Dell's image rehabilitation efforts

Dell's image rehabilitation efforts

Summary: Dell is in image rehabilitation mode. In part, Dell is dealing with the aftermath of one of its laptops bursting into flames last month in Osaka, Japan, and the impact of widely publicized photos travelling across the Net.


Dell is in image rehabilitation mode. In part, Dell is dealing with the aftermath of one of its laptops bursting into flames last month in Osaka, Japan, and the impact of widely publicized photos travelling across the Net. The image makeover is also part of the company's reaction to customer service snafus, throwing a $100 million at the problem, and public floggings in the blogs, particularly from Jeff Jarvis.  

Now Dell finally has a blog and the blogosphere's elite are all over it. Jarvis calls it "blog in content management system name only." It's a mulitperson, corporate blog--no equivalent Robert Scoble, the former premier Microsoft blogger in residence. Scoble advises Dell to " Link to your enemies. It takes away their karmic power," and to listen to what's being said about Dell in the blogosphere. Constructive advice.


Nick Carr weighs in with his usual bite, chastizing Jarvis and Steve Rubel for dismissing Dell's blog, calling them representatives of the "self-styled guardians of blog orthodoxy."  Rubel writes:

Dell could still turn it around if they hurry, but I fear this lack of candor will really set them back. When I read the one2one doctrine, their heart seems like it's in the right place. Their actions don't speak that way. Perhaps it might have been better for them to have stayed silent. Cmon Dell. We know you're bigger than this. Join us. Be real. Walk the talk.

Rubel makes a good point--the candor, or perhaps looser style, isn't there yet in Dell's corporate blog, but they are heading in a good direction. But then Rubel says it might have been better for Dell not blog--it's not up to blogerati standards. I wonder if this is how Rubel deals with his PR clients. Do you let them go step-by-step and feel their way, listen, take in the criticisms, or just beat them up for lack of candor, which sounds more like lack of personality, since in a corporate blog you can't have totally naked conversations. Some topics are not legal or prudent and most companies don't want to use blogs just to beat up competitors and toot their own horn. It's about the dialog, civil if possible, and showing how the dialog can turn into action, products or features that benefit customers, employees, partners.

Dell also wants to be perceived as an innovator beyond it business model and supply chain expertise. I met with John Medica, senior vice president & general manager Dell’s Product Group,  and Steve Gluskoter, director of industrial design and usability at Dell, yesterday. 


  Dell SVP John Medica and the new XPS M2010 system

Medica cited examples of innovative features, including control panels ink jet printers, the new Dell desktop software shorn of unwanted bloatware that comes with systems, the XPS 700 gaming system, notebooks (legacy compatibility with docks, batteries, etc.), the XPS M2010 media center transportable and servers. Dell certainly has the money and talent to make some innovations on the product side, as a differentiator at the edges, beyond price and brand.

He noted that Dell has more than 50 people dedicated to usability and industrial design, including 8 PhDs on staff, as well as several outside firms. Dell has won its share of awards for design, but it's not Apple and doesn't control the total software and hardware experience. "We see our role in product develop as  understanding how customers use products, and where there are voids or holes, and how to take advantage with our technology partners to fill voids," Medica said.

He mentioned that DellConnect, the new online support service has been well received, with 400,000 sessions per day, 80 percent resolution rate, 93 percent customer satisfaction, and 10,400 technician supporting customers (Dell's data). And, Medica touted Dell's patent portfolio as a sign that Dell is innovative. Dell has been issued more patents than EMC or Apple from 2002 through 2005, he said. I'm not sure the number of patents is indicative of real innovation as much as defensive moves and hoping for some breakthrough that will yield substantial differentiation.

In practical terms, Medica said his goal is to "take the customer experience to another level," and in three years drive reduction in support and repair by 50 percent. It's part of Dell's "Do it Right" initiative to make the customer experience best in class. He should blog about those goals, or find strong, passionate, open voices in the company to connect with the world outside of Round Rock, Texas...

Topic: Dell

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  • What about Apple? This was common for them

    Apple had lots of battery issues in the past. No one made much of an issue about it.
    • Apple doesn't make it's own batteries...

