Posts about Dell

Today’s helpful Dell blogging tip

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

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

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

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

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

please… omg… please help with a Dell question.

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

I, too am in Dell Hell right now…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now they’re getting the idea

The latest post on Dell’s blog finally addresses the dead, decomposing, stinking elephant in the room: customer service. Laura Bosworth, director of customer experience (a thankless job if I’ve ever heard one) says:

The good news is that we know what we need to do. You’ve been telling us. Our number one priority is to get better at problem resolution. I can almost hear the collective “duh” out there as I write this. . . .

Now that’s more like it. I have no idea whether their efforts will be successful; that elephant is mighty smelly. But they are finally addressing the real issue they should be facing in a conversation with their customers. And in the comments, the customers start right in with specific complaints. I’ll be eager to see how they’re addressed.

Today’s helpful Dell blogging tip

Try to do it daily. You create a stir and get people to come back to your blog to see what you have to say next, so have something to say. Your group blog has had two posts in seven days. Habits are usually daily. Just trying to be helpful. Think of this as my customer service.

Some friendly advice from Dell

Well, golly, look at this. I get a comment‘ on the post below from someone who says he’s working for Dell:

Hey Jarvis. I honestly think you have no life. Honestly? Do you have a life, or do just spend it trying to make Dell miserable. I’ve been working with Dell the past three weeks researching trashy blogs that worms like you leave all over that frigen blogosphere and I cant honestly say that Dell is trying to take a step towards fixing their customer service. They hire guys like me to go on the web and look through the blogs of guys like you in hopes that we can find out your problem and fix it. But honestly I dont think you have a problem Dell can fix. Your problem is you have no life.

The guy who left that post was too chicken to leave his or her last name. But Chris did leave his or her domain and it does, indeed, come from GCI Group, a division of Grey Worldwide, the giant ad agency. GCI brags that it is working for Dell, “Rebuilding Corporate Reputation Through Grassroots Effort.”

Yes, I guess that we worms without lives live down in the grass roots.

Yes, Dell is doing a great job getting in the conversation.

And yes, I quite enjoyed his apparent typo: He can’t honestly say that Dell is trying.

I just emailed Jeff Hunt, CEO and president of GCI group, asking what the company and this Chris dude are doing with Dell. I’ll let you know his reply.

: Oh, and Chris, dude, if you want to see the problems I’ve had with Dell, you can start here and then go here. See a summary here or an open letter to your client, here. Oh, and I still own some Dells that don’t work. We just don’t use them anymore. We’re an Apple family now. Apple: Computers for worms.

: LATER: I just got a response from Paul Walker of the GCI Digital Media Practice, employer of “Chris.”

Jeff Hunt forwarded your e-mail to me and asked that I look into the comment posted on your blog from a GCI Group IP address. I looked into the matter, and I can confirm the comment was left by a summer intern who got caught up in the emotion around your postings. This afternoon he obviously decided to let you know what was on his mind. In afterthought, he likely would choose his words more carefully. It is important that you understand the intern’s comment in no way reflects the points of view of Dell or GCI. Dell’s aims with its one2one weblog are positive and they have every intention of making it a forum for open conversations with Dell customers.

Fair enough, Mr. Walker. But, you see, this is exactly the issue Dell — and any company — has in all its customer interactions in the age of customer control: The person who answers the phone — or now responds to a blog post — is acting on behalf of Dell and to the customer is Dell, since that person is our connection to Dell. See the AOL cancellation video. Every one of your “customer service” employees and every one of your “public relations” employees in every encounter represents your company. That has always been the case. Only now, we can record their actions and report them to the world. There are many Chrises in many companies. The fact that they feel they can treat customers this way is a good indication, though, of the culture and management of the companies that employ them.

