The age of customerism and producerism

Forget consumerism. We’re not just consumers anymore, as Doc Searls has taught me well. We are customers with our money in our fists, spending it wisely and joining together to spend it more wisely. And we are producers who can compete with the companies that thought of us as mere consumers.

So nevermind caveat emptor. This is the age of caveat venditor — let the vendor beware — and caveat creator.

But too many of the the venditors and the creators don’t realize it. Witness this open letter to me from Amanda Chapel, a PR person calling herself the Strumpette, who is desperately trying to fend off the ratty masses now known as empowered customers at her clients’ gates. She is emblematic of old one-way companies and of the PR people who tried to protect these companies from their customers with a shield of spin.

Chapel is disgusted by the whole Dell Hell affair and because of it she calls what I write the Communist Blogifesto and calls me “some malignant corporate subversive” (which, I suppose, beats “worm“).

Listen to yourself: “behind me a mob with pitch forks and torches storming castle Dell;” “we are the bosses now;” “companies have the opportunity to hand over control to customers.” That’s not inspiring a “conversation” comrade; you’re yelling “fire” in a crowded peasant theatre. And that’s it! This is all really about audience and venue. The “revolution” you promote is about a mob and leveraging its disappointments, hopes and fears. . . . What “Wake up Corporate America, You’re Being Watched” is all about, is inciting a riot and boldly trying to hold the theatre owner hostage. The message is clear: “Surrender your property, or else!”

No, we’re just leveraging our money, our property, our collective buying power, our wise crowd, and our voice. If we get good products and value for our money, we’ll buy more and can now tell others to do so; we can market your products, if they’re any good. But if we get bad products and service and value for our money, then we have every right to be mad and to warn others — our friends.

That’s not a mob, ma’am. That’s a market.

Chapel insists that companies should not care about their customers, only their stockholders (whom she mistakenly lumps together as “the bank”).

As it relates to Dell, you think Michael Dell gives a shit about you. He doesn’t. He reports to the bank. He cares about Wall Street. I, the stockholder, am his main concern.

I respond in her comments:

Michael Dell may very well not give a shit about me or his customers. Seems so. But if that is the case, then he won’t have much of a company anymore and he will ill serve his stockholders (not bankers).

No, you’re wrong, the customer is ultimately in charge. It’s my money. I won’t give it to Dell because I don’t trust Dell. I know more people who won’t either. He doesn’t run a monopoly; he’s not in charge of the cable company, phone company, or even newspaper. We have choices. That is the ultimate power.

And she responds, in turn:

No. That’s a fallacy. He should care about a good product and an identified market. That does NOT necessarily mean individual customers. . . .

You have one vote. I suggest then that you don’t buy Dell. Period.

Anything more than that is an attempt to hold Dell and its shareholder hostage. We don’t owe you anything!

You — since you to speak for Dell — owe me a product that works. You owe me service that serves. You owe me reliability and value. You are the ones holding me hostage; you have my thousands of dollars and I have your bad products. I not only have the right but the responsibility to tell others about my experiences with Dell.

But I’ll say again that I didn’t organize that mob. The mob organized itself; I merely provided the convenient town square on which to light those torches. This is how the internet works: It brings us together and we learn from each other.

You see, in the old days, you could screw one customer with one bad product or you could insult one customer with bad service. But no more. Now, when you deal with one customer, you deal with all customers.

That, ma’am, is the real public relations. That is dealing with your public as your customers.

And that is the real branding. Your brand is your reputation, your trust, your value. You don’t own your brand; your customers do.

But Chapel hates such talk. She says:

In business, “control” is a fiduciary responsibility. Stock is property. Management is paid to increase the value of shareholder property AND to act as custodians. It is a “duty.” Simple as this: this whole “ceding control” and “open borders” mentality, at the very least, threatens shareholder property. Hype aside, the downsides of your revolution are fairly predictable and surely greater than the yet-to-be-measured upsides. Imagine shareholder activist(s) sharing the podium fully with the CEO. That’s just plain silly. It will happen the same day the CEO decides to blog the annual meeting. NEVER!

Here she is mixing the roles of customer and stockholder. But nevermind. Let’s keep going:

Here, this is the linchpin to your whole argument. You grossly overestimate the value of the customer relationship. Excuse me, businesses don’t really want “relationships” with their customers. It’s too expensive, it’s too messy and the return is nominal at best. Not even the most prolific hooker wants a personal relationship. Our job is to anticipate needs/wants/desires and then present clients with something special. If I did my homework, I will be rewarded; if not, I will be punished. The money is on the dresser. End of transaction.

No. Business Week reported recently that the stocks of companies that have a reputation for building strong relationships with customers outperform those of the rest of the market. Your customers are your business, damnit. And businesses that don’t understand that — monopolies aside — will die miserable deaths.

But what you are proposing is actually more than an added burden of a personal relationship… it’s a platform that actually servers to organize the wackos. It gives them (you) a big microphone to express social retribution. You expect me to let you and your mud-booted-torch-bearing mob into my house?! If I run out of shotgun shells maybe.

What’s that empty clicking sound I hear? We may be wackos or worms but we have the money you want. Nya-nya-nya.

It’s amusing that Chapel calls all this communism. It’s the ultimate in capitalism. Capitalism is all about choice and we can choose not to give our money to companies that give us bad products or treat us badly or even that do not listen to what we want.

Chapel concludes:

Which brings me to how I, the stockholder and Michael Dell’s boss, would have responded to you, Edelman and friends, and your reaction to Dell’s new blog. I’d have ordered the thing shut down immediately. I’d fire the idiot who launched it in the first place. As you noted in your letter to Mr. Dell, he closed down one of his consumer forums and has a corporate policy of not talking to your customers on blogs. Michael’s smart. And he’s doing exactly what we pay him to do.

What we see here is not only the death of the old f-you company but also of their court jesters, the old-style flacks. Painful to watch, isn’t it?

: LATER: Scott Karp does an excellent job cutting through the crap and clouds to get to the point:

eff Jarvis and Amanda Chapel (aka Strumpette) are going at it over the Dell issue and in the process are stirring up such a heavy cloud of ideology that it’s hard to get your bearings. I thought it was worth trying to boil it down to some simpler, less ideologically-colored observations and lessons:

– Companies used to be able to get away with making crappy products and offering crappy services because they were able to mass market people into submission and because consumers didn’t have a way to make their unhappiness widely known.

– Thanks to the proliferation of content (both “professional” and “consumer-generated”) and content channels, mass media and thus mass marketing are now dead, so there is no longer an effective way to sell crappy products and services.

– Through blogs, video sharing, and other platforms for cheap content creation and distribution, individual consumers now have a powerful way to spread the word on crappy products and services on a large scale.

The lessons for companies:

1. Make better products and offer better services, or your business will likely suffer.
2. If you make mistakes, listen to your customers and fix the mistakes.

There it is a nutshell, without a single “ism.”

I think his second bullet, about teh lost of an effective way to sell crappy products and services, is important and new to this discussion.

  • http://robertdfeinman.com/society Robert Feinman

    Imagine what the world would look like if companies actually responded to their customers, stockholders and workers instead of Wall St. speculators and greedy top management.

    Just today there is an article about over 2000 companies issuing back-dated options to their management. So much for responding to the marketplace.

    Most CEO’s aren’t in their jobs long enough (3-5 years on average) that they really care about developing the long-term prospects of the firm. This makes Dell’s behavior somewhat puzzling since the founder is still the boss.

  • http://strumpette.com Amanda Chapel

    Jeff,

    “Watching the death”… hold that thought for a moment. You further my point.

    See…

    – other than the sheer geek-hype behind the blog bubble;

    – other than you using that hype to be an instigator among the disenfranchised mass where you say things like, “behind me a mob with pitch forks and torches storming castle Dell,” “we are the bosses now,” “companies have the opportunity to hand over control to customers;”

    – other than the implied message “Give us your company or else!”…

    There is an inferred belief that this is all going to happen. You think you see the future Jeff. “Watching the death”… says who? With all due respect, you’re a TV critic, for Christ’s sake.

    That said, the winner of our debate will be determined by whose future unfolds. I will make you a bet. The people that presently own corporate America, if and when they finally even hear these nattering nabobs of negativism, will NOT cede control. You won’t overthrow the government. They’ll snuff out the riot. Change? Sure. But what you are proposing will never happen.

    So what do you want to bet?

    – Amanda

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  • http://homepage.mac.com/verbier7/index.htm Arthur

    If Amanda thinks it’s only “geek hype”, why is she wasting her time getting all bent out of shape about your posts? The whole PR business is about control and compliant media. Your posts about Dell hell had relevance because for all too many of us, they (sadly) rang true. If you were barking about bad customer service that no one else had experienced, your complaints would have been dismissed as an isolated incident with no resonance. By the way, I don’t get Amanda’s issue with you having been a TV critic. She’s a former vice-president of a PR firm, for god’s sake. Big Deal. PR firms (and advertising agencies, for that matter) are renowned for giving away titles in lieu of salary.

