Dell schmell

Well, I was getting all huggy with Dell — until I see that Michael Dell took a swipe at me at CES. He held a session with bloggers there and Dwight Silverman reports:

Michael Dell says he was “very aware” of blog guru Jeff Jarvis’ crusade against his computer company over poor customer service when it was going on, and now concedes that the way it was handled at the time was a mistake.

Dell’s mea culpa came today during a meeting with bloggers, Dell customers and journalists in a conference room at the Hilton Hotel next door to the Las Vegas Convention Center, where CES is under way.

The conversation included a wide range of topics, from Dell’s blogging initiatives to its Alienware acquisition to business strategies. But the focus kept coming back to issues of customer service, and Dell’s stumbles in that area.

Dell seemed earnest about wanting to be responsive to what people are saying online about his company, and said he now spends “quite a bit” of time reading blogs.

I asked Dell if he knew about Jarvis’ jihad — which has since been dubbed “Dell Hell” — when it was going on in mid-2005, and he said, “Oh, yes.” I asked if he was involved in the decision internally not to respond to Jarvis publicly, and he didn’t answer directly.

But Dell did say that, while his company could have handled it better, steps were taken behind the scene to satisfy Jarvis.

“At various stages, we went to great lengths to resolve the situation,” Dell said. “At points, it seemed like he wasn’t interested in a resolution. But I am not going to place all the blame on him. I’d say we deserve a majority of the blame.”

He later said the company wanted to turn the phrase “Dell Hell” into “Dell Help.”

Since then, Dell has dramatically increased its outreach to bloggers, and he said the company would soon expand its Studio Dell — a service unveiled today in which its managers blog about their initiatives — to include Dell’s own customers, turning it into a kind of PC-enthusiasts’ YouTube.

I made it clear that my problem with Dell was solved with a refund, which came as a result of email to a since-departed vice-president and a call from an assistant, not from blogging. There was nothing whatsover “behind the scenes;” I wrote about any and all contact with Dell, which was minimal. And let’s also be clear that the real issue in the end was not me or my computer but was Dell’s treatment of its customers and relationship to those who blogged about the company and their experience — and, ultimately, the impact of customer service on the finances of the company.

As I’ve said, I see an impressive change in the attitude of Dell toward its customers from the bottom. I wonder still about the top.

: Oh, and though I have not said much of anything about Dell in quite a long time, to this day, I still get almost daily comments and emails from people telling their own tales.