Posts about Dell

Analyzing Dell

John Cass gets the Dell story right, I think:

Is the biggest blogging story of 2007 the resignation of chief executive Kevin Rollins at Dell? As reports did Jeff Jarvis of BuzzMachine help Dell’s earnings fall, and in the process seal the fate of key executives at Dell? No, is the simple answer to that question, lackluster profits and a competitive marketplace having more to do with Dell’s troubles and the changes among the company’s top managers. . . . The story demonstrates that any company working in a competitive technology market must pay attention to the content customers generate online or otherwise face the danger of poor results. Though hard to bear at the moment Dell will benefit from responding to customer feedback, and in turn Dell customers will benefit in return. If Dell becomes the new gold standard for online customer service and technology customer service through blogging, its customers have a lot to be concerned about if they fail to keep up and follow the same conversational marketing strategies.

Meeting Mr. Dell

I was at the party at Davos, thrown by the German newsmagazine Focus and Hubert Burda (video soon) and whom should I meet but Michael Dell. I thought I’d need to try to corner him at the session on web 2.0 but he approached me.

Of course, it was all cordial. This is Davos. And it should have been cordial. I told Dell that I have seen his people improve impressively on the blog front, reaching out to bloggers with service problems and blogging openly.

He apologized for my bad computer. I brushed that off; old news. I told him that I never intended to start a riot. When I hit a wall with my computer, I just blew of steam on my blog. But once I did, I, too, learned how amazing the internet is at allowing people to coalesce.

He said that they have a lot of work to do and I agreed. Improving communication doesn’t necessary solve the underlying problems. But listening to your customers can only help and I said that blogs are amazing, for they are a new way to hear your customers. I started into my spiel about handing over control to your customers and pointed him to Treonauts as a place where customers sell the product, create the marketing message, provide customer service, and even help design the product. I didn’t start sermonizing, though. Nor did I dispute what he said about this case at CES. This is Davos. This was a party. And Steve Case came up at that moment.

I have a bigger bone to pick with Case, since I still own my damned Time Warner stock. Moments later, a writer for one of Time’s magazines walked by, saw Case, and growled, “There’s the guy who tanked my company.” But we didn’t say this to him. This is Davos. It was a party.

By the way, I told Dell that I have since bought a new Dell monitor for my son.

Davos07: Who controls the internet

I’m sitting in the front row for a panel on internet governance with future guy Paul Saffo, internet godfather Vint Cerf, Oxford Jonathan Zittrain, John Markoff, ITU Secretary General Hamadoun Toure, and Michael Dell. Yes, Michael Dell (more on that later; I met him last night). And yes, I have my Mac laptop open. Liveblogging a bit…..

Markoff says that “unless we find a way to police the commercial internet, it won’t survive…. (or) we’ll have to walk away from the internet and leave it like you’d leave a bad neighborhood.” That is, he fears for attacks on servers from around the world. He says that we have “a thriving security industry that sells fear” but that has not done a good job protecting consumers. He talks about pirated copies of Vista coming with trojans and about botnets; Cerf adds that there may be more than 100 million machines ensnared in this giving the bad guys supercomputers, as Markoff says. He talks about malware that took up to 15 percent of Yahoo’s search to grab the random text that is going into the current wave of spam to get it through the filters. Markoff is asked whether policing is the right metaphor; Cerf says others call it a fire department and the goal is still to put out the fire. Toure says this needs a global response. So the metaphor shifts to pandemics and vaccinations.

Cerf adds that “in spite of all the turmoil… the internet seems to be working, it’s a very resilient system.” He says it’s not just the net that needs work but also the operating systems that allow hackers to dig deep into them to do bad.

Dell says that the internet is largely anonymous “but the question has to be asked, as these issues and challenges escalate into ever more disruptive and vexing problems can this continue to be an almost completely anonymous system.” Cerf replies that there are good reasons to authenticate and validate (e.g., servers, domains) and that they can build a more refined structure. “Anonymity has its value and also its risks.” He says he reminds us that the United States was built on anonymous tracts.

Asked to give good news, Dell jokes that he has was to get that spam to you faster. He says there are two big opportunities. One is the unused spectrum that will be freed up in the shift to digital TV and opens up new communication and devices. The other is fibre, where the U.S. is behind. “We think of that is the real broadband.”

Zitrain gives a typically cogent explanation of where we are: from the whimsy of the start of the internet to the hard reality of security invasions that are too great to count. He says it is like the days of the old phone network when the means of communication are the same as the means of control, allowing hackers to break in with a Cap’n Crunch whistle. Zittrain is worried about the world of information appliances tethered to their makers, allowing central control of our devices. He says that the solutions will come, “similar to global warming,” by finding ways to track what is happening to our environment.

Dell schmell

Well, I was getting all huggy with Dell — until I see that Michael Dell took a swipe at me at CES. He held a session with bloggers there and Dwight Silverman reports:

Michael Dell says he was “very aware” of blog guru Jeff Jarvis’ crusade against his computer company over poor customer service when it was going on, and now concedes that the way it was handled at the time was a mistake.