  • http://www.evanrud.com Evan Rudowski

    Jeff,

    It’s funny to see Amanda Chapel channeling Spiro Agnew in referring to members of a vocal and empowered public as “nattering nabobs of negativism.” We all know what happened to Agnew and the Nixon administration when they tried to keep the press at bay.

    Now it’s not Woodward & Bernstein but rather Jarvis and thousands of others who have the power to spread the word about malfeasance and negligence, whether from corporations or governments. And that’s not going to change.

    The smart companies will listen to their customers and improve. And the Amanda Chapels and Spiro Agnews of the world — who want only to be heard but never to listen — will become historical footnotes.

    Kind regards,
    Evan

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

    Amanda,
    With all due respect, you’re a flack, fercrissakes.
    As for the bet, well, you’ve already placed yours on the stocks of companies that don’t care about their customers.

    Arthur,
    You said it better than I did.

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

    Money flocks to value.

    Value is determined by perception.

    Perception is fed by blogs.

    Therefore, to an increasing degree, blogs will point us consumers where we can spend our money smartly. And we’ll listen.

    Any PR person should instantly get that perception is reality.

  • http://www.ericthansen.com Eric Hansen

    Jeff,

    Thank you for publishing such poignant examples of bad PR. I am a PR student (Syracuse Univ.) about to break into the industry within a year and I look forward to fighting the good fight against the dated and noxious tactics of Amanda Chapel and Co. I respect her admiration of capitalism, yet her monocular way of expressing it is counterproductive. And she sites no recent publications – like your camp did with the BW article – in her diatribe colored by lifted alliterations. I see her main failing as trying to leverage an argument on the illustrative quality of your language – “pitchforks,” “castle Dell” – instead of addressing the underlying social mechanism at work. All the best, Jeff. ~ Eric

  • http://strumpette.com Amanda Chapel

    Brett, I understand you were an advisor to the Dean Campaign. How did that work out?

    Evan, the point of the Agnew quote is that certainly the system changed. But there was no “revolution” like the nuts here predict.

    Arthur, with regard to dick sizes and predictions, I am not saying I know. But I am totally confident you (plural) don’t know. I do know that presently you (plural) are a mere annoyance with corporate America. At some point power decides not to negotiate with that. Need an example of that? Look to the Mideast… today.

    – Amanda

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  • http://www.blaserco.com/blogs Britt Blaser

    In the comments over at Amanda’s highly successful link-magnet, I added:

    “At first blush, it looks like you need to brush up on your trend-tracking skills, Amanda. The trends that Jeff describes are so obvious that you’d have to work hard to ignore them. But on a second reading, the stridency of your protest proves Jeff’s point. Michael Dell may not give a shit about Jeff Jarvis (a dubious assertion), but you make it obvious you do, or you wouldn’t get so worked up over the Jarvis Effect that you say doesn’t matter.

    “Dell’s management has made it clear that they care about Jeff’s views, having bent over backwards, tardily, to fix the problem. Unfortunately, the goods and the services couldn’t keep up with their belated damage control. The history of big business is littered with the hulks of companies that forgot their customers.

    “No Amanda, What Dell is learning is what everyone but you has concluded: Things aren’t true just because you say them loudly and expensively enough. That is the intellectual bankruptcy at the core of Managerial Capitalism and its tawdry little camp follower, PR.

    “Embracing that metaphor, maybe we should call the dying PR business “Strumpettism.” Then there’d be a way to remember you after your 15 minutes are up.”

    Of course, we’ve all fallen into Amanda’s trap, which is to build traffic and links by attacking an A-List blogger. That is the ultimate goal of flackery: to fake real dialogue when all you want is attention. It probably has more to do with dear old dad than Amanda would like to admit.

    As one should after a quickie with a strumpette, I feel dirty, looking for link-love in all the wrong places.

  • http://AsbestosDen.org Shawn Levasseur

    Amanda, you misunderstand. It’s not about the customers “Running the company”. It’s about customers getting what they want for the money.

    The customer has to feel like they made a good deal buying the seller’s product. If they don’t, they’ll complain, take their business elsewhere and tell everyone they no to avoid the company that dissatisfied them.

    Look to one of your competitors, Apple. Apple is clearly not run by the customers. The command is clearly in Steve Jobs’ hands. Yet they have a core of very loyal customers who sing the praises of Apple all the time. Some do have little complaints here and there, but they do see a company that gives them products and service that provide a positive experience.

  • http://amomentwith.typepad.com/ Easycure

    Amanda,

    Nobody is out to get your company. People just want computers that work correctly and a way to get them to work if they don’t. You provide neither.

    People want companies that provide good products and have decent customers service to succeed. Tthat’s the definition of success for companies, our money.

    Since Dell is providing neither product nor satifaction, you are going to fail. And frankly, with the arrogance that you’ve shown, who cares?

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

    Amanda,

    I was an ardent Bush supporter. It worked out fine – he got elected.

    Careful with your personal asides, now.

  • http://AsbestosDen.org Shawn Levasseur

    Oops, sorry Amanda. I somehow misinterpreted things and presumed you actually spoke for Dell on some official level. You’re merely a stockholder.

  • http://strumpette.com Amanda Chapel

    Brett… I meant Britt.

    Pardon.

  • Guy Love

    Well, this has turned into quite a dust up of a post. Personal insults usually fail to win arguments. As a long time reader of Jeff’s site, he is a pretty decent guy that appears to have hit a nerve by merely posting his personal experience with Dell. What is wrong with that?

    Dell chose to follow their current path to maximize profit, but at what long term cost? The reason why Jeff’s complaints have resonated is because Dell went too far too fast and are now in trouble (look at how they have recently lost market share to their competitors). A prolonged fight based on attacking a segment of the customer base that has high visibility is not a winning solution for a company like Dell. Dell may not like it, but Jeff is actually trying to help them get their act together because at one time he was a customer who enjoyed their products.

    Companies can probably continue to march along and not care about instantaneous vocal feedback from customers, but their more savvy competitors will exploit this weakness. Customers for all forms of businesses are migrating to the web for information, this behavior will only increase as time goes on. In the long run, it cannot be beneficial for Dell to fail to adapt to this new way of doing business.

  • http://strumpette.com Amanda Chapel

    “But Jeff is actually trying to help them get their act together because at one time he was a customer who enjoyed their products.”

    Nonsense. Jeff is very clear about what he wants. He wants Dell to “cede control of their company,” or else! This is not about his computer. It is a political agenda!

    With regard to the proof of a benefit to companies of this blog revolution, the jury is still out. You only have 6 percent of the Fortune 500 participating. Whether that’s been a benefit to the bottom line is still hype and speculation.

    That said, I’ll tell you this: go ask Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer if he had to do it all over again, whether he’d want his employees blogging. The answer is NO! That’s a fact.

  • http://www.wagnercomm.blogspot.com John Wagner

    There’s a pretty big difference between being a dissatisfied customer and going on a personal crusade against a company.

    Companies mess up all the time. People mess up all the time. Sometimes, companies and people don’t fix their messes properly.

    Of course, consumers have always had choice, and they’ve always had the ability to tell others of their experiences in the marketplace. The difference now is reach — and when a well-read blogger launches an ongoing offensive against a particular brand, well, that person crosses the line from customer to critic.

    In other words, one gets the sense that it hardly matters what Dell does today, tomorrow or five years from now — your mind is made up and you will do whatever it takes to discredit the brand.

  • http://deepthinking.ca Stephen Chanasyk

    Well all I can say to Amanda is it’s refreshing to see that arrogance and hubris is alive and well in the land of PR. If anything, she has at least given Dell a brand new slogan for it’s next add campaign: “Dell, We Don’t Give a Shit About You!”.

    Now, here’s some advice to miss Chapel: go talk to someone in the real world, maybe that guy that owns that favourite restaurant you eat at and ask him, does he give a shit about you. Chances are he does because he needs you to be happy so he can pay off his investors (and given how much it costs to open a nice restaurant these days, he probably has a couple people backing him). If my cousin, who owns two places, took this road to oblivion that you’re on, he’d be SOL inside a week. Remember, even Dell was small once and needed every customer it could get.

    Now, everyone back to your corners and come out fighting.

  • http://www.mythusmageopines.com/wp Alan Kellogg

    John Wagner, you’re doing so much to inspire confidence in me. Why, with your talent and expertise I know any company I ever start would have a unique trajectory throughout its career.

    Hiring you for any reason would provide ample proof the Federal government was correct in their assesment of my employability.

  • http://www.mythusmageopines.com/wp Alan Kellogg

    Amanda,

    The anti-fungal would work so much better if you bought your panties in the right size.

  • http://www.zeitgeist.com/ David HM Spector

    Amanda,

    At first blush I was tempted to think that your anti-customer rant was merely a troll, but you continued comments lead me to think you actually believe what you’re writing.

    It’s clear from your arguments that you’ve never actually had to run a business. I would point out something that you may not be aware of: without customers, businesses go out of business. If companies like DELL continue to ignore the well being of their customers, i.e., they do no take seriously the problems they have with quality and support, they will be out of business just like Digital and Compaq, and any number of departed top-flight bands and just disappear or get absorbed by their competitors.

