Posts about Dell

Customer service in reverse

In the continuing Dell discussion, Steve Rubel answers Steve Baker’s question about how companies should deal with lots of bloggers raising lots of customer service issues:

Steve, over time I think you’re going to see blog search and Web search tools integrated into CRM systems. This will give customer service the tools they need to manage individual issues that bubble on blogs. However, you are right. PR professionals will increasingly need to not only serve as an organization’s mouthpiece (one of them at least), but also its eyes and ears. The best PR pros have done this for years. Blogging just makes it easier to keep our finger on the public pulse.
This is how we operate at CooperKatz. We monitor the blogosphere for all of our clients. If we spot a customer issue, we route it to the right party to manage. Occasionally, we also reach out ourselves to begin the dialogue.

Interesting… so imagine if rather than having to go to companies for service — and waiting on hold and waiting and waiting… — the companies came to us! What a concept.

Think of that world-in-reverse: You post a need online, tagged with a microformat (more on that later), and people find you and bid to solve your problem or sell you their product, selling you with price and also with testaments of trust.

That’s not the world in reverse. That’s the world as it should be: The sellers come to the customers, not the other way around. The customers becomes the marketplace. I like that.

Dell: a coda

Business Week Online just wrote about my Dell saga. See also BW’s Steve Baker.

And Dell’s PR person just sent me email:

Jeff:
Please contact me at your convenience to discuss your Dell issues. I look forward to hearing from you. Jennifer
Jennifer Jones Davis
Dell US Consumer Communications

I’ll fill you in after we talk.

Dell learns a lesson

Dell has changed its policy on blogs.

Shankar Gupta at Mediapost just did good reporting following up on my Dell hell saga (ironically, on the same day I got the refund for my laptop):

Dell Computers, which came under fire this summer from blogger Jeff Jarvis, says it has new procedures for dealing with the blogosphere. The company’s public relations department monitors blogs, looking for commentaries and complaints–and, starting about a month ago, began forwarding complaints with personally identifiable information to the customer service department so that representatives can contact dissatisfied consumers directly, said Dell spokeswoman Jennifer Davis. The move appears to have been triggered by a series of “Dell Hell” posts penned by Jarvis about his problems with a Dell computer. Jarvis first wrote about the topic in June, and continued posting updates through the summer.

“Obviously, Mr. Jarvis’ experience could’ve been handled better,” Davis said.

As for other bloggers, Davis said that ideally, when customer service receives forwarded complaints from bloggers, representatives will approach them directly to diffuse the problem. “That’s certainly what they’re supposed to do,” she said. “I can’t comment that it happens 100 percent of the time, but that certainly is what the process is designed for.” Jarvis, on his blog, said Dell contacted him only after he wrote a letter directly to Michael George, Dell’s chief marketing officer.

Well, Dell, that’s a start. I made a few other suggestions in my letter to Mr. Dell. Speaking of which, here’s the kicker on Shankar’s story:

Davis also said that Dell is “looking at the best way to respond” to Jarvis’ last complaint, the “open letter” of Aug. 17. “What we want to do first and foremost is to make sure we’re addressing his specific issue, and making sure that the system is working to his satisfaction,” Davis said. “We’ll also be glad to talk with him about the broader issues–we have not outreached as of yet, but we’re looking at the best way to do so.”

Email works.

Dell not answering

Just to followup: I have not received any response from Dell’s chief marketing officer, Michael George, to my helpful and polite letter. And when MediaPost did a story on this, Dell wouldn’t return their phone calls either.

: The San Jose Mercury-News, covering the Blog Business Summit, also mentions the saga and it appears on a score of Knight-Ridder sites.

Customer served

You have to admire a VC who washes his own socks… and the hotel who lets him.

Dear Mr. Dell

To: Michael Dell….
CC: Michael George, chief marketing officer and vice president for the U.S. consumer business, Dell

Gentlemen,

Your customer satisfaction is plummeting, your marketshare is shrinking, and your stock price is deflating.

