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How Dell delivers great customer experience with purpose

In April, 2014, more than 150 customer experience, data, marketing and business leaders participated in the first Customer 360 Symposium run by  Ashton Media.

This is the first of three posts based on a presentation given by Billy Butler, Director, Global Customer Quality at  Dell, about how Dell  made the transformation as a global solutions provider without losing touch with the customer experience.

Billy Butler - Dell

Dell’s history of direct engagement

As you can imagine in an organisation like Dell, with 108,000 employees globally, it’s always interesting to see how you get a customer-centric culture and  understand that ultimately, either you are directly engaged with the customer or you’re supporting somebody who is directly engaged with a customer.

Throughout our history, we’ve been known mostly as a product company, and when Dell first came out, it genuinely revolutionised the IT business because it  focused on the total cost of ownership. It focused on engaging directly with customers, and we’ve never lost that approach throughout our business;  however, the world has moved on.

In terms of Dell itself, for the first 24 years of our existence, we focused on building up that product portfolio, and we also focused on one single  purpose or goal which was to be the number one PC supplier. We got there.

You must have a purpose

I was interested in one of the talks earlier this week about, ‘you must have a purpose’, and that was Dell’s purpose. There was a great unanimous approach  across the board to deliver that experience and that’s what we did. However, when we achieved this, we took our eye off the ball. Suddenly there wasn’t a  purpose and we fumbled around for about two or three years.

Within the organisation, you could see that loss of identity occurring, so we required the company to go back and look at, ‘what is our purpose now?’. We  developed that new purpose, and we started to work towards it. That purpose was to move from being that product provider to being a solutions provider  looking across the board of our entire organisation.

One of the first things we identified to be a solutions provider was, “what capabilities did we have?”

We discovered very quickly that we were able to  service no more than 25% of the market in terms of capability.

The transformation of Dell

The company now had to transform and start bringing some of that IP and some of that capability in. We moved from an organisation that had about 60,000  people and our only experience of acquisitions was bringing new companies in.

In those first 24 years were four smaller companies and I can honestly say, our approach to those acquisitions was a complete disaster and it went horribly  wrong.

In the last four years, we have brought 21 additional companies into Dell. I am pleased to say we’ve been a lot more successful because one of the things  we did was we kept those companies as their own entity so that what attracted us to them in the first place remained that way. Then we used the Dell model  to actually increase their ability to reach out and find a much wider customer base.

We’re going through that transformation, and one of the things that we found was that as a company and a public entity, we discovered that our shareholders  did not have the same interest in the pace we wanted to run this transformation. As a result, you may be aware that a number of months ago, Michael Dell bought the company back.

Imagine, we now view ourselves as one of the largest stocked-up companies ever. That is introducing its own challenges. What it also does, and I know there  is a lot of conversation on customer experience and how important it is, but one of the pieces that Dell also has now is Michael Dell buying the company on  his own.

That brings additional dynamics into that kind of transformation. A lot of what I am going to talk through here today, I just want to set that frame and  give you a sense of what journey Dell is on, what it’s been doing, and how do you take that type of environment, that culture and DNA that Dell had and  move it from that product company to this solutions provider, and still not lose touch in customer experience.

A lot of this is going to be focused on how we measure that customer success but also how we transform internally as we go through this process.

Little snippets about Dell

These are just a few little snippets. Founded in 1984 by Michael Dell. In addition to that, we’ve got 95% of Fortune 500 customers that do business with  Dell, but also across those 180 countries as you can imagine, there is a tremendous amount of Dell direct employees, partners, and also distributors,  retailers, all never losing sight of the customer first.

I mentioned about our purpose. In terms of the purpose itself, it’s around delivering technology solutions that enable people everywhere to grow and  thrive.

How do I help you to grow?

Now, imagine trying to translate that across those 180 countries. The word, “thrive” alone. What does it mean to you? From a customer experience  perspective, what does the word, “thrive” mean? For us, it’s something very simple. How do I help you to grow? This is one of the things that we’ve  communicated to our sales keys, stop going to customers selling them products and pushing products onto them. The very first question that you should  always ask is, what problem are you trying to solve and how can we help?