    If you try to restrain your contempt for your fellow human beings, you’ll find life’s a lot nicer, and you’ll realize that you too are human being who has a right to be treated well, listened to and, in fact, respected by the people to whom you pay money for goods and services…

  • http://strumpette.com Amanda Chapel

    Stephen Chanasyk:

    You confuse Michael Dell the person and Dell the company. Michael Dell indeed doesn’t give a shit about Jeff. As I said, his focus is where it should be, Wall Street. Dell the company cares about its customers in so much as to provide a good product. If it is a bad product, that it back!!

    With regard to customers expecting relationships with companies… I think that is a convenient myth. When I go to the grocery store, I don’t later call my grocer to tell him how the picnic is going let alone invite him to it. I will contact him if the eggs are bad or the apples are rotten. I just want them replaced, or my money back. But if he’s negligently sold me something toxic, I do want more. I want damages and legal fees, too.

    That’s all. I don’t stand outside his establishment with “pitchforks and torches” telling him to cede control of his company or else! IT’S CALLED EXTORTION!

    – Amanda

  • chico haas

    Having a blog lets you make your gripes public. That’s the beauty of it. You used to have to be a Cesar Chavez or Al Sharpton to generate media interest when you wanted to flog a company. Now you can be a nobody. That’s equal opportunity. And the singlemost important contribution blogs make to society. Even I get to post my opinion, thanks to the graciousness of our host. Hi, Mom!

  • http://AsbestosDen.org Shawn Levasseur

    So Amanda,

    What should be done about this “extortion”. How does it get remedied?

  • Guy Love

    “That said, I’ll tell you this: go ask Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer if he had to do it all over again, whether he’d want his employees blogging. The answer is NO! That’s a fact. ”

    An interesting tangent to this discussion. Microsoft, Dell, fill-in-the-blank megacompany suddenly finds it cannot control every aspect of information that defines its public apperance. Is that a bad thing? Should mega-corps be given a free pass? Why can’t it be like the good old days? Is complete transparency so bad that Ballmer can’t deal with the repercussions of having Microsoft’s dirty laundry aired by sites like Mini-Microsoft?

    In today’s time, any CEO worth his multimillion dollar pay package better learn. If the seismic shift in information was not actually happening, why are advertisers abandoning the old media for the new? As I said earlier, this trend is only going to increase over time.

  • http://deepthinking.ca Stephen Chanasyk

    Amanda,

    Ok, let’s at least tone down the hyperbolae just a bit. This isn’t extortion (verb – to obtain by force, threats, or other unfair means). So, be careful the words you use, they do have meaning. It’s call speaking one’s ideas, thoughts and feelings. In this case liable and slander would be better metaphors.

    On to the groccer. If he was continually selling broken eggs or rotten produce, I would have every right to stand in front of his place of business and tell people what he has been doing, as long as I stood outside and didn’t interfere with people entering. It’s called freedom of speech, I have it, you have it and thank god we do. If he doesn’t like what I have to say he could try to get an injunction to prevent me from standing in front of his business but he’s not going to stop me from speaking.

    You might just want your money back or things replaced but as a member of a larger community and someone who believes that others should be informed, I have the right, no the duty, to speak up, just as it’s your right to speak up in defence.

  • http://levingar.com Peter

    Two quotes come to mind reading the drivel that pours unabated from Amanda.

    “There you go again.”

    and, more importantly,

    “I paid for this microphone.”

  • Dan Knauss

    Computers and software are built out of replaceable program and hardware units that are usually inexpensive to replace. It is easy to fix your own problems. Anything serious results in returning the whole package for a refund or replacement. “Customer Service” is not a real service. Avoid it. Assuming it is useful is your first and most critical mistake. CS is mostly useful when your ignorance level is so high that you are unqualified to use the tool you are calling CS about. (“Is it plugged in? Did you try to reboot?…”)

    There got to be a big fad of trashing Dell’s customer service a while ago. They outsourced to India or something, right? And that made the CS go bad? Ha.

    I have bought 2 refurbished Dell desktops and a used pocketPC because they were quality prooducts–and discounted. I have not heard that product quality has been bad with Dell.

    Customer Service only comes into the picture when you have a problem and have to resort to it because you are unaware of or unwilling to pursue better alternatives. CS in any scenario means going on hold to talk to a non-technician who may or may not speak good english but who is not a technician. When your car has a problem, do you call “customer service” or see a technician/mechanic?

    CS people are not technicians. They do not use or understand the technology you are calling about. The are far less likely to have a passion for it as technicians often do. CS people simply follow an ultra-obvious trained monkey script of questions and suggestions that a knowledgeable person would have already figured out.

    My “Customer Service” is Google. Someone else has already had every problem I’ve ever had with propietary and self-engineered software, hardware, you name it. I did use the Dell forums for a while for inquiries about some difficulties and limitiations of the PPC wifi. Like the google scenario and open source community, most of the help in the forums was from other users–who were generally engaged in adversarial communication with naturally unhelpful corporate stooges doing “customer service.”

    There’s irony for you: you “mob” of frustrated consumers has the ability to self-organize and solve its own problems more cheaply and efficiently than the manufacturer, yet what the mob wants is not self-rule but the right to devolve back into a pack of isolated ignoramuses whose problems are well-tended by efficient commercial and government institutions who are paid to maintain this parental relationship. Suckers!

  • http://AsbestosDen.org Shawn Levasseur

    oops, I already asked Amanda what her solution would be in her comments thread…

    Her answer to my question “What are you going to do about it? Can you shut them up?”

    No. But I’d certainly put the noise in perspective. I’d also likely hire external groups to challenge Jarvis. I’d reframe the picture properly, i.e. “extortionist” and a “communist.”

    Two comments on that answer:

    1) “Hire external groups”… I hope Jeff is reading this. That’s gotta give him one hell of a laugh.

    2) Amanda’s a conspiracy theorist troll. (And judging by her admission of sexual favors to bosses and clients in her bio page, she’s also a trollop.) So I think she has no real clue about business, just about corporate politics and sexual extotion

  • http://strumpette.com Amanda Chapel

    # chico haas says: “Having a blog lets you make your gripes public. That’s the beauty of it. You used to have to be a Cesar Chavez or Al Sharpton to generate media interest when you wanted to flog a company. Now you can be a nobody.”

    Exactly. That’s exactly what is going on with Jeff.

    # Shawn Levasseur Says: “What should be done about this “extortion”. How does it get remedied?”

    The question exceed this medium. Suffice to say I’d absolutely campaign back and I’d used everything that was at my disposal (legally) to neutralize the “revolutionaries.”

    # Guy Love Says: “Is complete transparency so bad that Ballmer can’t deal with the repercussions of having Microsoft’s dirty laundry aired by sites like Mini-Microsoft?”

    Yes. Complete transparency is anti-capitalistic. Perceived VALUE is always because I have info that you don’t.

    # Stephen Chanasyk Says: “Ok, let’s at least tone down the hyperbolae just a bit. This isn’t extortion (verb – to obtain by force, threats, or other unfair means).”

    Jeff words “I’ve got 6 million people behind me with pitchforks and torches wanting to storm castle Dell.” Add to that they’re giving companies the opportunity to cede control. You don’t think that sounds like extortion.

    # Stephen Chanasyk Says: “I would have every right to stand in front of his place of business and tell people what he has been doing, as long as I stood outside and didn’t interfere with people entering. It’s called freedom of speech.”

    You certainly do. When you use that free speech to boycott in order to have the company surrender its property… that’s called extortion.

    Shawn Levasseur Says: “Amanda’s a conspiracy theorist troll.”

    Why is a contrarian view always come down to the troll accusation?

  • http://AsbestosDen.org Shawn Levasseur

    Shawn Levasseur Says: “Amanda’s a conspiracy theorist troll.”

    Why is a contrarian view always come down to the troll accusation?

    Okay, I withdraw the “troll” portion of my comment.

    You’re still a conspiracy theorist trying to twist consumer complaint into a call for communism.

  • http://AsbestosDen.org Shawn Levasseur

    # Stephen Chanasyk Says: “Ok, let’s at least tone down the hyperbolae just a bit. This isn’t extortion (verb – to obtain by force, threats, or other unfair means).”

    Jeff words “I’ve got 6 million people behind me with pitchforks and torches wanting to storm castle Dell.” Add to that they’re giving companies the opportunity to cede control. You don’t think that sounds like extortion.

    No. That sounds like a metaphor. The metaphor may have slipped the tracks into hyperbole.

    He wasn’t calling for literally storming Dell’s offices. He was merely saying that people will complain and not buy their products. That’s not extortion, thats using your purchasing power to get better products and services. That’s not communism that capitalistic negotiations writ large.

    That’s the weak link in your argument: that this is a call to turn control over to the mob.

  • http://AsbestosDen.org Shawn Levasseur

    # Shawn Levasseur Says: “What should be done about this “extortion”. How does it get remedied?”

    The question exceed this medium. Suffice to say I’d absolutely campaign back and I’d used everything that was at my disposal (legally) to neutralize the “revolutionaries.”

