So what’s Dell doing?

In the next couple of weeks, you’ll see an interview from Richard “Dick” Hunter of Dell posted here at Service Untitled. It’s an interview I’ve been excited about and one I think will be a great read.

Dick is Dell’s VP of Consumer Customer Experience & Support. Basically, he is Dell’s top customer service guy. I spoke to him for about an hour or so yesterday and he shared some great (and very candid) information about where Dell is at with their customer service.

From looking at my notes, here are some tidbits that stuck out:

Getting better.
A year or so ago, Dell’s customer service was really bad. And they admit it. They did some things that Dick called “stupid.” It’ll be explained further in the interview, but needless to say, Dell figured out that cutting corners in customer service doesn’t help. They realize they aren’t anywhere near perfect (Dick rated Dell as a 6.5 out of 9 when it comes to customer service), but are getting better. From he numbers he gave me, it seems that they are indeed getting better, but still have lots of work to do.

Premium offerings.
Dell is thinking about launching a premium service offering. It’ll be the type of thing where you can pay extra when buying your computer and you’ll speak to representatives exclusively in North America, etc. How would you handle this if you were Dell? What if you were a customer – would you pay for it?

Less outsourcing.
I asked Dick a lot about outsourcing. The bottomline is that Dell is cutting back on outsourcing. They really want everyone you talk to to be employed by Dell (not an outsourcing firm). Furthermore, they are working to ensure they are in North America. A bit under 50% of Dell’s calls go to North America now.

Skill level based routing.
Dell may start asking you what you would consider your skill level to be. Dick told me the company deals with everyone from “gamers to grandmas.” Their IVR might start asking you what you would consider yourself and routing your call appropriately. This makes a lot of sense for a variety of reasons (a subject I’ll discuss this week, probably).

The customer relationship is king.
Dell really values the relationship with the customer. Not so much how you and I would think about it, but in the sense that Dell knows a lot about their consumers. They know what type of computer they have, what issues they have had in the past, and so on. All of that helps them tailor the customer service experience to each customer.

Team structure coming eventually.
Dell is considering a team based structure (similar to the ones employed at Printing For Less and Rackspace). They want it so that a customer can deal with the same group of people instead of a whole bunch of relatively random call center agents. This, to me, was the biggest piece of news and quite interesting.

My interview turnaround time is quite slow. I’m going to try and get this one typed out and published as soon as possible, though. Feel free to provide your feedback about where you think Dell is heading and how these changes will help in the comments.

9 Responses to “So what’s Dell doing?”

  1. Freda Douglas said:

    May 08, 07 at 10:10 pm

    My old computer bit the dust August 2006 but I had to wait until October to get my new computer because somebody lost the order my friend placed for me. It came without a sound system. I was on the phone with a technician for 3 hours, 20 minutes. It was supposed to be fixed – the next day it was out. Supposedly it is fixed now. I realize outsourcing to a foreign company saves Dell money, but being American I resent talking to a repair person who can’t or won’t speak good English.

  2. RichardatDELL said:

    May 09, 07 at 3:30 pm

    My apologies for the mistakes. We are not perfect but what you describe is not nearly the quality of service we expect to deliver and should not have occurred.

    I hope things are fixed. You mention things are suppose to be…Id like to catch up with you to determine whether or not they are fixed.

    If not, could you please drop an email to: In that email mention this blog and that you and I were in touch here, so that we can follow up?

  3. Service Untitled » Skill level based routing. - customer service and customer service experience blog said:

    May 09, 07 at 3:39 pm

    […] Yesterday I told you that Dell was considering asking customers about their skill levels and routing calls appropriately. I briefly discussed this over a year ago (!) and have always thought it was a good idea. […]

  4. Ankit Gupta said:

    May 10, 07 at 1:59 am

    This will be a great interview that I’m looking forward to.

    I consider myself to be computer savvy and so what I recommend to others may or may not be what I’d do myself. If a friend wants a computer, I will *not* suggest building one. I will simply say, go to Dell, they’ll get you something good, and are setup to handle your support requests.

    The issue is that people now have a bad image of Dell’s support because of outsourcing. There are numerous issues:

    1. Volume – I can’t count how many times this is an issue. If their voice isn’t being picked up properly, it doesn’t matter how well their English is.

