Dell hell: Seller beware

The age of caveat emptor is over.

Now the time has come when it’s the seller who must beware. Caveat venditor.

A company can no longer get away with consistently offering shoddy products or service or ignoring customers’ concerns and needs.

For now the customers can talk back where they can be heard. Those customers can gang up and share what they know and give their complaints volume. Of course, they can use their reviews and complaints to have a big impact on a company’s reputation and business.

Public relations has to take on a new meaning. It can no longer be about the press and publicity, which just separate companies from the public they are supposed to serve.

Public relations must be about a new relationship with the public, with the public in charge.

: All that is quite obvious to any of us. But it is far from obvious to too many big companies … like Dell.

I tested Dell and they failed. Their customer service mechanism did not recognize a machine and service pattern and customer that were a mess. They didn’t try to fix it.

I could have stayed on the phone for hours and gone up a tier at a time playing the customer having a psycho fit (ask anyone who has heard me go after customer service people who don’t serve: I play the role well).

Instead, I chose to write about the saga here. I chose to elicit the sympathy and conspiracy of fellow pissed-off Dell customers. I chose to see whether Dell is listening.

They are not.

Their media people were not reading the media that matters — media written by their very own customers. This page is already No. 5 in Google under Dell sucks. I gave them time. They failed.

So then I emailed their media department and told them to read this blog. I gave them a cheat sheet. They didn’t. They failed.

Only when I wrote to the Chief Marketing Officer, Michael A. George ([email protected]) did I get a rise out of the company: A very nice (of course) woman named Linda with an accent (Southern… and I don’t mean Bangalore) called to promise to ready the endless email exchange with Dell.

But as we say on the internet: That doesn’t scale. If every dissatisfied customer had to email the Chief Marketing Officer, Michael A. George ([email protected]), he’d never have time to market.

: So here’s where things stand right now. Linda offered scripted apologies (in the same breath that she read the standard notice that the call was being recorded). She didn’t hold onto her arguments about Dell policy on at-home service (when I said that her very own employee admitted that the at-home technician would not bring the parts necessary to fix the machine). She didn’t rise to the legal bait of calling the at-home program “fraudulent” and my complaining about lost work (can you say “compensatory damages”?).

She offered to send me a new machine.

I said I had no faith in Dell, in the quality of its products or its service.

I asked for a refund.

She then offered a full refund.

I said I would decide what to do my early next week.

In the meantime, Apple and PC cultists will battle over the dead body of my Dell.

: You know what: If Dell were really smart, they’d hire me (yes, me) to come to them and teach them about blogs, 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.