    What do you mean by “The question exceed this medium”?
    You can’t blog about an issue and say that it’s now beyond blogging about.(Well, you can, but you tend to lose credibility.)

  • http://strumpette.com Amanda Chapel

    No Shawn. You lose credibility when one’s content and the particular medium are out of sync.

    This is not a court of law or a business-school classroom.

  • Jonas Cord Jr.

    Ms. Chapel’s statements, are sufficiently “contrarian” that I think many of us who disagree do not fully comprehend her world view that informs her arguments. This shouldn’t be surprising – I’ve never heard anyone argue such bizarre notions.

    Outlining what I’ve discerned about her position:

    1. Dell’s obligation is to its shareholders, not its customers. How Dell expects to have customers without balancing these two interests (three if you count employees) is beyond me.

    2. Boycotts are extortion. I have a funny feeling she was perfectly comfortable when people would complain about a product through word-of-mouth; now that word-of-mouth can have an enormous audiences she is scared.

    3. PR is about reaching large audiences; she is fearful about bitter customers that can reach large audiences as well.

    4. She wants to push back – as if this is a political campaign – against those who criticize companies. Pushing back against customers is, from a PR perspective, completely insane. She’s also hoping that characterizing customers as “revolutionaries” and “communists” will somehow neutralize the criticism – which isn’t ideological of course, but rather that Dell makes a crappy product.

    It really does seem she’s reacting to this new situation hoping the model of political smear campaigns is what will work in this situation – which is a perfect way to make companies even less popular. Who doesn’t hate politics?

    So, I hope everyone can better conceive of this knee-jerk contrarian argument she’s offering. As a free-market capitalist, I’m downright stunned by it.

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

    This seems to be the question Amanda wants to answer:

    Q: Who owns/controls a company?

    Amanda says, “The CEO and shareholders.”

    Jeff says, “The market.”

    I say that’s the wrong question.

    The right question: who determines the value of a company?

    Answer: the market, of course.

    You can throw shareholders at a company all day long, but if the shareholders are not getting their money’s worth for their investment, they won’t invest. And most CEO’s aren’t worth a tenth of their salary or their bonus/incentives.

    If Dell turns off its customers (the market), and their marketshare dwindles, then the CEO and shareholders can’t do a damn thing about it until they bring customers (the market) back.

    Key point: The CEO and shareholders don’t cede anything. They can’t – they have nothing to cede. Perceived value is not in their control. The market owns that.

    That’s the gist of it, Amanda, like it or not. People can disagree with reality, but eventually reality gets noticed.

  • http://strumpette.com Amanda Chapel

    1. Dell’s obligation is to its shareholders, not its customers.

    Dell obligation to its customers end with the conclusion of the transaction. Period.

    2. Boycotts are extortion.

    Depends. Sometimes assuredly. In this case, certainly seems so. I am convinved. See http://www.beet.tv/2006/07/jeff_jarvis.html

    3. PR is about reaching large audiences; she is fearful about bitter customers that can reach large audiences as well.

    No. I am just very uncomfortable when someone organizes and then leverages the group angst for political gain. See http://www.strumpette.com/archives/147-Exposing-The-Communist-Blogifesto.html .

    4. She wants to push back – as if this is a political campaign – against those who criticize companies. She’s also hoping that characterizing customers as “revolutionaries” and “communists” will somehow neutralize the criticism.

    Absolutely!!

    As to it not being ideological, you’re kidding yourself. If you think Dell makes a crappy product, don’t buy it. I own a Dell. It’s fantastic. It has served me flawlessly.

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  • http://AsbestosDen.org Shawn Levasseur

    No, it’s not a court of law. What’s that got to do with anything? Is there a legal matter that is at the root of the issue? What crime is someone going to be charged with? What lawsuit is it that is being contested?

    But this can be a classroom. Teach us Amanda.. Oh yeah, you probably don’t really want a classroom either. Students can on occasion ask questions of the teacher.

    You want to lecture us? You picked the wrong medium to speak from “authority” and go unchallenged.

    It looks like you’re losing the argument, and just want to claim that the deck is stacked against you in the blogoshpere. But then again, that’s just an assumption on my part.

  • http://strumpette.com Amanda Chapel

    Brett:

    No! My share of stock is my property! I hire (the company) to increase the value of my property. They identify a market; design a product; take it to market and make a profit.

    Here’s the lesson to Dell with all the grousing. Sell to someone else. These customers are too expensive!!

    That’s all.

    – Amanda

  • http://www.zeitgeist.com/ David HM Spector

    Amanda,

    One more thing.. you keep harping on the idea that the only constituency that is important is that of some magical, elite investor class that you refer to as “Wall Street.” As someone who has worked in very senior positions for the better part of 20 years on wall street, I can tell you what you espouse is a bunch of hooey.

    There’s an old saying: “Take care of the little things and the big things will take care of themselves.

    Any real analyst and professional Wall Street investor will tell you that what really matters is what customers think of a company’s product, whether or not the products are of high quality and the company stands behind them. If products meet these criteria, they sell… if companies stick to their knitting and meet the needs of their customers, they will make money, and the company’s stock, if publically traded, will do well.

    Any other scheme to create value artificially is called something else. It’s a legal term you may have read at some point in your travels.. it’s called “fraud.”

    Again, it’s even more clear from your ongoing commentary, you have never run a business, you have never had to meet the needs of real people who are paying with their own cash for a product or service …

    …spend some time in the real world Amanda, it does wonders for the perspective.

  • http://AsbestosDen.org Shawn Levasseur

    Love that Anne-Marie link summary,

    it reminded me of the argument against that,”We only have one vote. Anything else is extortion”

    I’ve always said (albiet in the context of politics) that a vote is merely the opening bid, influencing other’s votes is where you can really make a difference. And that’s what’s going on here, but with economic “votes” being influence. That’s what the first amendment is all about.

  • http://strumpette.com Amanda Chapel

    Shawn,

    You are a perfect example of the failings of the flat-world concept. See, sometime in the future, someone will read this thread and not have the hierarchal perspective. Your stuff is just mixed in. It’s why special needs classes notoriously score lower on scholastic achievement tests.

    – Amanda

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  • Bryan

    I’ve been following this Dell Hell thing for a little while, and frankly I think Mr. Jarvis has over-reached a bit. Yes he got crappy service, and no he didn’t deserve it. But at least some of that service level was very clearly laid out in the fine print of the service agreement he bought. He should have read that more closely. Now he’s turned the episode into a hate-fest that gets a lot of eyeballs – I’m guessing the Google revenue is up!

    Ms. Chapel is foaming at the mouth on the other end of this little spectrum. But some of her points, though badly worded, do hold glimmerings of truth.

    Somewhere in between lies the place most of us want to be. We know that we want to pay a decent price for a usable product. What follows from that, though, is that we need to allow the producer enough profit to actually survive, so they’ll be there later on when we want *another* decent product. We need to be aware that every time we ask a company to spend even a second meeting our demands, that costs actual money. Someone has to pay that – and if the company wants to survive, it needs to pass that cost back to its customers – or forgo the expense entirely. Econ 101, guys!

    So, great. Customers, make your demands. Be careful though – if you demand too much, you may find that no one is left to service your *next* demand …

  • http://marginalizingmorons.blogspot.com/ CaptiousNut

    Regardless of anything Amanda Chapel thinks or says about Dell, Jeff repeatedly displays economic illiteracy in these Dell threads.

    To say that Dell doesn’t care about the customer is an abysmally ignorant proclamation.

    Dell’s revolutionary direct-selling business model was completely founded upon giving the customer what they want. As for the companies that thought they knew better than the customer….Dell put them out of business. Furthermore, all of its extant competitors have had to adopt Dell’s direct model of sales. Saying Dell doesn’t listen to its customers would be like saying Ebay doesn’t know a thing about internet auctions.

    Jeff, if you ever deign to consider learning more about Michael Dell, maybe you could read his book. But yammering every week about Dell’s apathy towards the customer flies in the face of twenty years of Dell’s widely known corporate history.

    (The cynic in me says that Jeff stays on the Dell Hell rant mostly because of the increased web trafffic.)

    Jeff wrote his Nya Nya post when Apple was $85 a share, it immediately dropped to $60. In another Dell post Jeff actually responded to my challenge and said,

    Well, Nut, then I’d say it’s time to buy Apple stock.

    Apple was $67 at the time and has since dropped as low as 50.16 last week.

    Every time Dell’s earnings are light or an analyst downgrades the stock Jeff exuberantly fits that news into an “I told you so, Dell Hell” post. This is as intellectually sound as blaming every point from the 40% drop in Apple to the Steve Jobs and Jeff Jarvis Nya Nya.

    Lots of tech stocks have been plummeting recently, most of which haven’t been the subject of “Hell” blog posts. What, would you have expected Dell’s stock to go up while the rest of the Nasdaq is taking a dive? Whatever Dell’s unquantifiable woes are from (higher interest rates, economy slowing, poor customer service…), ascribing them to bloggers strikes me as an indulgence in specious self-congratulation.

