Dick Hunter of Dell – Part 2 of 3

Here is the second part of the interview with Dick Hunter, Vice President of Customer Experience and Support at Dell.

This part of the interview talks about the results of outsourcing/offshoring, Dell’s efforts to gather and respond to feedback (their blog and so on), Dell’s biggest advantage, and then a bit about Dell’s direct sales model.

Question: What type of results have you noticed with outsourced support? Are customers more or less happy with outsourced support versus what you give in North America
Answer: I don’t think there is a direct answer. The bigger picture is customers want resolution. If they get resolution on their first call, almost regardless of where the calls get routed, they will be happy. If customers don’t get resolution, then accent might become the problem – not just a problem. The reason why it could be a problem is because the customer is saying “The reason I didn’t get my problem resolved was because you couldn’t understand me or I couldn’t understand you. And your fault for not being able to speak English or whatever.” I think the number one issue is resolution. Now, when you talk outsourcers versus Dell badge – there are obviously some extremely good techs in the outsourcing world and some weak techs at Dell. And then there are some extremely talented techs at Dell and some very weak ones at outsourcing. We’ll say this, though – in general, the outsourcer’s attrition is much higher than Dell’s – I would say 2x of what Dell’s attrition rate is.

The reason is that for people in an outsourced position, they may or may not have a job depending on the length of the contract. When people sign on to work for Dell, they are working for a company that is investing in the customer support area. I don’t think that you can just draw a conclusion that if they are outsourced, they are bad or if they are outsourced, they are good. I think it depends and really is all about the agent’s capability and the tools they have. If we train them more and keep them longer, our Dell techs will be stronger in the long run than an outsourced tech. There are all kinds of capabilities with techs on the phones with both outsourcers and “Dell badged”.

Question: Dell has been doing a lot on the web and the blogosphere. Direct2Dell, IdeaStorm, the Customer Advocate teams – all of those sites and features. Why has Dell started to do all of this so suddenly?
Answer: It’s a great way to get more customer feedback. Michael has been very outspoken – he wants ideas from the customers and it is a great way to get the direct feedback. Fundamentally, that’s what it is about for us. The blogs were starting to happen and more people were out there with blogs, and we saw it as a great way to get feedback. IdeaStorm was just an evolution. People vote on these ideas and what resonates with votes – to me, IdeaStorm is a blog with voting capability. It’s just another way. We deal with millions of customers every day. We do surveys so we get some feedback from there, but IdeaStorm and the blog are just another way to get feedback (good or bad).

Question: When it comes to providing quality customer service, what would you say is Dell’s biggest advantage? Its secret weapon of sorts?
Answer: The secret weapon we use more of is our intimate knowledge of what the customer has for equipment and the history of their interactions with us. A retailer may or may not have that information. They sell a computer – it’s a transaction. They might know the name of the person and that’s it. When the person has an issue, they may bring the system back to the store to get it fixed. Clearly, the original manufacturer has trouble getting that information back from the retailer.

We have a direct relationship with the customer – we know exactly what we ship them. We serialize everything. I used to run the manufacturing operations at Dell so I know that we have a genealogy by service tag numbers. I can tell you what hard drive went in there, what manufacturer, when it was built, and all that. We have a ton of information on the system itself.

Then, every interaction we have with a customer is logged in our own case management system. If you called us six months ago, we have a record of that. If you call in again, especially if you use the same phone number, we’ll track you by phone and we’ll populate the screen the agent has with your past history. Our challenge is to be able to provide that data more readily to the agents near real time. As you are dialing in, if we have a match to your phone number or you’ll say your service tag number on the IVR, we’ll have a match. We want to provide that information real-time to every agent so we can start off the conversation with “Hello, is this Mr. Hunter?” and “We sent you a hard drive six months ago. Did it work okay?” That’s my view of what the relationship will become between us and our customers and all of that is because of our direct model.

Question: If you changed the direct model, how would that affect customer service
Answer: As you probably know, we are experimenting with a retail store in Dallas. My team runs service out of that store. You can bring in a computer to have it serviced and that has been very good. If we started to sell through our own stores or any other way, I think we’ll always drive this personal relationship with our customers. When they call in or bring their system – they would call in to us or bring the system to us.

Since we built it for them or when they bought it, we would know the serial numbers that they bought. If the method to get them the system is a little different, we will still have the same backend capability of knowing what system they bought, the serial number of it. From that information, we would still be able to create that direct relationship with the customer through the service.

Question: So am I correct in understanding that Dell won’t do what companies like HP does and sell the computers in bulk to a retailer and then the customers buys them?
Answer: That might happen – I don’t know. We are going to try all kinds of things. The point is that we are going to want to associate a serial number with a customer. Whether we do that or not is another question, but we surely want to do that. The downstream service won’t be done by a retailer per say – it will be more than likely done by us. But, who knows. I am not sure all the things that Michael is thinking about. I feel pretty strongly though that we will likely be servicing everything that is sold.