: I want to add that I hope young Chris does not lose his or her poor-paying internship. I’m sure that Chris, in fact, speaks for many people at Dell when it comes to what they think of me and perhaps other bloggers. Fine. I want transparency, I want conversation, this is the transparent conversation. Let’s have it. No more pussyfooting. The customers and the customer-service representatives have a real dialogue. The public meets the public relations company. No one-way mirrors. No hold buttons. No Muzak. No fake supervisors. Chris: Coffee’s on me, young man or woman.

: Here’s PR magnate Richard Edelman’s take.

Dell links

Well, well, Dell’s blog just linked to this blog; that’s a first. It came with a snippy snipe, but I’ll overlook that; I’m sure they have a lot of that stored up after the last year. They said:

Yesterday was the first official day of Dell’s one2one weblog and already Jeff Jarvis and Steve Rubel were kind enough to tell us what we’re doing wrong. Thanks for the feedback, guys. We’ll keep working to get it right.

Shel Holtz weighed in a bit more constructively. Our intention with this blog is to address issues that are important to our customers. Give us some time and we’ll prove it. Robert Scoble told us to listen, and to link to the folks who don’t like us. First step was to launch Dell’s one2one. Check. We’re excited to be here, and we welcome your ideas.

Four links and counting.

I responded in a comment (not yet approved):

Glad you’re here. But Scoble is right: The first step is to listen to the conversation about Dell that is already going on in blogs. You want constructive advice? Let me repeat…

This is what I advised on my blog more than one year ago, on July 1, 2005: I said Dell needed to learn “…about how their customers now have a voice; about how their customers are a community — a community often in revolt; about how they could find out what their customers really think; about how they could fix their customers’ problems before they become revolts; about how they could become a better company with the help of their customers. If they’d only listen.”

Your blog policy at the time, the Houston Chronicle’s Dwight Silverman found out from your spokesman, was “look, don’t touch.” But now you’re touching. Well, that’s good. But giving us a blog that just tries to sell us the wonders of Dell is not entering into the conversation.

Someone there should have the guts to deal head-on with the now-renowned customer service problem your company has. Be brave. Be direct. Be transparent. Blog about your hold time. About your customer service satisfaction ratings. About your return rate. About your reliability. Go out and quote the blogs that are writing about you every day and then answer their problems, concerns, and questions. Best yet: Ask your customers what we think you should be doing. That would get you respect. That would be a real conversation.

If you want more advice about what a Dell blog could be and could accomplish, I know I’m one of many who’d be happy to oblige.

: I just found my open letter to Michael Dell, in which I gave fuller advice:

1. Read blogs. Go to Technorati, Icerocket, Google, Bloglines, Pubsub, and search for Dell and read what they’re saying about you. Get it out of your head that these are “bloggers,” just strange beasts blathering. These are consumers, your marketplace, your customers — if you’re lucky. They are just people. You surely spend a fortune on consumer research, on surveys and focus groups and thinktanks to find out what people are thinking. On blogs, they will tell you for free. All you have to do is read them. All you have to do is listen.

2. Talk with your consumers. One of your executives said you have a look-don’t-touch policy regarding blogs. How insulting that is: You ignore your consumers? You act as if we’re not here? How would you like it if you gave someone thousands of dollars and they ignored you? You’re not used to being treated that way. Neither are we. It’s just rude. These bloggers care enough to talk about your products and service and brands. The least you can do is engage them and join the conversation. You will learn more than any think tank can ever tell you about what the market thinks of your products. But go to the next step: Ask ask your consumers what they think you should do. You’ll end up with better products and you’ll do a better job selling them to more satisfied customers who can even help each other, if you’ll let them. It’s good business, gentlemen.

3. Blog. If Microsoft and Sun and even GM, fercapitalismsake, can have their smartest blogging. So why shouldn’t you? Or the better question: Why should you? Because it’s a fad? No. Because it will make you cool with your kids? No. Blog because it shows that you are open and unafraid — no, eager — to engage your consumers, eye-to-eye.

