Dell and their cost base

Some jitters amongst the Celtic Tiger cubs this week as a number of hi-tech firms trimmed back the tent a little here. In net terms, it is no real issue as there is a skills shortage in the types of job that have been pruned.

One organisation rumoured to be looking at pruning their Irish operations is Dell. As I type this I’ve been on the phone to Dell (both Tech support and Customer Service) for 90 minutes.

Dell Tech Support (hi Lucy – if you are reading this) were brilliant. Issue couldn’t be resolved without internet access or a boot CD (neither of which I remembered to pack this morning) but a call back for Wednesday has been arranged. I suspect that this call will happen as promised.

Dell Customer Service was a different story. Transferred in from Tech support… explained issue (wrong graphics card installed in the laptop) for 10 minutes to be told that I need to contact Tech support. Explained that I had been transferred from there. Was told that I was through to the pre-sales/pre-delivery customer service team and I needed to get on to the post-deliver Customer service team. Nice Indian lady transferred me. Was on hold for 10 minutes. Call eventually answered… by the Indian lady who had originally transferred me. When I gave my customer reference number the call ‘mysteriously’ dropped.

In fairness, I was phoned back a few minutes later with an apology for dropping the call and was transferred through to the right department – after another 15 minutes on hold. They dealt with my no-brain query very efficiently – new graphics card to be sent out to me, and could I install it myself? Could I b*ggery (despite my experience and qualifications in techie things the lawyer lizard hind brain told me that self-install was the path to invalid warranty). So a technician is being dispatched to install the card. Hopefully the technician will arrive after the card and before I toddle off on a long weekend break with the missus.

So, here’s a suggestion for Michael Dell and his team to help address their cost issues and resource issues that analysts are pointing to:

  1. Build quality in. Make sure that products shipped match the order. That will reduce the instances of calls into Customer Service/Tech support. Have a QA checker check the order against the manfactured good to make sure that no errors exist. This avoids having the CUSTOMER do it for you when the product arrives and would reduce the number of calls to yoru Customer Support line.
  2. Break down barriers – why the (d)hell do you need two categories of Customer Service team? Wizard based work flow etc. would allow staff to be equally competent across both your presales and post sales Customer Service. This would reduce the numbers of staff you would need as your Call Centre could be truly blended.
  3. Invest in training. CSRs should never have to tell a customer that they “haven’t been trained in that”. Either through on-going training and/or wizard based Knowledge management the CSR should have the skill to address the issue
  4. Address Information qualtiy issues – my Dell order has TWO order numbers. This caused unnecessary confusion with the Customer Support people. It is probably the root cause for the error in the build.
  5. Analyse common causes of tech support or Customer Service calls. The impression I got today was that there are a lot of issues with Roxio Software running on Vista. Perhaps a test of software that will be bundled with laptops is in order so only software that works with the OS is shipped – again reducing likelihood of calls to Customer Support/Tech Support in the first month.

Toyota is rapidly overtaking General Motors by following these type of quality principles. Far from being a fad, management of quality and management of information quality is just a bloody good way to run your business. While GM are shutting factories, Toyota are opening more.

Go figure.

Dell – don’t do the easy number cuts… tackle the real issues of quality.

####A slight aside###
During the course of the call I was asked if I’d like to install the replacement graphics card myself. Here’s an idea for Dell. Sack your assembly people. All of them. Send the customer a box full of components and a nice user friendly assembly guide, like you get with furniture from Argos. That would reduce head-count and would put the onus for quality of assembly on the customer. Of course, it would induce people to go and buy Acer or Apple instead, but them’s the breaks.