7 Responses to “Dick Hunter of Dell – Part 2 of 3”

  1. duffrey sigurdson said:

    May 16, 07 at 7:34 pm

    Richard has at his finger tips every bit of information regarding my computer, my problems and he is certainly aware that these problems are being experienced by hundreds or thousands of other customers (Inspiron XPS and 9100) but despite my best efforts to help dell to help me, first by calling customer service and then by participating in the direct2dell blog and on the forums, I have NEVER been contacted by an executive from Dell. The closest I have come was a member of the Executive Escalation Team telling the Better Business Bureau that they would give me a 10% discount on a motherboard that even they won’t use in their products (it was withdrawn from the market in the original XPS Inspiron and replaced with a Gen2 system with a different motherboard). He neglected to mention to the BBB that it was a “refurbished” mob and wasn’t even in stock. I presume they will dig up an old melted 9100 they had to take back under warranty and fix the mob in order to sell it to me… gee guys, thanks!

    And keep in mind he told the BBB that he wouldn’t call me himself because he wants it all “in writing”. Leaves me wondering why he didn’t email me to tell me that and instead tells the BBB that we are welcome to write him.

    Well, I did write to him as he suggested but of course I have never heard from him since… business as usual at Dell and this despite all the rosy paint Mr. Hunter is applying.

    I would challenge Dell executives to contact me (link at my website above) and actually HAVE a two way dialogue instead of the lies (yes I said lies and they are documented with times, dates, employee numbers etc)and the stonewalling I have had to date.

    Dell has already had one successful class action filed against them for the Inspiron 5150 and others are pending so perhaps they have chosen to ignore me for fear of opening up another can of worms…

    WE could solve this today if there was a two way dialogue between dell and I but so far it has all been a one way street.

    Dick Hunter has touched on a few points, made a few minor mea culpa’s and although he claims to have turned things around since last September, us poor saps on the ground, who are stuck with a turkey which Dell knows is a turkey, are still experiencing business as usual at Dell.

    The Inspiron 9100 is referred to as the “edsel” on the dell forums BTW, but at least Ford had the decency to withdraw it from the market. Too bad there aren’t forced recalls of computers which are faulty, instead of Dell hiding behind the “out of warranty” line. The Edsel’s were out of warranty too….

    duffrey sigurdson

  2. Service Untitled said:

    May 16, 07 at 7:44 pm

    Hi Duffrey,

    Thanks for your comment.

    I’m sorry to hear that you’ve been having trouble with Dell. They are watching the blogosphere (including this blog in particular) and I expect you will hear from them sooner than later.

    I believe that your issue will be resolved – it just takes some time and getting in touch with the right person. As Dell improves, getting in touch with that right person should become easier and easier.

    All I can say is that Dell does want to make things better – it’s just very hard to do.

    Thank you again for your comment. I hope everything is resolved to your satisfaction as soon as possible.

  3. Service Untitled » Dick Hunter, VP of Customer Experience at Dell - customer service and customer service experience blog said:

    May 17, 07 at 9:57 am

    […] Part 2 – Link In this part of the interview, Dick discusses what Dell’s biggest disadvantages are, what marketting efforts they have made, what he thinks people can learn from Dell (with tips about opeartions), and where he thinks Dell’s service is now. […]

  4. RichardatDELL said:

    May 17, 07 at 2:46 pm

    Hi Duffrey,

    Thanks for the feedback and your comment.  First, I apologize that we
    have not delivered the personal service that you expected. Dick Hunter
    wishes he could answer every email he receives, pro and con….but it is
    not humanly possible. I know you have chatted with folks in tech
    support, as well as at the direct2dell blog.

    We are making changes to do a better job of that and while we have a
    ways to go, as Dick points out, we are changing.  We have initiated
    things like Ideastorm, our direct2dell blog and other activities to
    listen and get more involved with our customers.

    Im sorry that you feel that we are not doing enough or that only an
    executive conversation seems to matter.  Frankly, all of us here are
    working to make a difference

    In addition, I have personally checked with the product and forums group
    on the specific issues you raise.  While true your motherboard on the
    Inspiron 9100 required a replacement, it is absolutely false to suggest
    that that there is a pervasive issue involving the 9100 or that hundreds
    of thousands of customers are experiencing your issues.

    Citing the number of issues on a chat forum that can range from software
    applications or how to accomplish certain tasks, does not equate to
    faulty products.  Lets be fair.

    To be clear: motherboards fail.  It happens.  Across the industry.  We
    continually work to improve quality and reduce failures to avoid this
    kind of issue because it frustrates the customer and is costly to us.

    However, motherboards are not perfect ….failure happens.  And, as you
    unfortunately experienced, failure is more likely over time and outside
    of warranty.

    Its why we offered a 10% discount on a board from spares, even outside
    of warranty.  I am not aware of everyone in the industry doing that for
    its customers.

