What Dell Is Doing to Create Customers for Life

Some may have seen the PC World article titled "The Tech Brands You Can Trust." I don't trust the PC World survey data and neither should you.

The PC World article offers:

"Every year PC World polls its knowledgeable readers to see which companies are providing the best tech support and service the results of our latest exclusive survey of 79,000 tech aficionados reveal some welcome improvements and some familiar shortcomings."

The survey respondents are PC World subscribers who responded to online or print advertisements and some email solicitations. Other than the sparse insight PC World provides, what do we really know about PC World's demographic? Almost nothing! PC World only offers highly summarized data--no detail is provided.

While this survey represents a large sampling, it is far from a scientific sampling. We really know little about what period of time respondents are reporting issues and what trends we can indeed infer from this. Is this "new" news, "old" news--we simply don't know. And, we don' know if the people responding are able to give a first-hand accounts or are reporting issues heard from associates. Many who commented on this article expressed concern about the reliability and integrity of the survey data.

As one might expect from prior PC World surveys, the top two companies in the PC space in terms of market share, HP and Dell, appear to again be ranked as the "evil empire" whereas upstart companies, e.g., ASUS, seem to be ranked more favorably with consumers. Acer, the number three company in terms of market share, isn't even mentioned in the summary. Apple ranks very favorably in this survey.

HP expresses similar concern in the article, citing programs that they too have to better engage with customers and eliminate customer frustrations. HP and Dell are not speed boats, they are more like aircraft carriers. For HP and Dell, it's not about connecting with a few hundred or a few thousand employees, it's about connecting with thousands and thousands spread out geographically across the earth. Now this doesn't excuse HP and Dell, rather, it explains the challenge these giants face.

One of the most telling metrics in the business world is market share. It is the gold standard in determining how well a company is performing year-over-year. A company can only be growing, maintaining or suffering declines in market share. If I were to look at the data in the PC world report, I would intuit that the market share for Dell and HP must have been on the decline for number of years yet the facts reveal something different.

In the interest of full disclosure, I am a member of Dell's Customer Advisory Panel. This unpaid relationship with Dell gives me access to key initiatives, processes and people who are focused on improving Dell's relationship with its customers. With the diversity of products and the scale of the business, there are many more opportunities to disappoint customers, particularly given the range of experience that customers bring to the table in terms of dealing with technology companies. And, I think it is common knowledge that an unhappy customer will find many more ways of expressing and sharing a negative experience than will those with a positive customer experience. I suspect this phenomenon also skews the PC World survey data.

So, at a high-level, what is Dell doing to create customers for life?

  • Dell has focused on using social media to identify and resolve issues reported by customers. This program has been underway since early 2006 and is yielding impressive results for customers and Dell itself.
  • In June of this year, Dell created a Customer Advisory Panel consisting of raving fans and ardent critics. I've written articles about the Dell Customer Advisory Panel here and here.
  • November 2010, Dell hosted its first Customer Advisory Panel in Shanghai, China. Global companies can't assume that the issues impacting North American apply universally.
  • Dell has been insisting that executives try to get things done using Dell's core business processes, e.g., ordering a computer, getting service for a computer, etc. Dell executives have learned first-hand what it is like to deal with Dell. They've liked some things and disliked others contributing to investments to upgrade and improve processes and people.
  • December 8, 2010, Dell opened a new, state of the art Social Media Listening Command Center at its headquarters in Round Rock, Texas, a center for capturing and managing, and resolving customer issues. I attended the grand opening.
  • Identifying and resolving customer issues is the first step in providing feedback into a closed loop corrective action process. This means, when you lose, don't lose the lesson--Dell is figuring out how to eliminate the reoccurrence of customer problems. This is central to creating better customer experiences.

I've had Dell customers approach me to get assistance with customer issues based on my Fast Company articles. In all instances, the Dell Social Media Team has responded quickly and effectively to resolve the issues at hand. Some dissatisfied customers who may have been thinking twice about ordering products from Dell again are now solidly on board with Dell.

Every company expects to have problems. Managers have the responsibility for identifying issues and patterns that undermine customer relationships and ensuring that corrective action is taken. It is clear Dell understands this.

Dell is committed to correcting the aberrations that occur in dealing with customers. No manufacturer wants to disappoint even a single customer. Dell's demonstrated commitment to customers carries more weight than the PC World survey.

Dave Gardner is a management consultant, speaker and blogger who resides in Silicon Valley. His firm helps clients eliminate business execution issues that threaten profitable and sustainable growth. Dave is a member of Dell's Customer Advisory Panel. He can be reached through his website at www.gardnerandassoc.com or on Twitter @Gardner_Dave.

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