      I suspect Dell doesn't either.
    • Rose colored glasses

      Funny, I seem to remember tons of articles on ZDNet about Apple's battery recalls, like this one:

      or this one:

      Interestingly enough, another blogger at another site seems to have a very different memory than you do George:,71357-0.html?tw=wn_index_6

      "The downside of this oversized press profile is that bad news also gets overplayed.

      For example, I remember seeing lots of headlines about a recall by Apple of about 128,000 laptop batteries in spring 2005, but nothing about a 2004 recall by IBM of 225,000 AC adapters and a 553,000 adapter recall by Dell. Nor do I remember seeing anything about a 16,000-laptop-battery recall by Hewlett-Packard in 2005 and a 22,000-battery recall by Dell."
      tic swayback
    • Apple had lots of battery issues

      Apple also recalled the bad battery after four calls. So wonce again the IT guy talks about Apple & Oranges! At least now as of 2006 it is Intel & Intel.
  • Dell's downfall was taking high-rated customer service...

    And flushing it down the outsourcing toilet.
    • Well said BitTwiddler

      Outsourcing customer service is the exact reason that I no longer purchase IT equipment for our company from Dell anymore.

      Sorry Dell, put simply your customer service is utterly atrocious, but you know that (and don't care apparently).
    • Amen to that

      Strike 1: They had great customer service, I never had an issue get my next day service. Now you lucky if you get the "next" day service with-in a week or two.

      Strike 2: Plus the Business (optiplex) line and laptops out of the gate quality went down too. I had 5 laptops in a row where the hard drive lasted less then a week.

      Strike 3: To trouble shoot a server drive I was required to take the server down and run diagnostics on the drive before they would send out a replacement drive. Come on its a production server with a dead drive replace the drive and test it at your facility.

      Your out.
    • Repeat History?

      Bought my second XPS on the strength that Dell was going to have a special unit for XPS users. In early 2000 Dell outsourced to India for the first time. I do not recall the exact year but it was when AOL also screwed up its customer techinical support by out sourcing to India. Swore that I would not buy a Dell again and wrote an e-mail to Michael Dell regarding my gross displeasure. About two years ago, Dell reinstituted a special tech support unit for XPS customers. I bit, only to find out that after three months I was again talking to outsourced tech assistance in India with very poor service and communication skills. Too many shills on the Dell website to make any points to make Dell respond for the better. Based upon two strikes, I bet Dell will resort to cost-cutting customer service compromises again when it feels that it had shucked-in enough customers to warrant cost-cutting measures.
      Outsourcing does not cure language and cultural differences in approaching and solving problems. To me Dell has serious credibility problems and I, for one, will not recommend Dell computers until it permanently dedicates an adequate XPS tech support unit in the US.
      Contrast this with the service and assistance you get in Dell sales. You get the picture?
      • I agree

        I posted somewhat similar comments on the Dell blog site last night. Poor management is destroying what was a good company. Also destroying the stock price. Check the Consumer Reports evaluation of customer support by Dell, HP, etc.

  • Does it matter?

    Why should Dell care about their image? Dell has made their powerful place in the market by basically being the Walmart of computers, cutting supply and assembly costs as low as possible and underpricing everyone else to gain dominance. It's been a tremendously successful and lucrative strategy.

    Who cares if they're seen as innovators? That's completely irrelevant to their business. No one buys a Dell because it's the smoking hottest fastest best-looking startling breakthrough computer. They buy it because it's the cheapest and it gets the job done.
    tic swayback
    • True Tic, but...

      ...the problem occurs when it DOESN'T get the job done. That's when the headaches and the fetal rocking starts...
    • Customer Service is what set Dell apart and made it a name

      Dell's original strength was customer service. Customer service is what made Dell a success.
      You can't compare Dell to Walmart as their customer bases have different attributes. Walmart customers tend to price inelasticity whereas Dell customers tend to be very price elastic.

      Most buyers of computers are more interested in simplicity and reliability than in price. As proof of this, how many desktops are running Linux as opposed to Windows?

      I too recently had a horrible experience with Dell's customer service. As a result I've been buying my computers and parts at the neighborhood computer store. Brandless computers are super cheap and parts are even cheaper.