    Now I am all for consumer activism, boycotts, and whatnot. In fact I think we’d all be better off with much more of it. As Karma would have it, I myself have been waiting over a week for a call back from Dell Technical Support – even though I paid up for the “Gold Technical Service”.

    The difference between me and these whiny projectionists is that I don’t arrogantly and ignorantly think Dell’s stock will decline or the company will “cease to exist” based on my own personal experience.

    It’s a sad indictment of today’s socialists when they can’t even see the best arguments at their disposal. Their agitprop should be that Dell unfairly bankrupted all of its competition and left consumers with no choices but their poorly designed, manufactured, and supported products. Because if you don’t like Dell, what the heck else are you going to buy?

    McDonalds and CVS have the worst customer service anywhere. Somehow they’ve stayed in business for years despite plenty of competition. Could it be that service is the highest priority when buying lunch or deodorant?

    PC’s are cheap disposable pieces of junk, they last for about three years, become buggy and defunct, and then I throw them out.

    Imagine if the Dell whiners demanded such perfection from Big Media or from politicians….

  • http://AsbestosDen.org Shawn Levasseur

    I don’t know why I’m enjoying this so much but one more thing to laugh at “Strumpette” for…

    From her about page, where she compares the PR biz to bluffing at poker…

    But then came the Internet. Now we all can virtually see through the bluff. The game is now Indian poker where everyone else can see your hand apparently except you. And the most absurd thing is to watch the posturing, puffing and bluster that continues.

    Here we expose that.

    Little did she know the posturing, puffing and bluster being exposed was her own. She misjudged her own hand, And we can all see the deuce on her head while she’s dreaming of making her king high straight draw.

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

    John Wagner:
    No, Dell could redeem itself. It’s hard to see how; see the story I linked to in a post above; they’ve dug themselves a deep hope. But I have left companies and returned. I left Apple when their laptops in the mid-90s sucked; that’s how I ended up in Winland. Now I’m back at Apple. I left Verizon after bad experiences but returned when they seemed to get their act together (for a phone company). I left the Presbyterian church and returned and left again.

    Amanda:
    Extortion? That would assume I’m trying to get something out of them. I’m not out for anything free, any payoff. In fact, I’m doing them the favor of telling them where they have problems. Companies spend fortunes to find out what their customers think of them. Now they can find out for free.

    I’m not boycotting a thing. I’m choosing where to spend my money and so are others. That’s called capitalism.

    So are you saying you’d sue or arrest people who complain about you or your companies? That’s one hell of a business strategy: “Buy this product and shut up or I’ll sue your ass and stick you in jail, sucker.” Are you sure you want to be giving this valuable advice away for free?

    And you’re going to hire “external groups” to go after me and call me names? Did someone hire you to do that? Set your phaser to ‘neutralize’? Let me set mine to ‘chill’ and do you the favor of aiming in your direction.

    Brett:
    Absolutely right on who sets the value of a company: the marketplace. When I say that companies should hand over control, I don’t mean hand over stock – duh! – but they should recognize that the customers are in charge and without them, there is no company.

    More important, if you give them a chance — and if you have a good product and good service — handing over control will help you. Your customers will market for you. They will provide free customer service to fellow customers. They will give you your message. They will help you design your product. Your customer is your friend. Unless you’ve made your customer your enemy.

  • Guy Love

    Amanda states:

    Yes. Complete transparency is anti-capitalistic. Perceived VALUE is always because I have info that you don’t.

    Brett states:

    Key point: The CEO and shareholders don’t cede anything. They can’t – they have nothing to cede. Perceived value is not in their control. The market owns that.

    I think you both are right when seen from the perspective of the CEO/company (Amanda) and the marketplace (Brett). The impasse is that the CEO wants to protect the information as long as possible while the marketplace wants the information in question as soon as possible. Technology has shifted the balance of power of controlling the information from the CEO to the marketplace.

    Politicians have struggled recently with the “inability to tightly control the message”, they are just now beginning to respond to a more public forum for ideas. Companies will need to come up the same learning curve. Jeff is just trailblazing the future with his blogging on Dell. It seems quite futile trying to fight the decentralization of information control or to radicalize Jeff for moving the conversation between companies and customers forward.

  • Merrydink

    Is this Amanda actually a real person? She’s so over the top that she seems like Some Evil Person in a comic book. Amanda? Are you an actual person? Amanda, babe (it is Babe, right?) lighten up. If you worked for one of the PR firms I have hired in the past, I’d be on the phone to your boss so fast it would make your head spin, and I’d be having him or her take you off my account! Why are you so terrified of a blog? If it’s so insignificant, why are you frothing at the mouth?

  • j

    ROTFLMAO

    “Bottom line professionally speaking, I am 5’ 4” tall, athletic, Pantene shoulder-length black hair, perfect perky boobs. I present well and am most accomodating. I’ve slept with clients. I sleep with my boss. I am the consummate PR strumpette.”

    http://www.strumpette.com/index.php?/pages/Amanda%20Chapel.html

  • http://deleted Jonas Cord Jr.

    Amanda,

    Dell obligation to its customers end with the conclusion of the transaction. Period.

    The conclusion of the transaction does not end until the end of the warranty, which I figure what most people are cranky about. Plus, the less unpleasant the experience, the more likely people are to buy from Dell again.

    Depends. Sometimes assuredly. In this case, certainly seems so. I am convinved.

    I don’t think it’s extortion for customers to complain about the service they’ve received from a company, and encourage people not to buy a product. If we’re not allowed to do that, I’m rather confused on how the free-market system is supposed to work. Is Consumer Reports a communist plot?

    No. I am just very uncomfortable when someone organizes and then leverages the group angst for political gain.

    Political gain? Getting better service and better quality products from a company you patronize is a political issue? News to me.

    In your linked post, you say:

    You grossly overestimate the value of the customer relationship. Excuse me, businesses don’t really want “relationships” with their customers. It’s too expensive, it’s too messy and the return is nominal at best.

    Okay, you’ve outlined your strategy for the company. Jeff & other annoyed customers say they won’t be patronizing the company if it operates on this strategy. The market is perfectly capable of resolving this conflict, and it will. Jeff’s not assured victory, neither are you – it’s out of our hands and up to the market.

    As to it not being ideological, you’re kidding yourself. If you think Dell makes a crappy product, don’t buy it. I own a Dell. It’s fantastic. It has served me flawlessly.

    “Don’t buy it” is not particularly good advice when people bought it thinking it wasn’t a crappy product, and it was an ordeal to deal with Dell to get it fixed. Complaining publicly about it, and offering advice about what Dell should do isn’t not Communism under any possible definition I’ve ever heard from the past 100 years.

    You also said:

    I hire (the company) to increase the value of my property. They identify a market; design a product; take it to market and make a profit.

    Dell took it to market, and some people in the market hated it. Deal with it.

  • http://AsbestosDen.org Shawn Levasseur

    You are a perfect example of the failings of the flat-world concept. See, sometime in the future, someone will read this thread and not have the hierarchal perspective. Your stuff is just mixed in.

    What do you mean by the hierarchal prespective? That you are somehow better qualified to comment on economics and customer relations than I am? I would disagree with that, if that’s the case, but the “appeal to authority” is a logical fallacies.

    Lots of dumb ideas are promoted by people with impressive resumes. Communism, Flat-Earthers, and Conspiracy Theorists all have their academic backers.

    Again, assuming this is the case, you’re trying to back out of a losing argument while declaring victory.

    It’s why special needs classes notoriously score lower on scholastic achievement tests.

    And it’s official, the dialog has been reduced to playground insults. That’s about time to wrap up the fun.

  • http://deleted Jonas Cord Jr.

    Captious Nut,

    Now I am all for consumer activism, boycotts, and whatnot. In fact I think we’d all be better off with much more of it. As Karma would have it, I myself have been waiting over a week for a call back from Dell Technical Support – even though I paid up for the “Gold Technical Service”.

    The difference between me and these whiny projectionists is that I don’t arrogantly and ignorantly think Dell’s stock will decline or the company will “cease to exist” based on my own personal experience.

    I’m not whining, but your description of your experience with Dell shows me two market opportunities that could hurt Dell if a competitor took them:

    1. A computer maker that actually gave you “Gold” technical support;

    2. Another computer maker that doesn’t give you any at all, or not much, and is cheaper.

    The collective personal experiences of Dell’s customer’s will determine their success or failure. Amanda believes that Dell customers are happy enough; Jeff thinks they aren’t. We’ll see, won’t we?

    It’s a sad indictment of today’s socialists when they can’t even see the best arguments at their disposal.

    So you have to like Dell to not be a socialist now? This is insane.

  • http://deleted Jonas Cord Jr.

    Shawn,

    What do you mean by the hierarchal prespective? That you are somehow better qualified to comment on economics and customer relations than I am? I would disagree with that, if that’s the case, but the “appeal to authority” is a logical fallacies.

    I have no idea what she means either. If this conversation is devolving into arguments from authority, I’m sure Jeff could conjure up an actual accredited and respected economist or philosopher to explain the difference between capitalism and communism to her.