    2. Is my name and information really needed right away? As a customer, I want to express my issues and concern before we “waste” time with formailities. Remember, I’m not speaking from my point of view, but the average customer’s. I’ve been on hold for 20 minutes or so, just had to wait for them to fix volume issues after maximizing it on my phone, and now they want to spend 5 minutes getting information about my account? I’ve called in and I’m not an advanced user, I don’t have a single question that is going to solve it all for me. I want to tell you the story, which yes, is a part of it and something we have to deal with. Then, I want to tell you what’s wrong, and what I’ve already tried.

    At that point, I want your bid of confidence that we’re going to solve it today. “Ok Janice, I’ve actually dealt with this today and helped a few others. Most of the times, it’s very easy to fix. The first thing I need you to do is read the number on the side of your system’s case.”

    My point is that you shouldn’t start out by making a person wait 20 minutes, then have to wait for the person to adjust their headset, and then have to spend 5 minutes giving their name, phone number, email address, service tags, etc. I also want to hear that we are going to solve the issue today, taking a message and saying I’ll have someone call back is the worst thing you can do to me.

    I know Dell can fix this issue because honestly, a lot more people are going to feel comfortable with buying a PC if they can count on getting good customer support. That, and people won’t have to tell me that my suggestion to buy a Dell is bad 😉

    Just for the record, I’m a fan of Dell, and I’m typing this on a Latitude D620, which is an amazing laptop and perfect for my needs. I’m *very glad* to see Dell communicating these issues and working to fix them, Service Untitled is a great blog written by someone who knows how to deal with people very well. Take the advice you get and I’m sure you can tackle a lot of the big issues without much trouble.

  5. duff sigurdson said:

    May 11, 07 at 10:51 pm

    I look forward to the interview and I am including your “tidbit” re: Customer Relationship is King, in a note to the Executive Support Office in Canada whom I am locked in battle with over an Inspiron 9100 which suffered the same fate as many others of that model line when it died a premature death from an overheated motherboard.

    Dell has offered to replace it with a refurbished mob for $US 469! This is the same MOB they used in the Inspiron XPS and when it too was a problem child replaced it with a Gen2 which carried a different board.

    So, the solution is to “fix” my 2 1/2 yr old computer with a refurbished mob that even they won’t use, and pay for the privilege? Dell has a LONG way to go to grasp the concept of integrity in business and fair dealing in customer service.

    Btw I found offshore tech support in Bangalore as easy to understand as I do speaking with a rep in say Texas or Louisiana… I am Canadian so Y’all talk funny!

    So a premium service offering North American speaking tech support is not be something I would pay for!

  6. Ankit said:

    May 13, 07 at 3:20 am

    I agree with Duff on his last comment – offshore tech support can speak very English well.

    The first issue a lot of people have is ego. Even if it’s understandable, they’ll say their opinion times 100 to their friends and family. Who wants to listen to a guy talk about how his tech support agent had a slight accent but still fully understandable? Most people have a bad connotation with the word “outsourcing” and so that’s going to be one of the biggest hurdles.

    People want to make a big deal sometimes out of nothing.

  7. DED said:

    May 16, 07 at 10:58 am

    SO does Dick acknowledges the fact that North American support is better than those based out of India/ Philipines/ El Salvador etc ?

    Is this proved by data or biased by stereotypes ? Is it supported by vocal few or revealed in a scientifically studied consumer research ?

    Are off-shore sites the reason behind Dell’s slip of Customer Satisfaction?

  8. Service Untitled said:

    May 16, 07 at 11:47 am


    Thanks for your comment!

    As you’ll see in Dick’s interview, the issue isn’t really the nationality or the accent, but whether or not the issue is resolved. The statistics show that people who Dell hires (not outsourced employees) do better, regardless of the nationality.

  9. Rico said:

    May 19, 07 at 12:25 am

    I’m from the Philippines, and I do understand the frustration customers feel with outsourced agents. If the Dell hires do better, it’s probably because they have better access to the actual products their supporting.

    The way I see it many CSRs are given limited literature by the companies they’re providing support for. Yes, a list of the specs can help, but what these people need are actual experiences with the products. Perhaps companies like Dell could provide their outsourced labor with more opportunities to get to know what they’re providing support for better.

    I for one wouldn’t mind (but I don’t work in a call center) getting to try out that new 12″ XPS. Hot! Too bad XPS buyers enjoy their own dedicated support group. Meh.