    Just as a bit of information here to make this discussion fair and

    – You suggested we should manufacture new boards for 3-4 year old
    products.  I don’t believe that makes business sense for us or for our

    –  if we take six sigma quality statistics ( 99.9997% perfect) and apply
    that to the Inspiron 9100 which we sold hundreds of thousands of, then 1
    in 300 machines might have a fault leading to a couple hundred machines
    with some sort of issue.  That is not a faulty product of the kind you

    – during warranty, hardware that is identified to have a fault is
    replaced quickly and expeditiously by our support teams.

    Neither the 9100, nor its sister, and XPS Gen 1 Portable is a
    problematic system.
    It is not referred to as an Edsel.  One customer started a thread with
    that in the subject line.  However, the issues I have seen mentioned in
    the threads are not endemic to the 9100.  In fact, a good number of the
    threads are customers sharing tips with each other on how to get the
    most out of technology….while at the same time helping each other with
    “problems” or teaching each other how to accomplish things using the

    Finally, to be very clear, the model was not pulled but was replaced by
    the newer and upgraded I9200, as the 9100 came to end of its life cycle
    in the business.

    I hope that clarifies the situation and trust me….we understand that
    any product difficulty, especially outside of warranty, is a pain…for
    you and for us.  We continually work to improve quality on all fronts
    and are sorry you had this experience.

  5. duffrey sigurdson said:

    May 17, 07 at 8:44 pm

    In rebuttal to RichardatDell

    First point: I would have to agree with Richard that it is untrue that hundreds of thousands of users are experiencing my problems. What I actually said was “…and he is certainly aware that these problems are being experienced by hundreds or thousands of other customers”

    Second point: If it were not a “pervasive issue” it would not be discussed ad naseum to this day on such sites as this, the dell forums, the direct2dell blog and other well respected sites. Just today I found another site with posts as recent as this month from users suffering the same issues as I am, they are in the UK and you can read them at http://www.laptopshowcase.co.uk/reviews.php?id=72

    Third point: A careful filtering of topics via keywords on the dell forums will certainly narrow down for RichardatDEll the many discussions and complaints regarding the 9100 and XPS Gen1 motherboard. And let’s be fair, the motherboard issue is not the only issue with this machine.

    Fourth point: Motherboards in notebooks don’t fail across the industry if they have a cpu that is meant for a notebook. Dell understood the problems of putting a desktop cpu in there when they designed it.

    Fifth point: Show me where I suggested you should manufacture new boards, I am unable to find a statement to that effect anywhere.

    I have suggested all along you just replace this piece of junk with a computer you are confident won’t die a premature death.

    Sixth point: Your statistics led me to a quote from Mark Twain which I will leave you to find… but here is a link to a BBC article on the topic of statistics. http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/h2g2/A1091350

    Seventh point: In response to your quote “It is not referred to as an Edsel. One customer started a thread with that in the subject line.” I can only say that I’m not an English major but if that isn’t being “referred to” what is? In other words, what you have said makes no sense, it is right there on the forum, customers of dell, me included ARE referring to it as an Edsel.

    Eighth point: I agree that many of the things you see in the threads may not be endemic to the 9100 but a few of them are. Anyone who has followed dells woes in the last while knows that a whole bunch of computers are having a whole bunch of problems and the commonality is that they are all in the Inspiron line.

    I also agree that the forums (and the dell blog) are wonderful places and there are many helpful folks using them.

    Lastly, I am always suspicous when people sign off as RichardatDELL or some such thing, and then sum up by saying “trust me”.

    I trusted DELL when I recommended your company to my daughter for her first major purchase in life, that trust no longer exists, for me or her and your response above did it’s bit too to assist in that degeneration, sorry to say.

  6. JohnPope@Dell said:

    May 18, 07 at 2:56 pm

    Hi Duffrey,

    My colleague Richard is out of the office today but it looks as though we’ll have to agree to disagree. There is no pervasive issue with the 9100. It’s proven to be a very stable system, and most are in service to this day.

  7. JT said:

    Apr 26, 12 at 11:03 am

    I know this is an old comment but it is amazing to me how poorly the folks at Dell have handled this issue experienced by poster Duffy.
    1) This is an issue that Dell should be smart enough to handle offline and not respond to in a public forum.
    2) This is an issue that Dell should have responded to “we are sorry you experienced a problem with the Dell XXX, we assure you we take your comments very seriously…and understand your frustration….the Dell XXX has served many customers well yet we understand that certain products can experience service issues at time…. Please contact me directly at xxxx@dell.com and I will personally look into it…”
    3) The fact that multiple people at dell are being defensive about the product (whether they are right or not) is just wrong. First rule is “own the problem…” – if Dell does not even have the intelligence to handle online issue in a logical way like I suggested, then they really don’t understand Customer service.

    NEVER argue with the customer – especially online. And telling the customer they are wrong is a sure way to get everybody thinking Dell is a big bad co bullying a powerless customer who trusted them by buying their product. Lot to learn. Hope things have changed. This is the problem with hiring people with nice resumes but lack the common sense to handle customer service in a n effective manner.