  • http://AsbestosDen.org Shawn Levasseur

    I wish I could go back and clean up my grammar…

    Oh well.

  • Joseph

    As an entrepreneur, investor and business executive I can state categorically that if customer service gets so bad that all it takes is a few complaints to stir customers against me to the point that the hyperbole of a mob taking to the streets with pitchforks and torches wanting my head even begins to be used, then someone in my company, either myself or some other part of management, has failed miserably. In a case like this change is long overdue and if I am the head of the company, or the founder, then this is a clear signal that it is time for me to get back to basics and pay attention to the people who were responsible for my success…my customers. Without their active faith and support there is no management, there are no products, there is no stock.

    People who complain about a company’s products or services, whether on a blog or elsewhere, are typically just the tip of the iceberg which is why they should be paid close attention to and their complaints quickly resolved. Most people simply keep quiet and move on to a competitor. The complainers actually do a company a great service. And any management team that fails them so deeply that their dissatisfaction grows to the point of their wanting to take up figurative pitchforks and torches against them then they deserve to be fired.

    Dell used to have a reputation for excellent customer service. But I suspect that Michael Dell has become so involved with other things and overwhelmed by the size of his company that he has not been able to pay the attention to it that he should. Perhaps it is time that he started to emulate Craig Newmark and spent a few months manning a customer service line himself and maybe, just maybe, he could return the reputation of his company to one that it once had.

    Wanting to speak to the CEO after exhausting every other avenue for redress is not a sign of a wacko. It is the sign of a customer who is pleading with you not to force them to give their money to a competitor. If I were Michael Dell, I, or an appointed subordinate with power, would get on the phone immediately with that customer, at the expense of everything else, and solve their problem and I would keep doing it until perceptions about my company had changed. Because for every customer who is willing to express that depth of frustration to me, there is typically at least another 100-200 who have just given up or kept quiet.

    That act alone would likely do more for my stockholders, as far as increasing the value of my stock, than anything else I could possibly do.

  • http://www.superflippy.net/opinion Susanna

    Did you see that article in Fortune about the new rules of business? The old rule: the company serves the stockholders. The new rule: the company serves the customers.
    http://money.cnn.com/2006/07/10/magazines/fortune/rules.fortune/index.htm?cnn=yes

    Jack Welch never intended for companies to serve the stockholders at the expense of the customers, and in his comments related to that article he expresses doubt that any would. But ask anyone who has cable TV or a cell phone: companies absolutely spend as little on customer satisfaction as they can get away with. Of course, this only works until a competitor gives the customer a good reason to switch. That reason might be better price, better service, or simply a respite from horrible service.

  • http://deleted Jonas Cord Jr.

    Did you see that article in Fortune about the new rules of business? The old rule: the company serves the stockholders. The new rule: the company serves the customers.

    Fortune is for Communists, BTW. ;-)

    But seriously, the tension between serving the interests of your customers, your shareholders, and your employees is the challenge of running a company. It’s not necessarily one or the other, that’s too simplistic. The customer part just got a much louder, however.

  • http://marginalizingmorons.blogspot.com/ CaptiousNut

    Jonas,

    Where did I say anywhere that one has to “like Dell”?

    All I am doing is interjecting some facts and logic into self-centered, emotional disputation.

    If you don’t understand the nexus between Big Business bashing, economic illiteracy, the entitlement mentality (for perfect customer service), I can’t help you.

    You can’t just assume that it’s possible or easy for a company to charge more money and deliver better customer support than Dell. CVS could staff two more cashiers at every store (How much would that cost?) but somehow that hasn’t opened the door for a slightly higher priced, better service pharmacy chain.

    Dell assembles and delivers cutting edge technology. There’s going to be bugs and unforeseen problems inherent in the industry. People that understand the business and understand the risk element of consumer purchases whine a heck of a lot less.

    Econo-illiterate socialists whine the most.

  • Jonas Cord Jr.

    CaptiousNut,

    Where did I say anywhere that one has to “like Dell”?

    Sorry, that may have been a little over the top. You are expecting me to accept excuses for Dell’s customer service, which according to the article Jeff just linked, they don’t even make themselves.

    If you don’t understand the nexus between Big Business bashing, economic illiteracy, the entitlement mentality (for perfect customer service), I can’t help you.

    As long is everybody is whining to the company and amongst themselves, and not trying to get the government to regulate so they get what they want, I’m very comfortable with the whining.

    You can’t just assume that it’s possible or easy for a company to charge more money and deliver better customer support than Dell.

    I’m not saying it’s easy, but it’s likely possible. This is like precluding the possibility of making Airlines less obnoxious to their customers before, let’s say, JetBlue.

    Econo-illiterate socialists whine the most.

    And the more we make it clear that market forces are the best way to address their concerns, the less we have to worry about living under their damn socialism.

  • http://AsbestosDen.org Shawn Levasseur

    Here’s Irony…

    http://www.strumpette.com/archives/148-PR-Disgraces-New-Zealands-Public-Television.html

    Strumpette notice how PR firms are getting less respect and losing credibility. in the above linked article.

    She even comments how PR Firms are ignoring the problem as they are making record profits.

    It sounds like she’s pointing out how an entrenched business is ignoring the canary in the coal mine over tending to the cash cow. A familiar theme… I wonder where I’ve read about that before…. (the sarcasm light is lit)

    If she only knew… If only she wasn’t so quick to call Jeff a communist… If only she did her homework…

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  • http://www.mythusmageopines.com/wp Alan Kellogg

    Amanda, you said, and I quote…

    I’ve slept with clients.

    Can I bone you for 10 bucks?

  • http://peterdawson.typepad.com /pd

    I’m not getting it…Amanda sez

    “I will contact him if the eggs are bad or the apples are rotten. I just want them replaced, or my money back. But if he’s negligently sold me something toxic, I do want more. I want damages and legal fees, too.”

    I will contat Dell if the computer is bad or rotton.
    I want them to replace it.
    If they repeatly ignore me, I want damage and legal fees too !!

    yeah, baby, this is the attention and intention eononmy.. what you want is eaxctly what I want.. ..!!

  • http://peterdawson.typepad.com /pd

    Yeah Alan, that was a nice reference !!

    She just lost all her brownie points with me . All along, I thought this was just a dichotmy of thought within old PR vs new PR ….but hey– theres money on my dresser too !!

    I think I’ll bid $10.50 anyone else want to bid for it ?? Hey common dudes/ dudette, after all — lets see whats the net worth of the stock like.. !!

  • http://dellone2one.com John

    Jeff,

    I understand from this and a previous blog entry that you may still have some problems with Dell products you currently own. I am here and willing to help. If you respond to the e-mail I sent you on Friday, we can begin resolving your issues. If you no longer have the email I would be happy to resend it. I look forward to speaking with you personally.

    John
    Dell Customer Advocate

  • http://strumpette.com Amanda Chapel

    Jeff,

    When they’ve addressed your issue… will you stop harassing the company; and will you stop using the company for promoting your own personal agenda?

    Simple as that.

    – Amanda

    PS to Dell: If Jeff cannot be satisfied, will you please give him his money back and send him on his way?

  • snapmikey

    Here are two good relevant article by Steve Adubato:

    Keep it very personal in customer service

    The Star-Ledger
    Steve Adubato

    Great customer service is about making someone feel special. It is about making him or her feel like for that limited period of time, he or she is the only one that matters.

    Consider the following scenario: Joe calls his attorney, who is handling for him. He has known this attorney for years and the lawyer charges $400 an hour because he is considered one of the best in his field. At those prices, you would expect great customer service and personalized attention. Yet, recently, Joe got very frustrated by what he perceived as a lack of responsiveness on his lawyer’s part regarding a particular issue in his case.

    After Joe let his lawyer know how upset he was, the lawyer shot back: “Hey, Joe do you think you are the only client I have? I don’t have your file memorized. I need to be in court in the morning, I’m taking depositions all afternoon and I just came back from vacation. It’s okay with you if I go on vacation, isn’t it?

    At that moment, Joe couldn’t imagine why he was still paying this guy $400 an hour to give him such poor customer service, not to mention attitude.

    Q. Isn’t the lawyer right on some level? Joe isn’t the only client he has. What’s wrong with the lawyer just being honest?

    A. It doesn’t matter how many clients the lawyer has. That’s the lawyer’s, not the client’s, problem. Great customer service is about making everyone you interact with feel as if he or she is the only person that matters at that moment.

    Q. But what if you are really being pressed on several levels by many customers? How do really give any individual that kind of attention?

    A. Discipline, practice and making great customer service a priority. It is also the ability to stay in the moment and empathize. Your customers don’t care what you did before or what you are going to do after you interact with them. All they care about is their situation and they have a right to expect that you can to help them solve their problem, regardless of what other pressures you face and particularly when they are paying top dollar.

    The professionals who understand that reap big dividends.

    Q. So what exactly IS the payoff for extraordinary customer service?

    A. First off, loyalty. Any customer who receives this kind of service is going to be hard-pressed to go anywhere else. This can translate into a lot of repeat business. Further, when customers feel as if you’ve gone the extra yard for them, they are bound to tell others: “Hey, Bob. I heard you are looking for an attorney. You should really check out Mary Jones. She is terrific. Every time I reach out for her, she gets back to me right away and is so helpful. If you want, I’ll be glad to call her for you.”

