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.