Back then, if I needed a new part like a fan I made one call and boom they sent it to me.

    In these troubled times I offer you a little levity with an animated music video that’s uses the “Dell laptop on fire” incident to spoof the notorious Numa Numa dance video. It’s called “My PC Is On Fire” and it’s about a Dell customer whose laptop catches file which he can’t get it repaired. Enjoy!:

    http://www.spokenring.com/numa-numa-english.php