    You can’t pay for that kind of promotion. Word of mouth is still the best advertisement.

    Another payoff is the satisfaction of knowing you’ve made a difference in a customer’s life. Some say it’s not personal, it’s only business. Well, don’t believe it. When you help someone solve a big problem or provide the kind of service that improves their quality of life, that’s not just business, that’s VERY personal.

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

    John from Dell,
    Yes, I received your email on Friday but didn’t respond because I was on vacation.
    I appreciate your response.
    You responded to a note about that laptop in a post from August 17, 2005.
    I’m afraid we had to move on, having failed to get action, even though the laptop had extended warranty.
    The laptop is no longer in use. My son is now using an Apple laptop.

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

    Alan,
    Control yourself.

    Amanda,
    This is also a journalistic matter. Dell is a major company and following its actions is news. So I will continue to follow Dell whether you approve or not.

    Or I can go buy a share of stock so I can follow from your same lofty heights (how many shares do you own?).

    You are flexing your old PR muscle, thinking you can somehow stop the world from talking about your clients (or would-be clients… though I have my doubts that you’re endearing yourself to Dell anymore than Chris the intern who left me that comment). Welcome to the land of free speech. I can talk about Dell to my heart’s content. And it’s almost content. But not quite.

  • snapmikey

    Going beyond PR and Marketing

    The Star-Ledger
    Steve Adubato

    Most companies talk a good game when it comes to communication. They use all the right buzz words about marketing, advertising, public relations and customer service. But what does it really take to put together a solid internal and external communication plan that will pay big dividends?

    Q. How would you rate the communication effectiveness of most businesses?

    A. It varies greatly. Most businesses view “communications” in very simplistic terms. But a comprehensive, strategic and smart communication plan takes real time and effort to execute. Not enough companies identify who their audience is, both internally and externally. They don’t ask themselves what those audiences REALLY want in order to be satisfied and motivated. The smart companies identify these stakeholders and work every day to connect with them on both a personal and professional level. They follow-up, they listen and they touch base on a regular basis.

    Q. Why is a good communication plan so important to any organization?

    A. Internally, great communication minimizes confusion and frustration. It gets people on the same page instead of working at cross purposes. It helps people understand where the company is going and why it is going there. Great communication also helps team players understand what their role is in accomplishing these broader goals. As for quality EXTERNAL communication, the payoff involves satisfied customers who are motivated to tell others about you. It creates a buzz. It allows external stakeholders to feel confident and comfortable coming to you when something has gone wrong, thereby paving the way to resolution.

    Great communication also helps you negotiate more effectively and adds to the bottom line when it comes to selling.

    Q. Why should marketing people be concerned about good communication?

    A. Like everyone else, marketers need to connect with their customers and prospects on a regular basis. Too many marketers are convinced that if they inundate you with information and data, that you will be so impressed and want to sign on the dotted line.

    But great marketing doesn’t work that way. It requires the human touch and the personal hand holding that makes prospects and customers feel good about you as well as your products and services. Great marketers understand that you must connect with people emotionally and viscerally, not just intellectually.

    Q. What’s the main cause of poor customer service in an organization?

    A. The biggest reason is not caring–Not understanding that customers are our lifeblood. They pay our bills, our salaries and they keep the lights on.

    Most organizations give great lip service about great customer service, but going the extra yard to make customers REALLY happy and satisfied requires hard work and dedication. Saying the customer is always right is easy. Living it every day is hard. Let’s face it.

    The companies that are truly great spend a lot of time and money training, retraining, as well as rewarding employees involved in customer service. Those who take the cheap way out pay a huge price.

    Q. So, is advertising and public relations what business communications is all about?

    A. Advertising and public relations are just terms. They don’t mean anything until companies live them. Advertising simply means what you pay to communicate to a desired audience. Public relations is how you communicate for free. Yet, advertising and public relations can only work well when they are tied together and are believable. Think about it. If your advertising campaign says; “At Company XYZ our customer is #1,” that may sound great, but what happens if in that same company’s employees are consistently rude and dismissive of customers? Advertising means nothing if it conflicts with the reality of how you are perceived by your stakeholders. Yet, together, advertising and public relations can be a creative and powerful communication tool.

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

    I think I can claim credit for bringing Amanda and Nick together. They are meant for each other.

  • http://www.mythusmageopines.com/wp Alan Kellogg

    Jeff,

    Ah pooh. You’re no fun.

  • http://strumpette.com Amanda Chapel

    Jeff,

    There was no intention to overshadow you free speech in any way. The point is that if you keep crying after you’ve been given a bottle (or your “binky”), speaking from a mother’s perspective, it is a sure sign the baby needs changing or has colic. Trust me, in this heat, the incessant crying is painful for all of us.

    – Amanda

  • Pingback: Digital Common Sense » I vote on the side od Strumpette (and Dell). I hope they never fix his computer myself.

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

    C’mon, Jeff. You had to love Nick’s headline for his post.

    Maybe Amanda and Nick are from the school of “Even bad PR is good PR.”

    Captious, I’ll introduce some facts.

    Here’s a bit about Dell marketshare:

    “Like last quarter, Dell only grew a bit faster than the market as a whole. For Dell, that’s uncharacteristically slow.”

    That’s for 4Q2005.

    And for this year? This article is telling:

    “The company recently acknowledged it will miss its quarterly revenue target for the second straight period. Dell blames a shortfall in its U.S. consumer business and its U.K. operations, but competition around the world and a changing market may also be dragging Dell back down to earth.”

    And:

    “Even though Dell cited slowdowns in its U.S and U.K. businesses as problems areas, Dell could also be missing out on accelerating growth in parts of the world where it does not dominate the market, analysts said.”

    I don’t really care what Dell’s stock value is today, Captious. And I respect your comments… but Jeff’s right. Blog opinion is the canary in the coal mine. Given enough two thumbs down reviews, that brings down marketshare, as cited by the second article. And if marketshare dwindles, where’s the worth in the stock?

    Cause and effect, kids.

    Word to the wise: there is no relationship management. There is only relationship engagement. Big difference.

    The good news is that Dell has begun to openly respond and engage its audience. Personally, I’m cheering for Dell to do this right. But it won’t happen by Amanda’s suggestion to shut down the blog. Get out of the ivory tower and meet your customers. Joseph in his sage comment earlier is exactly right. Spending three months in customer service and writing on the blog, as Jeff suggested, is engagement and educational and a hell of a good story.

  • http://marginalizingmorons.blogspot.com/ CaptiousNut

    Brett,

    I don’t care what Dell’s market cap is either, it’s hardly germane to the topic at hand.

    Jeff could have made all of his points without talking about market cap also BUT his Nya Nya post was completely based on that.

    People snickered when the terms “socialist” and “communist” show up in this thread, but this has devolved from a simple customer service complaint into a bricolage complaint with a life of its own.

    By Brett’s own fact, Dell still grew “faster than the market as a whole”. They are selling more machines at lower prices despite the canaries. Wouldn’t this support my claim that the silent majority of customers value price over everything else?

    John from Dell,

    If you really are a concerned Dell rep, why don’t you have somebody call me back from Gold Technical Support (which I paid up for)? You offer Jeff help but why not me? Do you see anyone else defending Dell on Jarvis’ posts? Jarvis says he’s moved on, but his blog posts imply otherwise. Reaching out to Jeff strikes me as so Neville Chamberlain.

    Heck I even recommended Michael Dell’s book above AND own stock in your company – not to mention I have bought 5 Dell PCs in the last seven years. (captiousnut at gmail.com)

  • Old Grouch

    Dan Knauss says “My ‘Customer Service’ is Google.” Good for you, Dan, and for anyone else who wants to do it himself! I can do computer geeking (hardware and programming), electrical work, HVAC maintenance, carpentry, and accounting, none of which have anything to do with my actual business. When I need any of the above, I hire somebody to do it. My time, you see, is limited, and it’s more valuable to my company for me to spend it running the business, not replacing hard drives. Just because I can do something doesn’t mean I should. And just because customers can look up problems on Google doesn’t mean they should have to. Unless you’ve told them up front that Google is the support. Which leads to…

    Amanda says, “Dell’s obligation to its customers ends with the conclusion of the transaction. Period.” Jonas Cord notes, “The conclusion of the transaction does not end until the end of the warranty…” Actually, it goes beyond that: It’s called “standing behind your product.” Some companies do, others don’t. As a customer, I can (and have) purchased from both types. A part of a supplier’s duty is make certain that I don’t make a deal with them believing that they’re a type “a” when they’re really a type “b.” (Business schools call this “managing customer expectations.” It’s not rocket science.)

    CaptiousNut: “…entitlement mentality (for perfect customer service).” Baloney. Darn few people expect “perfect” service all the time, in fact most will put up with an amazing amount of fumbling. The real rage-provoker is repeated cases of ineffective “service,” coupled with perceived indifference to the customer’s plight: You failed to solve my problem, you failed to solve it again, and nobody in your organization seems to care. Do it often enough, and people will get the government involved (or maybe just bring in the trial lawyers): This is why states passed “lemon laws,” and what class action suits are all about.