As a result, it now means that Dell will go to customers and if the customer wants to use Dell products, then that’s fine. If the customer doesn’t want to  use Dell products, that is fine too and we will work with whichever vendor that they want to work with.

That was a major mind shift change but it also helps us to bring that information back to our product groups, into our various partners and acquisition  companies. What is it that you’re not offering or you’re not providing that have our customers wanting to deal with other vendors? It’s a complete mind set  change.

When you talk about customer experience and we often talk, and I know yesterday there was a conversation that it can sometimes be very fluffy and what’s  the real driver behind it. The approach that we think works in Dell is that every year we have annual performance bonuses.

The net promoter score is a bonus

I can tell you that Michael Dell is fully behind customer experience, so are the executive leadership team, so much so that our bonus is dependent on our net promoter score. If we don’t achieve our targets in that promoter score, there is no bonus.  That’s 108,000 employees. If that’s not motivation, I am not sure what it’s  called.

When we go through it, one of the things that we focus on and I am sure all of you are familiar with the net promoter score itself. From a survey design  perspective, like any service, the danger is always that you can take that survey and you can shape the questions to get the information that you want, but  that doesn’t necessarily bring value or insight to your organisations.

It’s really important that you actually go back to your customers and you get their inputs on what those questions should be. That allows you then to  really be customer-centric. We use multiple different listening pulses to help us to achieve that.

Just to put it into perspective, we have multiple customer events across the world. We advise not just the CIOs and the CEOs and so on, but we’ll also  bring in other decision makers and other users because we’re really, I suppose, interested in their opinions, but also leveraging their ideas in terms of  how we move forward.

To that effect, we also introduced a concept called “idea storm.” That allowed customers to come online and give us an indication of what they wanted, what  they would like to see in our products, what they’d like to see in our service offerings. We got something like eight-and-a-half thousand responses during  the first four weeks.

What do you do in that situation? Because there could be huge diversity in terms of what people are offering to you, the approach we took was let’s  identify what the top 50 are. We’ll go back out to that same audience of eight-and-a-half-thousand people and get them to prioritise those 50. Then, we  started to introduce them into our designs and continued to get their feedback. We do our service. We have our online forms. We also have customer visits.

The personal approach to customer service

Here’s a question for you because we’re all customer experience focused and we try to be customer-centric. Ask yourself this one questionwhen  was the last time you actually went to visit a customer and actually spoke to them, and got their input directly? Not from your teams, not from dashboards,  not from reports compiled from anybody else but you personally went and spoke to a customer, or picked up a phone and spoke to a customer?

I was fascinated when I first joined Dell that very few of our executives and very few of our teams did. They would meet them at events and so on, and  normally in those situations, they were selling something or they were marketing something, but to actually just sit there and try to put yourself in the  shoes of the customer, to understand exactly what they’re doing. It’s always an interesting piece.

Social media, and I am going to talk a little bit about that later because one of the interesting learnings for Dell was that in the past, when you’re  dealing with a customer, it’s normally a one-on-one. I mentioned at the start, Dell was firmly rooted in dealing directly with customers. It’s a one-on-one  conversation. It’s a private conversation.

When you’re having that in social media, you’ve got a completely different challenge, and if you wanted to take it as an analogy, view it as you’re on a  talk show, you’re having your one-to-one interview with the person on the stage but there are millions of people watching.

In the next post, Billy talks about the interesting challenges Dell faced with customer interaction using social media.

View the full presentation here:

Mark Abay - Content Director, Ashton Media About Mark Abay - Content Director, Ashton Media
Mark is Content Director at Ashton Media. It's his job to create interesting and engaging conference programs that stretch the thinking of our attendees. Mark works closely with our industry advisors to ensure the conference content is aligned with the needs and interests of our audiences.