Let me give you some indication of why, from one consumer’s perspective. I won’t bore you with all the details of my saga of Dell hell; you can read all about it here and here. The bottom line is that a low-price coupon may have gotten me to buy a Dell, but your product was a lemon and your customer service was appalling.

I shipped back my computer today and only — only — because I wrote an email to you, Mr. George, did I manage to get a refund. I’m typing this on an Apple Powerbook. I also have bought two more Apples for our home.

But you didn’t just lose three PC sales and me as a customer.

Today, when you lose a customer, you don’t lose just that customer, you risk losing that customer’s friends. And thanks to the internet and blogs and consumer rate-and-review services, your customers have lots and lots of friends all around the world.

I blog. And I shared the story of my Dell travails here. The topic resonated with hundreds more people. Go read the many comments here and here. Too busy? Then have an intern or an MBA do it for you.

And then have them read all the many posts of other bloggers who pointed to my posts and shared their dissatisfaction with your products, service, and brand and, in many cases, announced that they were no longer going to buy your name: See some of those posts here or here and you’ll learn a lot.

Heard of those new podcast things? Well, you’re in one.

Now go read the press this generated, because the press is reading blogs, even if you’re not: here (where Fast company turned consumer dissatisfaction into a verb: you got Dell’d), here (ZDnet not just in America but in India, where your many customer-service people are probably reading this, even if you’re not), here (a mainstream newspaper), here (an influential online news service), here (a consumer PC magazine), here (BusinessWeek, guys), and plenty more here: Just Google it; you should be doing that every day.

Or nevermind the press and even the blogs and just go to a food court to listen to what your customers are really saying about you. A VC in Toronto named Rick Segal happened to be in his building’s food court when he witnessed this scene:

I happened to be sitting across from a couple of bank tellers from TD Canada Trust, the bank in our building. These two ladies I’d seen before so I knew where they worked.

Lady one: I was going to buy a new Dell but did you hear about Jeff Jarvis and the absolute hell he is going through with them.

Lady two: Yeah, I know the IT guy told me that the cobler blog was recommending we stay away from Dell.

Okay, after you are done laughing at this; laughing at Scoble’s name being mangled, laughing at two random bank tellers talking about some one line blog entry about some guy pissed off about his Dell experience; after you are done: Pay Attention.

I’ll accept that an IT guy would be reading scoble’s blog. I’ll even accept the IT guy offering an opinion which, randomly, I overheard.

The pay attention part: Lots of people (Dell?) are making the assumption that “average people” or “the masses” don’t really see/read blogs so, we take a little heat and move on.

Big mistake.

At the same time, as the tech columnist in the Houston Chronicle reported, you closed down one of your consumer forums and your own spokesman said that you have a corporate policy of not talking to your customers on blogs.

Big mistakes.

So allow me to give you some friendly and free advice about these blog things. You can pay for more.

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

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

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

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

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

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?

Lots of company in Dell Hell

Lots of good folks have been sending me email alerts to a new study that shows Dell customer satisfaction falling as fast as its stock price (gee, wonder whether they are related, huh?).

U.S. consumers lambasted Dell Inc. for poor customer service in a survey conducted last quarter, sending the world’s largest PC vendor into a virtual tie with the rest of the PC market behind the industry-leading efforts of Apple Computer Inc.

The biggest complaint was with customer service.

I’ll post my final chapter of the Dell saga shortly.

Dell, the new GM

Couldn’t happen to a nicer company:

Shares of Dell fell sharply today and led the Nasdaq composite index down, a day after the world’s largest computer maker said quarterly revenue had not grown as fast as expected, even though earnings rose 28 percent….

The company said late Thursday afternoon that weak federal government orders and aggressive discounts on computers sold to consumers slowed growth in revenue…

Just ask magazines and burger chains and car companies: You can’t make a business out of discounts. It was a coupon that got me to buy my Dell. It was bad products and customer service that made me return it.