In my “Dealing with Customer Reviews” seminars I often mention what I call the “Dell Hell” story to
illustrate what can happen if a company ignores Web customer reviews. I recently came across a 2007 Business Week opinion article written by Jeff Jarvis — the reviewer at the center of the “Dell Hell” episode. The article describes Dell’s painful transformation from a much-criticized brand to a brand that tries hard to participate in online conversations with its customers. If your business doesn’t have an active, ongoing program to participate in online conversations with customers, you should think hard about Dell’s lessons learned.
In 2005, Jarvis bought a Dell laptop and started having problems with the computer and with Dell’s customer service almost immediately. He vented on his blog under the headline, “Dell Sucks,” and thousands of frustrated Dell customers eventually joined in to agree. The story was also picked up by newspapers and the business press. It highlighted changes in Dell’s customer service policies which Dell now admits led to customers having too many conversations with too many service technicians in too many countries. As Dell’s head of customer service says, the Company’s DNA of cost-cutting got in the way, and Dell’s customer service became ineffective in order to become very efficient.
The following year, Dell finally took action. It increased service spending by 35% and drastically cut the number of outsourced service partners. Dell also stopped counting the handle time per call that rushed service representatives and motivated them to transfer irate customers to someone else. At its worst, more than 7,000 or the 400,000 customers calling each week were transferred more than seven times. By 2007, the transfer rate had fallen from 45% to 18%. Dell also launched its Direct2Dell blog to improve communications with customers and it launched IdeaStorm.com to ask customers for their ideas about improving Dell products. Dell is following the advice it receives and is selling Linux computers, reducing the promotional “bloatware” software pre-installed on new Dells, and even allowing customers to rate its products on its website.
In an interview with Jarvis, CEO Michael Dell acknowledged the problems and discussed Dell’s responses with some thoughts appropriate to any sized business. Dell said:
“These conversations are going to occur whether you like it or not, O.K.? Well, do you want to be part of that or not? My argument is you absolutely do. You can learn from that. You can improve your reaction time. And you can be a better company by listening and being involved in that conversation.”
Is your business participating in and responding to conversations on the Web? Let Rust Reviews get you started so that you can avoid a “Dell Hell” episode of your own.