Dell’s mea culpa came today during a meeting with bloggers, Dell customers and journalists in a conference room at the Hilton Hotel next door to the Las Vegas Convention Center, where CES is under way.

The conversation included a wide range of topics, from Dell’s blogging initiatives to its Alienware acquisition to business strategies. But the focus kept coming back to issues of customer service, and Dell’s stumbles in that area.

Dell seemed earnest about wanting to be responsive to what people are saying online about his company, and said he now spends “quite a bit” of time reading blogs.

I asked Dell if he knew about Jarvis’ jihad — which has since been dubbed “Dell Hell” — when it was going on in mid-2005, and he said, “Oh, yes.” I asked if he was involved in the decision internally not to respond to Jarvis publicly, and he didn’t answer directly.

But Dell did say that, while his company could have handled it better, steps were taken behind the scene to satisfy Jarvis.

“At various stages, we went to great lengths to resolve the situation,” Dell said. “At points, it seemed like he wasn’t interested in a resolution. But I am not going to place all the blame on him. I’d say we deserve a majority of the blame.”

He later said the company wanted to turn the phrase “Dell Hell” into “Dell Help.”

Since then, Dell has dramatically increased its outreach to bloggers, and he said the company would soon expand its Studio Dell — a service unveiled today in which its managers blog about their initiatives — to include Dell’s own customers, turning it into a kind of PC-enthusiasts’ YouTube.

I made it clear that my problem with Dell was solved with a refund, which came as a result of email to a since-departed vice-president and a call from an assistant, not from blogging. There was nothing whatsover “behind the scenes;” I wrote about any and all contact with Dell, which was minimal. And let’s also be clear that the real issue in the end was not me or my computer but was Dell’s treatment of its customers and relationship to those who blogged about the company and their experience — and, ultimately, the impact of customer service on the finances of the company.

As I’ve said, I see an impressive change in the attitude of Dell toward its customers from the bottom. I wonder still about the top.

: Oh, and though I have not said much of anything about Dell in quite a long time, to this day, I still get almost daily comments and emails from people telling their own tales.

Giving Dell its props

I like what Dell’s Lionel Menchaca blogged in response to Robert Scoble’s argument that Apple gets a free ride in PR vs. Dell:

Media coverage isn’t the real issue–it’s really about our customers’ experience when they deal with Dell. No question that incidents of poor customer service resulted in bad PR for us. And it wasn’t just Jeff Jarvis. Could we have handled that situation better than we did? You bet. For us, there wasn’t an arbitrary tipping point–things were bad so we’ve tried to fix them and will continue to do so.

Dell hug

I wandered by Dell’s blog yesterday and saw a nice video with the team of customer support folks who are now reaching out to blogger/customers who need help. What’s so nice about it is that they take the time to read the blogs and get to know the customer’s needs there so they’re ahead of the game when they make contact. And then I was amused and amazed to hear one of them, John Blain, talk about contacting me. Click on the video:

An electronic dialogue with Dell

I just got off a most amusing press conference call with Dell announcing with much fanfare its new ethics policy for the blog world in association with WOMMA (see the two posts below).

I sensed that the reporters on the call found it as curious as I did that Dell thinks this is new and worthy of a big announcement. Isn’t it always a company’s policy, in any interaction — by blog, telephone, or letter — to be open and honest?

They try to argue that blogs are new and they need to teach employees how to be ethical in their interaction with them. Said the leader of WOMMA: “We’re making it easy to be ethical.”

I think my mother made that easy when she told me not to lie. And she didn’t belong to any Association of Ethical Moms.

In fact, I think it’s possibly dangerous to put up this elaborate construct of policies and guidelines and toolkits and announcements. The message to employees should be as simple as this:

Tell the truth.

Now I didn’t want to drag Dell through glass over my blog encounters with them and their ad agency. But on the call, I did ask — twice — what they have learned from their interaction with blogs, reminding them of what Dwight Silverman learned when they told him their policy toward blogs was “look, don’t touch.” I saw after the call that on the Dell blog, in a post that went up at that moment, Lionel Menchaca acknowledged that past: “Dell Hell happened just over year ago and while we’re pleased with some of the progress we’ve made so far, we know we’ve just scratched the surface.” Good on him.

On the call, though, the executives would not acknowledge that past or any lessons in any way. They kept insisting that this announcement was “not reactive but proactive” and that they were taking a “proactive leadership position.” (I hate that corporatespeak.) And that’s too bad, because a moment of honesty about Dell’s lessons might be more helpful to other companies than a hundred bullets on an ethics policy.

I also asked, by the way, about employees blogging and they said that employees could blog now and, in response to the question, they said that executives will blog, including Michael Dell. I look forward to linking to him.

A Dellalogue

Dell says it is making some announcement about blogging tomorrow with the Word of Mouth Marketing Association. But as Ed Moltzen discovers, it’s not blogging now. It’s “electronic dialogue.”