In June, I linked to Jeff Jarvis’ angry comments on Dell’s customer service (or lack thereof). Jeff’s tirade created a blogosphere spike of similar customer complaints – a word of mouth nightmare for Dell. And yet Dell remained blindly oblivious to the impact of blogdom. Readers of BuzzMachine (Jarvis’ blog) linked to Jeff’s comments and followed the saga of Jeff moving to Apple (he now has three Macs).
The blogosphere and it’s periphery are again abuzz with Jeff’s open letter to Michael Dell. From today’s MediaPost:
The key problem that Dell–and other companies with call centers for customer services–face is that they are not prepared to handle how their customers can share their experiences virally, said Pete Blackshaw, chief marketing officer of Intelliseek, a buzz monitoring firm. "Most call centers operate in a bit of a vacuum, divorced from the reality that both satisfied and dissatisfied consumers tend to be highly viral and work in vast social networks," he said. "You don’t want people to think that you have to wait for the big fish like Jeff Jarvis to do something. Every company should be sensitive to how dissatisfaction is viral, and they have to build that into their financial modeling."
In the end, blogged complaints like Jarvis’ can do as much damage as a negative advertising campaign. "What’s important is that people had exposure to [Jarvis’] nasty-gram to Dell, and that’s no different than the way advertising works," Blackshaw said.
Jarvis pulls no punches in his open letter to Michael Dell and his Marketing VP, Michael George:
The bottom line is that a low-price coupon may have gotten me to buy a Dell, but your product was a lemon and your customer service was appalling.
I shipped back my computer today and only — only — because I wrote an email to you, Mr. George, did I manage to get a refund. I’m typing this on an Apple Powerbook. I also have bought two more Apples for our home.
But you didn’t just lose three PC sales and me as a customer.
Today, when you lose a customer, you don’t lose just that customer, you risk losing that customer’s friends. And thanks to the internet and blogs and consumer rate-and-review services, your customers have lots and lots of friends all around the world.
And then have them read all the many posts of other bloggers who pointed to my posts and shared their dissatisfaction with your products, service, and brand and, in many cases, announced that they were no longer going to buy your name: See some of those posts here or here and you’ll learn a lot.
If you’re new to the Jarvis story, follow the links. Then take a moment to read the interview on Tom Peters blog with Lior Arussy talking about the Fatal Mistakes of Customer Service:
Fatal mistake number one is "lipstick on the pig." We go to companies and they’re all plastered with posters that say, "The customer is number one," and "The customer is king," and "Do whatever it takes," and "Make it possible." They all have the t-shirts; they’ve all got the memos from the CEOs. And they believe that those posters are customer centricity; they believe that customer experience is those posters. Then, when you go deeper, you find that there’s a whole set of processes and procedures that are absolutely in conflict with those intentions of customer centricity and customer experience.
So we find that companies are actually deceiving themselves, are in self-denial, by plastering themselves with the cheapest way of being customer-centric, which is buying posters and t-shirts, as opposed to actually operationalizing. What does it mean to have a delightful, amazing, emotionally engaging customer experience? How does it translate every day to the behavior of every employee? They know how to plaster the posters all over the walls, but when it comes to actually executing it, the posters don’t do it. And the companies make the mistake of thinking that they do.
It doesn’t matter whether you’ve read all the great books, know all the trendy CS phrases and can tell us all the right things to do. We are tired of people, companies and churches who talk the talk. We want to see them walk the walk. And we are not afraid to go viral in our disgust.
Don’t sell us how great you are – just be great – exceed our low expectations. Go ahead. Shock us.
And Michael, my last Dell was a Pentium II. I won’t be buying or recommending another anytime soon.