4. Listen to all your bad press and bad blog PR and consumer dissatisfaction and falling stock price and to the failure of your low-price strategy and use that blog to admit that you have a problem. Then show us how you are going to improve quality and let us help. Make better computers and hire customer service people who serve customers.

It sounds so simple, so downright silly, doesn’t it? But that’s what you’re not doing now. And that’s why you lost me as a customer. But if you join the conversation your customers are having without you, it may not be too late.

Sincerely,

Jeff Jarvis

P.S. I have one Dell left in the house, my son’s. And just last night, he said he had to buy a fan to put under his machine to suck the heat out so the graphics card won’t overheat and slow down every time he plays a game. He looked online and found that people have complained to Dell… but no one would listen. Do you hear us now?

P.P.S. My son and webmaster is now very happy with his MacBook Pro.

: Some contrarian folksthink other bloggers and I aren’t giving Dell enough time and slack. Sorry. They’ve had a year to figure this out. They’re smart. They have money. And this is the best they can do out of the gate? This is not about blog orthodoxy. This is about consumerism. They’ve been screwing their customers and they know it — why else are they hiring tons of new support people and doing PR about it? — but their first effort to join the conversation is to promote their products and not deal with what people are already saying about them? Sorry. That’s lame. I refuse to see Dell as the poor, pitiful object of sympathy.

: LATER: Steve Rubel gives Dell free advice.

Well, well, Dell

So Dell is starting a blog.

Ha. Heh. Ho ho ho.

It’s a blog in content management system name only.

The subtitle is “direct conversations with Dell” but this is as much a conversation as yelling at a brick wall. There is not one link there. It’s filled with promotions for Dell’s wonderfulness. The top post today from the global director of e-commerce, Manish Mehta, saying:

It is hard for me to believe that it has been 10 years for www.dell.com.

Yes, I think I spent about 10 years on hold with you guys.

But seriously, folks, the first step in blogging is not writing them but reading them. The conversation is already happening out there without you. Join in that conversation. Dell continues to believe that it can control the conversation. That horse is out of the barn, over the horizon, dead, and buried.

At the same time, the Wall Street Journal reports, Dell is starting a new ad campaign that doesn’t emphasize technology or price but people, giving us sagas of satisfied customers who got the perfect machine.

Oh, damn. I just shorted out my Apple with a spit take.

: I really do hate to be so snarky. I really have no ongoing obsession with Dell. They just make it so easy.

And my poor readers are still obsessed with Dell. Just today, I got this email:

Dell service is the worst experience that one can experience……….We switched to Gateway

I get them almost every day still. And every day, I get four or more comments on months-old posts with more personal horror stories about Dell. A random comment today:

I bought 2 dells and couple of my friends also bought dell. All four of us experienced failure within 2 to 3 months of purchase. It tells me that dell is producing cheap like GM used to do. If dell does not know the price you pay for this, DELL can look at GM

Dell isn’t listening. And listening, once more, is the first step in blogging.

: Here’s Steve Rubel on Dell’s blog.

Perhaps it might have been better for them to have stayed silent. Cmon Dell. We know you’re bigger than this. Join us. Be real. Walk the talk.

Go to Dell Hell

Chris Pirillo and Brad Fitzpatrick tell the full story of my descent into hell.

And now I can confirm that the fires of hell are, indeed, fueled by burning Dell laptops.

: A bloggy aside: Note the nice GoDaddy sponsorship of Chris and Brad’s cartoon humor blog: There’s an ad there, yes, but the cartoon itself also carries a subtle sponsorship line and the site has a coupon code for domain orders. These guys also sponsor Diggnation. This is a lot cheaper — though less sexy — than Super Bowl commercials. Then again, getting your commercial kicked off the Super Bowl is also cheaper and more effective than actually advertising there. GoDaddy is a smart marketer.

Dell hell gets hotter

Gee, I don’t know why a reader thought of me when he saw this about a Dell laptop that allegedly exploded into flames. (Thanks Damien)