Posts about Dell


Oliver Ryan has an amusing lead to his Fortune tory about buzz:

Michael Dell was mingling in Davos, Switzerland, this winter when he spotted the blogger Jeff Jarvis and went over to apologize. It had been nearly two years since Jarvis posted a series of irate messages to his BuzzMachine blog about the failings of his Dell computer. The posts eventually drew national attention, and Jarvis’s headline DELL HELL has since become shorthand for the ability of a lone blogger to deliver a body blow to an unsuspecting business.

Two years later, poised to retake the helm at his company, Michael Dell undoubtedly figured it couldn’t hurt to make nice.

All that could have been avoided if, in 2005, Dell’s operatives had had access to the services of Bay Area startup BuzzLogic, which is the newest of a generation of companies with Web software designed to spot and neutralize an incendiary blogger before a marketing conflagration ensues.

Analyzing Dell

John Cass gets the Dell story right, I think:

Is the biggest blogging story of 2007 the resignation of chief executive Kevin Rollins at Dell? As reports did Jeff Jarvis of BuzzMachine help Dell’s earnings fall, and in the process seal the fate of key executives at Dell? No, is the simple answer to that question, lackluster profits and a competitive marketplace having more to do with Dell’s troubles and the changes among the company’s top managers. . . . The story demonstrates that any company working in a competitive technology market must pay attention to the content customers generate online or otherwise face the danger of poor results. Though hard to bear at the moment Dell will benefit from responding to customer feedback, and in turn Dell customers will benefit in return. If Dell becomes the new gold standard for online customer service and technology customer service through blogging, its customers have a lot to be concerned about if they fail to keep up and follow the same conversational marketing strategies.

Meeting Mr. Dell

I was at the party at Davos, thrown by the German newsmagazine Focus and Hubert Burda (video soon) and whom should I meet but Michael Dell. I thought I’d need to try to corner him at the session on web 2.0 but he approached me.

Of course, it was all cordial. This is Davos. And it should have been cordial. I told Dell that I have seen his people improve impressively on the blog front, reaching out to bloggers with service problems and blogging openly.

He apologized for my bad computer. I brushed that off; old news. I told him that I never intended to start a riot. When I hit a wall with my computer, I just blew of steam on my blog. But once I did, I, too, learned how amazing the internet is at allowing people to coalesce.

He said that they have a lot of work to do and I agreed. Improving communication doesn’t necessary solve the underlying problems. But listening to your customers can only help and I said that blogs are amazing, for they are a new way to hear your customers. I started into my spiel about handing over control to your customers and pointed him to Treonauts as a place where customers sell the product, create the marketing message, provide customer service, and even help design the product. I didn’t start sermonizing, though. Nor did I dispute what he said about this case at CES. This is Davos. This was a party. And Steve Case came up at that moment.

I have a bigger bone to pick with Case, since I still own my damned Time Warner stock. Moments later, a writer for one of Time’s magazines walked by, saw Case, and growled, “There’s the guy who tanked my company.” But we didn’t say this to him. This is Davos. It was a party.

By the way, I told Dell that I have since bought a new Dell monitor for my son.

Davos07: Who controls the internet

I’m sitting in the front row for a panel on internet governance with future guy Paul Saffo, internet godfather Vint Cerf, Oxford Jonathan Zittrain, John Markoff, ITU Secretary General Hamadoun Toure, and Michael Dell. Yes, Michael Dell (more on that later; I met him last night). And yes, I have my Mac laptop open. Liveblogging a bit…..

Markoff says that “unless we find a way to police the commercial internet, it won’t survive…. (or) we’ll have to walk away from the internet and leave it like you’d leave a bad neighborhood.” That is, he fears for attacks on servers from around the world. He says that we have “a thriving security industry that sells fear” but that has not done a good job protecting consumers. He talks about pirated copies of Vista coming with trojans and about botnets; Cerf adds that there may be more than 100 million machines ensnared in this giving the bad guys supercomputers, as Markoff says. He talks about malware that took up to 15 percent of Yahoo’s search to grab the random text that is going into the current wave of spam to get it through the filters. Markoff is asked whether policing is the right metaphor; Cerf says others call it a fire department and the goal is still to put out the fire. Toure says this needs a global response. So the metaphor shifts to pandemics and vaccinations.

Cerf adds that “in spite of all the turmoil… the internet seems to be working, it’s a very resilient system.” He says it’s not just the net that needs work but also the operating systems that allow hackers to dig deep into them to do bad.

Dell says that the internet is largely anonymous “but the question has to be asked, as these issues and challenges escalate into ever more disruptive and vexing problems can this continue to be an almost completely anonymous system.” Cerf replies that there are good reasons to authenticate and validate (e.g., servers, domains) and that they can build a more refined structure. “Anonymity has its value and also its risks.” He says he reminds us that the United States was built on anonymous tracts.

Asked to give good news, Dell jokes that he has was to get that spam to you faster. He says there are two big opportunities. One is the unused spectrum that will be freed up in the shift to digital TV and opens up new communication and devices. The other is fibre, where the U.S. is behind. “We think of that is the real broadband.”

Zitrain gives a typically cogent explanation of where we are: from the whimsy of the start of the internet to the hard reality of security invasions that are too great to count. He says it is like the days of the old phone network when the means of communication are the same as the means of control, allowing hackers to break in with a Cap’n Crunch whistle. Zittrain is worried about the world of information appliances tethered to their makers, allowing central control of our devices. He says that the solutions will come, “similar to global warming,” by finding ways to track what is happening to our environment.

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.