On Monday I attended Joseph Thornley’s Ottawa Third Tuesday Social Media Meet-up. As usual it did not disappoint.
Richard Binhammer, Dell’s Senior Manager of Public Affairs took us through the process that took Dell from ‘Dell Hell’ to ’Dell Swell’ and everything in between.. Along the way he provided remarkable insight into the way that social media could change corporate America.
First the background way back in July of 2005 Jeff Jarvis took Dell to task for its customer service – and most importantly not paying attention to what their customers were saying (on blogs) about their products.
Now as I’ve commented elsewhere Jeff’s comment was a perfect storm for Dell. An influential and highly media savvy blogger takes the company to task, taps into an underlying sentiment that is accentuated by Google’s page rank algorithm at the time (which favoured blogs) and press coverage of the emerging blog medium which connected with the broader public. It was impossible to miss – and damaging to Dell.
Fast forward to Mr. Binhammer’s presentation and you’d be forgiven for thinking the pendulum had swung the other way.
Dell now scans blogs for any mention of Dell and swoops in with support if the customer is dissatisfied. It’s got a team of top tier customer support and technical specialists to deal with nothing but blogger complaints. In a sense it’s a re-architected customer support strategy that recognizes the importance of influence on the buying habits of others.
What was most interesting to me is where Dell is taking this. Mr. Binhammer outlined an experimental concierge program to take customer service to a whole new level (for some customers) helping them expand their use of the product and answering all manner of questions related to use (how to up load pictures, choosing photo manipulation software etc). He also talked about Idea Storm – Dells Digg like service to uncover product desires and rank and validate them. He also hinted at custom applications they are developing to better understand how these direct media influence each other and overall buying patterns.
In the end one couldn’t help but come to the conclusion that while Dell misses the importance of social media initially they are at their heart innovators and that these initial forays are part of a larger process that will see a re-alignment of advertising, customer support and market research budgets – with a large proportion shifted to social media interaction and relationship building with thought leaders in targeted segments.
Possibly this was Jeff’s intention all along – because if anyone was going to lead corporate America into social media it would be Dell.
It would be ok to leave the story there – but it would be wrong because you’re all thinking – well Dell can do it but my company never could because we don’t have those resources’. Look no further than Alec Saunders excellent post on how he, and his small company, track and influence the issues in their world.
It’s an inspiration – and an argument to look at how you allocate those budgets.