Friday, October 26, 2007

Buy DELL shares.

You can’t keep a good man down for very long. First SONY and now DELL is on a comeback trail. I can feel it and see it. The focus on basics - good product design, excellent customer service and relevant innovation - is showing. Read here about how they are listening to the consumer, turning complaints/problems into a positive opportunity for the brand and harnessing the “wisdom of the crowds” to develop new products or improve existing ones.

Conversing with your consumers may be just lip service for some companies, but for Dell it is central to a rejuvenated reputation, writes Jeff Jarvis in BusinesWeek (10/29/07). Just a year ago, Dell’s internal tracking reported customer satisfaction among core users at just 58 percent. Satisfaction among high-end customers was even worse. Michael Dell went “ballistic,” says Dick Hunter, who heads Dell’s customer service. Today, Dell’s core-customer satisfaction is up to 74 percent and the high-end has jumped to 80 percent. That’s still not good enough, but those numbers apparently would not be as high if not for its blog, “I think what the web has brought is the voice of that 25 percent,” says Dick.

Dell launched last July, “where chief blogger Lionel Menchaca gave the company a frank and credible human voice.” That happened only after the company had been thoroughly flamed by unhappy customers online. At that point, Michael Dell was encouraged by Jeff Jarvis to “join the conversation your customers are having without you.” Dell started by dispatching “technicians to reach out to complaining bloggers and solve their problems, earning pleasantly surprised buzz in return.” Direct2Dell was launched amid “a burning battery issue,” and shortly after Michael Dell himself started, a blog asking “customers to tell the company what to do.”

In response to their advice, Dell is now “selling Linux computers and reducing the promotional ‘bloatware’ that clogs machines. Today, Dell even enables customers to rate its products on its site.” It has also streamlined its call-center support. Mark Jarvis, Dell’s new cmo, actually regards its customer conversations as its strategy: “By listening to our customers, that is actually the most perfect form of marketing you could have.” His boss regards it as an engine of innovation: “I’m sure there’s a lot of things that I can’t even imagine, but our customers can imagine,” says Michael Dell, adding, “A company this size is not going to be about a couple of people coming up with ideas. It’s going to be about millions of people and harnessing the power of those ideas.”

Read more such stories on my blog