Upon the invitation of Dell, I was asked to participate in the very first Dell Customer Advisory Panel (#DellCap on Twitter). My complaints about Dell's products and service preceded their invitation, and I'll have to admit I was surprised they invited me to participate. I honestly didn't think it would do any good. Oh, and by the way, YES, I did get to meet the one and only Mack Collier in person!
I'm back home from Austin now. What a great city! My husband has a big crush on Sandra Bullock and was very jealous that I was in the same city where she has a home. I can see why she likes it...what a cool place!
The people at Dell couldn't have been any kinder. They truly listened to our concerns, and even had an artist capture our ramblings in a unique way, and shared those drawings publicly. In fact, the Dell folks encouraged us to blog or tweet the entire proceedings.
I originally thought that I would be one of a much larger group of people and that the gathering would be rather cold and impersonal. I was surprised to find myself in an elite group of a dozen people, who, like me, had complained about Dell via social media such as Twitter or a blog. The group ranged from a very successful management consultant and Fast Company blogger to a self-made coupon queen. There were also a couple of social media consultants like me. There were also just regular people, not involved with the social media industry in any way, but had utilized social media in frustration.
The day was structured but there was plenty of time for us to have an open forum to voice our concerns, in fact, the very first session was an opportunity to talk about our main concerns. Very quickly, the conversation centered around two themes: The outsourced customer service function (time lost on the phone and frustration over a scripted call),inferior products and proper use of social media were the three main themes.
The participants made it clear that the current customer service experience at Dell has several major flaws:
- The time spent by the average customer to RESOLVE an issue is unacceptable
- Oftentimes, the person who is answering the phone is not well trained
- For some people, the slight voice delay, coupled with the strong accent of some customer service reps, is a deal-breaker during a frustrating encounter
- There is no sense of urgency or "escalation" from the reps. There is a vast difference between user tech savvy and ability. When something is seriously wrong, the person calling should be offered some choices.
- "North American support:" Dell business customers get a much higher level of competent support than home customers do.
The second main topic of conversation was the reliability of Dell's products. Here are the main complaints I heard (and some I have experienced first hand)
- Shipping delays (sometimes more than a month behind what was promised)
- Part failure within the first year of ownership (this happened to me times three)
- Software problems (Vista to Windows 7 upgrade problems)
Social media usage was the third hot topic. Though Dell gets widely credited for its innovative use of social media, that's not what we heard from Dell staff. They admit they dropped the ball and went after shiny objects, while allowing their social media customer service efforts to languish. While they were busy creating fan communities, giving speeches and receiving accolades, many people like me were stuck in what is known in the biz as "Dell Hell."
Dell has recommitted to using social media in customer service settings, more than doubling their social media listening team to be able to respond to customer concerns with actions, rather than just pacifying or ignoring complaints. I do believe they are improving this area and are committed to making things right for those who complain in the social media space. If those customers are anything like me and my fellow DellCappers, they went through the proper channels for service, and only turned to bitching online as a last resort.
I came to Austin with no expectations and kept an open mind. I meet and talked to many passionate and committed "Dellies" who are, no doubt in my mind, absolutely dedicated to making things better for their customers. I still have a few pending issues to resolve with Dell, but have decided to take those offline now. I feel very good about wrapping it up on a positive note.
One of my new Dell friends sadly noted that it might be too late to regain my business, but she wanted to learn from my experience so that future customers would be served better. Thanks, Dell, for a great experience, and I'll be watching online for more satisfied customers in the future!