    “There’s going to be bugs and unforeseen problems… People that understand the business and understand the risk element of consumer purchases whine a heck of a lot less.” Then Dell shouldn’t be marketing computers as consumer products. I don’t have to understand the processed-foods business to buy a can of Campbell’s soup. If the customer has to “understand the business” or “understand the risk” to purchase a product, then the seller had better make sure the customer DOES, or there WILL be problems.

    And again: “You can’t just assume that it’s possible or easy… to charge more money and deliver better customer support…” No, but if I was in Dell’s management I’d want to make damwell sure that it isn’t “possible or easy.” Because if I’ve overlooked something, sooner or later somebody else will come along and hand me my head.

    It used to be that companies could smother customer dissatisfaction under a blanket of marketing. It’s ironic that, just as businesses were becoming bigger and more indifferent to their customers, the internet came along to make the “truth” as close as Googling “<company_name> +sucks.” This century’s winners will be the ones who understand the change.

    And there’s nothing communistic or socialistic about wanting to get good value for your money.

  • http://www.accmanpro.com Dennis Howlett

    Has it occurred to Jeff that by baiting you in this way and yet claiming she’s a shareholder that AC might be shorting the stock and using your megaphone to influence prices? Just a thought. (BTW – AC’s IP address is considered spam at my place. If not a shorter then a troll. Seen it in years past. :))

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  • Pingback: Bankwatch » Blog Archive » The age of customerism and producerism

  • Chris_B

    This and Amanda’s post made me realize something: “A List bloggers” and all the teapots of drama they cook up are the Jerry Springer show of net.addicts.

    BTW who cares who Amanda sleeps with?

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

    Amanda, Anne Coulter is calling; she wants her schtick back.

    Consumers don’t want to take over Dell or hang Michael from a lamppost; they just want what is rightfully theirs for the money they pay. I recently paid €1800 for a high-end Dell laptop. It can’t play games properly – even 5 year old games. In the end, Dell support fobbed me off with the line “this laptop is not suitable for gaming”, even though the Dell web site specifically markets it as such, and the laptop comes with a high-end graphics card whose only possible purpose is gaming. I’m a first – and you’ve guessed it – last time customer, and if Dell can use the internet to sell product, then I can use it to warn possible consumers about their lousy products and support. Fair’s fair.

    P.

  • http://marginalizingmorons.blogspot.com/ CaptiousNut

    Old Grouch said,

    And there’s nothing communistic or socialistic about wanting to get good value for your money.

    Well, considering that the average PC cost around $1,700 six years ago and now it costs closer to $1,000 I would strenously suggest that you do get “good value” for your money. (This isn’t even counting the fact that today’s machines are many times more usesful/powerful than their predecessors!)

    You unwittingly illustrate my point. The vastly cheaper price and improved performance are taken for granted and the complaint is for better service. Sorry, smells a lot like an entitlement mentality to me.

    And it’s plenty socialistic to inveigh against prices/products/companies from a platform of econo-ignorance.

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  • http://technovia.typepad.com Ian Betteridge

    Brett: “Value is determined by perception.”

    Value, Brett, is determined by making a good product and ensuring it gets good service and support. THIS determines how your product is perceived.

    Make good products, and people will buy them, and your business will flourish. Make bad products, and they won’t, and your business will perish.

  • http://technovia.typepad.com Ian Betteridge

    Jeff says…

    “Absolutely right on who sets the value of a company: the marketplace.”

    That’s a gross over simplification, Jeff. Think about it: a company that has small margins may well be highly valued by the marketplace, for its low prices. However, it may not be a valuable company, because it may have difficulty investing enough to ensure longer-term profit growth (and long-term profit growth is what impresses Wall Street and adds to a company’s value).

  • http://technovia.typepad.com Ian Betteridge

    Jeff: “More important, if you give them a chance — and if you have a good product and good service — handing over control will help you. Your customers will market for you. They will provide free customer service to fellow customers. They will give you your message. They will help you design your product. Your customer is your friend. Unless you’ve made your customer your enemy.”

    Jeff, I’d really suggest that you look into the history of the development of Microsoft Office if you want an example of a product where its design has been ceeded to customers (via focus groups). And look at Apple’s products if you want examples of how great products can be when a company chooses to completely ignore its customers.

    You listen to existing customers because repeat business is cheaper to get than new business. But let them design the products? Not unless you want mediocrity.

  • http://technovia.typepad.com Ian Betteridge

    Jonas:

    “1. A computer maker that actually gave you “Gold” technical support;”

    The problem is that such a maker would find it very difficult to generate sales, as its prices for machines would be 30-40% more than equivalents from box-shifters like Dell. Support, also, doesn’t get cheaper (per machine) the more machines you ship: if anything, it becomes more expensive. What’s more, you’d have a *lousy* rate of customer loyalty unless you built poor-quality machinest to begin with, because most customers machines don’t go wrong – and they’d be the most likely ones to ditch your overpriced boxes after three years of getting nothing extra for their money.

  • http://technovia.typepad.com Ian Betteridge

    “Word to the wise: there is no relationship management. There is only relationship engagement. Big difference.”

    *Sigh*. You manage how you engage, which is EXACTLY what relationship management has always been about. You don’t just blindly engage with any and all customers.

    Believe it or not, marketing has always been about engaging with customers, ensuring that you do things that are appropriate to the market you’re trying to reach. However, what you’re all seeming to miss is that the customer world is NOT flat, and sometimes the customers that make most noise are the ones that are least valuable. And – although this is a message the blogosphere might not like hearing – sometimes people making lots of noise on blogs are not all that influential.

    Some customers don’t have enough money to make it worth my while chasing their dollars. Some are “lifestyle” buyers who would be particularly expensive to acquire. Some – the really loyal ones who buy the same products year on year – barely get listened to at all because it takes an earthquake for them to shift buying pattern.

    Marketing may not be a science, but it IS a craft, and like all crafts theirs a lot of thought gone into how it works along the years.

  • http://technovia.typepad.com Ian Betteridge

    Brett: “Get out of the ivory tower and meet your customers.”

    Do you seriously think that Dell does not do this? They would be unique in corporate history if this were true. Dell has corporate sales teams, focus groups, and very tight measure for ROI on everything it does. Every offer it makes is tracked, every sale it makes is tracked, every call you make to support is tracked against your customer number. Dell has more hard facts about what its customers like and don’t like, all won through the most effective form of customer research: What you’ve actually bought.

    If you seriously think that all Dell does is sit in its “ivory tower” ignoring what its customers want, you’re living in cloud cuckoo land. It’s just that it’s more concerned with hard numbers than some squeaking blogs.

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  • William

    So much for Dell being forthcoming with their problems:

    http://www.crn.com/sections/breakingnews/dailyarchives.jhtml?articleId=190600070

    Seems as though the CPSC is in cahoots with them (Dell).

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  • Alan

    Man this was like watching a political debate, two people so divided over the same issue that you would think they were discussing two completely different topics.

    I was all set to weigh in on this when I found:

    Bryan Says:

    July 17th, 2006 at 2:39 pm
    I’ve been following this Dell Hell thing for a little while, and frankly I think Mr. Jarvis has over-reached a bit. Yes he got crappy service, and no he didn’t deserve it. But at least some of that service level was very clearly laid out in the fine print of the service agreement he bought. He should have read that more closely. Now he’s turned the episode into a hate-fest that gets a lot of eyeballs – I’m guessing the Google revenue is up!

    Ms. Chapel is foaming at the mouth on the other end of this little spectrum. But some of her points, though badly worded, do hold glimmerings of truth.

    Somewhere in between lies the place most of us want to be. We know that we want to pay a decent price for a usable product. What follows from that, though, is that we need to allow the producer enough profit to actually survive, so they’ll be there later on when we want *another* decent product. We need to be aware that every time we ask a company to spend even a second meeting our demands, that costs actual money. Someone has to pay that – and if the company wants to survive, it needs to pass that cost back to its customers – or forgo the expense entirely. Econ 101, guys!

    So, great. Customers, make your demands. Be careful though – if you demand too much, you may find that no one is left to service your *next* demand …

    Excellent!

  • Alan

    However, being the blabber mouth that I am, I do have something to add.

    Jeff is in the entertainment business, especially TV, which may be the closest to his “ideal” consumer controlled product in the world. Nielson’s anyone?

    Well that idea is working out, look at all the high quality, consumer driven, entertainment available.

    Everyone knew they needed an iPod and demanded Apple create it.
    I can’t believe how many of my friends said they could not live without an internet auction site, and danged if Ebay didn’t listen.

    Customers might help companies design, market, support, etc, but there is no way they will replace the teams inside the companies doing the same thing, customers do not have the time, patience or expertise.

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  • http://www.avatarfigurines.com berry

    the whole PR business is about control and compliant media. Your posts about Dell hell had relevance because for all too many of us, they (sadly) rang true.

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