Many hailed Dell IdeaStorm the ultimate customer feedback model and a great example of Seth Godin-style “take something good, innovate, and make it great” thinking that shows Dell really cares about its customers. I was skeptical. Now, a few weeks into the project and I'm totally convinced IdeaStorm was a really bad idea.
Give people a forum such as IdeaStorm to tell you what they want and that it's exactly what they'll do! The problem is that what customers want and what Dell wants to give them is totally at odds – often for good reason. And while it might be a nice PR stunt to seem open to feedback and suggestions, when customers don't see the company start to take action on their suggestions, the whole thing begins to backfire.
There's little doubt that the people have spoken. The first page of IdeaStorm lists the following top 15 "suggestions":
- Pre-Installed Linux | Ubuntu | Fedora | OpenSUSE | Multi-Boot (promoted 95,256 times)
- Pre-Installed OpenOffice | alternative to MS Works & MS Office (promoted 62,280 times)
- Stripped down, fast Linux Box (promoted 48,520 times)
- NO EXTRA SOFTWARE OPTION (promoted 45,388 times)
- No OS Preloaded (promoted 42,888 times)
- Have Firefox pre-installed as default browser (promoted 41,683 times)
- Provide Linux Drivers for all your Hardware (promoted 26,567 times)
- Linux 2.6.16 ready (sticker) (promoted 22,261 times)
- National Call Centers (promoted 18,848 times)
- More RAM! (promoted 17,289 times)
- Design & Form Factor (promoted 12,505 times)
- Silent / Quiet Computers: Sound levels in decibels (promoted 11,507 times)
- Laptop Web Cam (promoted 11,742 times)
- LinuxBIOS instead of proprietary BIOS (promoted 10,076 times)
- Become the open source OEM (promoted 9,828 times)
Dell didn't need to create a forum to be told any of this stuff, especially since someone should have seen what was coming - a motherload of suggestions that Dell wouldn't want to implement. There was no need for IdeaStorm. By creating a forum for feedback and now having that forum filled with customer "wishes", Dell is now in the uncomfortable position of having to respond. Silence won't work and neither will the marketing-speak filled "thanks but no thanks" response to every idea that Dell doesn't like or involves a cash outlay. IdeaStorm is now nothing more than a focal point for everything that is wrong with Dell, and the lack of any obvious moderation over at IdeaStorm is making the problem a lot worse.
Having looked through a few hundred suggestions for Dell on IdeaStorm, it's clear that it was just a bad idea. Someone at Dell's PR department helped steer the company into a nasty tar pit that's going to be hard for the company to back out of – that is, without causing a different kind of storm!
The phrase that must be making the rounds at Dell now must be "damage limitation." What steps can Dell take to limit the IdeaStorm damage?