      Dell isn't a bargain if they don't offer anything that I can't get at the strip mall.
  • DELL's image?

    Buy a DELL XPS600....Blue screen (driver?)problem, call DELL 12 times!...troubleshoot on the phone .DELL technician help with reformat+reinstall still blue screen.I want a working PC which i paid lots of money for you say...No let's troubleshoot more. What about my warranty ? it expires in two months. All This from someone who this year alone purchased XPS600 fully loaded 30inch LCD 24 Inch LCD 20 Inch LCD Wireless Cam bluetooth Headphones, 400$ separate videoCard , Linksys wireless radio from DELL...
    DELL's image problem is Money-Product-people and it should be People-Product-Money. Think twice before buying from Dell.
    • What about Alienware's image (NT)

    • Dell

      Gee might have the same problem, I have the XPS 600 also and blue screen to match.
      C J
  • Dell is ok

    I have had some good sucess with Dell PC's and no problems with them yet. But when I tried to order parts they really screwed it up but they knocked allot of money to keep me as a customer. As a comsumer I would not call their customer service line. WHy would I want to talk to some convenient store owner in India who knows nothing about computers except the manual they have in front of them. When you outsource to another country where they can't speak english that just really turns me off. But for their platium corporate customers you get to talk to someone here in the USA but from what I heard from other MIS people is they may move it back to India again. I use Micron's at work and they work great when I call Customer service I get someone from Idaho, USA! If you want to talk to someone from HP you get all of the Packard bell/Compaq Rejects also I would not Buy a HP home system they because HP is the worse getting drivers to update for different windows products. Try talking to HP's customer service and they will talk down to you saying your wrong when their product don't work or you don't get what you ordered. But in the long run HP hates me because if I don't get the right answer or someone trys to talk down to me I make sure I make their customer service people lifes a living Hell.
  • Dell Support

    Made the mistake of getting a Dell Lappy as a gift for someone. It went bellyup 5 days out of the box.Took a month to get it picked up for replacement. It just went downhill from there. This was my 1st experience with Dell and i informed Dell this would be my last ever dealings with their Company. I would never under any circumstances ever purchase another product from Dell! After the lappy was relaced and returned (downgraded with smaller hdd than originally purchased) Dell admits to monitor defects on that model.Some outfit.
  • Dell's business plan seems awful familiar...

    You know, for the last several years I have noticed something strikingly familiar about the direction that Dell has been heading... Anyone remember the Gateway Country stores? I do, I bought a Gateway desktop at one as soon as it opened in my town, still runs too and all that I've done to it is add a cd burner and right at the end of the warranty the HD died and was replaced, with a larger and faster HD.

    Gateway built themselves based on service and quality. Dell has built themselves based on service and quality. Dells service is in the pooper now yet I saw something odd about a year ago... a Dell store.

    The reason that gateway had to scale back was because they got too big, they saw it, they saw what it was doing, a bit too late, but they saw it none the less, and I seriously doubt we will see another Gateway Country store in the foreseeable future. Dell apparently didn't learn that lesson, their quality is in the pooper, their service is in the pooper, and being that I control purchasing of IT equipment for my organization, I budgeted to replace our Dell Optiplex machines (bad Mobo's, bad HDs) with Lenovo this year.

    The only peice of Dell tech that I will ever consider purchasing again would be monitors. They have lost my business, and the business of my organization as long as I'm in charge of IT Equipment for good.

    Learn from your peers Dell, it didn't work for Gateway and it is not working for you.
  • Customer Dis-Service

    Not image - fact. Sold dimension with hardwired cmos battery. Would not swap-out. Accused of stealing $2400 worth of mem sticks when tech support said no. Wouldn't budge and bank "ate" the $2400 based on my rep after Dell were a bunch of arrogant A - holes! Will never touch a Dell again!
  • Dells Image

    I really don't have much to complain about with dell though last week I ordered an xps m1210 laptop and I had to speak to three people before my order was placed and it took an hour and a half to use a discount I had.I love that little computer I got it yesterday less than a week after it was ordered.They were courteous on the phone I have no complaints about service I have returned laptops for service and gotten them back wihin 2-3 days I have also had a desktop serviced with no problems.