Dell calling

So I finally got a call from Dell because of my blogging about problems with the company’s products and service, two months after it started.

Jennifer Davis of the corporate communications department rang me up and we had a pleasant chat: We discovered our sons share the same name. She said her mom thinks she’s famous when she gets quoted in media stories such as the ones on this corporate kerfluffle. Then there was an odd moment when she asked whether she was speaking to me on a cell phone and whether I was recording the call. I said I was taking notes. She said that was fine. Made me wish I had a recorder.

But nothing new came out of the call. I’ve spent so many years listening to PR people (and politicians) who are adept at sticking to their company line, I finally know when there is no hope derailing them to get anything more.

Dell’s company line is that they are trying to improve their customer service and that will solve everything.

There is no realization that there is an opportunity (and, don’t they now know, a danger) in this era of the empowered consumer-as-publisher. I kept coming back to that as my uncompany line: You have the chance to talk with consumers, to build a new relationship with the public in public.

“We do talk to people in public through the standard major media and through our forums,” she said.

She said they read blogs now as a means of getting “feedback from customers.”

But they refuse to see that they could connect one to the other: Rather than just talking to consumers, they could talk with consumers.

They “monitor” the blogosphere, they say, but they don’t engage in conversation in it. Davis said she “can’t comment on when or if that will change.”

She did then add they they are “looking at ways to leverage the blogopshere.” Leverage us? How? To promote products, she said. In other words, they’ll use it to sell.

I asked her whether she had a message to the blogosphere. One last time, I got the company line about being committed to improving the customer experience, blah, blah, blah.

They haven’t learned a darned thing and I hereby give up trying to help them to learn.

: SEE ALSO: Seth Godin on why negative feedback is more valuable than positive.

: Here’s a link to my piece about all this in today’s Media Guardian.

But this is more than a sort-of-happy ending to a consumerist nightmare. This is a story of customer relations in the new age – an age when, to quote blogger and Cluetrain Manifesto co-author Doc Searls, “‘consumer’ is an industrial-age word, a broadcast-age word. It implies that we are all tied to our chairs, head back, eating ‘content’ and crapping cash”. Now consumers don’t just consume. We spit back. We have our own printing presses.