Posts about Dell

The flaming battery story: People powered

Steve Hamm at Business Week has a good chronicle of the blog pressure that led to Dell, Apple, and Sony’s recall of their batteries.

The cybermedia didn’t merely expose the dangers of computers catching fire. They kept the heat on the manufacturers to do something about it and helped the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) conduct an investigation into the burning batteries.

Note well that the now-blogwise Dell thanked bloggers:

Dell credits the blogosphere for helping it get through the crisis. “Information travels around quickly,” says spokeswoman Gretchen Miller. “Also, it’s another channel to get the message to our customers so they can be safe.”

This, too, is networked journalism: customers able to gather together as an effective watchdog.

Dell’s human

Here‘s a MySpace tale of a Dell customer who’d had it and was contacted by one of the customer-service people now assigned to respond to bloggers, John Blain. When she was dealing with Blain, life was good; when she got back to the outsourced machinery of alleged customer service, it was not. But then Blain fixed it. At the happy ending, she writes:

And he wrote to me as if I was a person, not going by a script or any of that other bullshit.

There it is, there’s the essence of good customer service: to people as people. Chug-chug on the Cluetrain.

Calling Mr. Dell

BL Ochman has‘ the tip of the day for Dell on the occasion of its plummeting stock:

Wake up Michael Dell! Your company is sick and you’re the guy who can restore confidence in it. Not a marketing guy, not a PR person, not any spokesman … you. No platitudes. No philosophy. No corporate speak. You! What the hell are you waiting for?

Amanda exposed

Andrew Krucoff snaps a picture of Amanda.

There, now, that didn’t hurt, did it?

Dell obviously now has a troop of service people reaching out to find customers’ problems on blogs. They pleasantly surprised B.L. Ochman (even if she wasn’t similarly welcomed at the Dell blog).

They even wrote to me — yes, grouchy old me. I got an email last week, while on vacation, noting that in an 11-month-old post I’d complained that my remaining working Dell, my son’s was overheating. I was on vacation when I got the email and not online much, so I figured I’d respond when I got home. The rep, John Blain, then left a comment on the blog pointing my attention to his email. I responded via email yesterday, saying that I very much appreciated his offer. But in the 11 months since that post, we’d given up on the Dell and my son switched to a Mac. Blain won’t give up. With a dogged diligence that would make Columbo proudn, he emailed back insisting he wanted to dig into the case: “If you or any member of your family was indeed treated unfairly, it needs to at least be looked at, and if possible, corrected.”

Bravo, Mr. Blain! And good for you, Dell.

Sometime ago, I suggested that this strategy will pay off in a few ways:

First, you will spend money on customer-service time with these customers anyway; why not reach out to them directly? I’ll bet this will end up being more efficient.

Second, you will get good PR on the web. See B.L.’s post above and this one right here.

Third, you’ll keep customers you might otherwise lose — if you get to them before it’s too late. I’m a lost cause. But others aren’t.

I know there were lots of fears about doing this: How can we handle all these problems? (Well, you’d better find a way to do it anyway?) What will people say about us? (They’ll say much nicer things if you try to help them than if you ignore them.) What if they’re just asses who can’t be pleased? (Well, you’re getting nice words out of even me now, aren’t you?)

Soon after I posted my first complaint about my Dell and my utter failure at getting service through regular channels, I said this was a test to see whether Dell was listening, whether they would respond to customers on blogs. They weren’t.

But now they are listening. This outreach to your customers — not bloggers, customers — is far more important in my view than starting your own blog. This will yield the real dividends: happier customers, better reputation, stronger brand, more learning.

So thanks for your offer, Mr. Blain. It may be too late for me. But it’s never too late to listen to your customers. You can’t solve every problem Dell has. But you can solve some. Give yourself and your boss a pat on the back.

By the way, when I went searching in my messy email for Mr. Blain’s email, I found another, similar email from Dell a big earlier. I didn’t even see it, frankly, because I get so many emails about Dell I can’t read them all. But I want to note that they started this outreach before they started the blog. And that’s good.