Dell 2.0 to focus on customer satisfaction

Michael Dell acknowledges that something needs to be done about failing customer satisfaction at the computer maker he founded

Computer manufacturer Dell is to focus on customer satisfaction, which it admitted on Wednesday it "had not done perfectly in the past".

The company is investing $150m in customer relationships this year, said chairman Michael Dell in New York on Tuesday. He hopes the business plan, called Dell 2.0, will reverse the flagging fortunes of the biggest computer maker in the world. Recent woes have included a poor quarterly earnings report and exploding laptop batteries.

Dell had to recall 4.1 million laptop batteries in August after several Dell laptops exploded into flames earlier this year.

"We weren't living up to the standards our customers were expecting in some areas of our business," chairman Michael Dell told ZDNet UK. "We've [therefore] announced significant investments," he added.

Chief executive Kevin Rollins said the change will "involve deepening customer relationships, and customising the entire customer experience, placing a greater emphasis on services tailored to individual customers".

Rollins admitted that the company needs to "broaden customer relationships by listening and evaluating more". He added: "This is a shift from a transactional model to value created over the lifetime of a customer relationship."

Dell plans to invest more in its sales channels, both in sales contacts and its online presence, in its Web site front and back end. The company also wants to expand the scope of Dell Connect, which enables a Dell technician to take control of a customer's system should they be encountering problems.

Dell has also reduced its supply base, to "reduce variability in component quality". It has asked its core suppliers to perform ongoing reliability testing, so it becomes aware of issues "faster than the general industry", according to Brad Anderson, senior vice president and general manager of Dell's product line.

The company will also focus on design — something it has been accused of neglecting in the drive to increase efficiency.

Over recent years, Dell's customer service ratings have become consistently worse.

Brad Anderson, senior vice president and general manager of the product line told ZDNet UK that Dell made a decision to address customer dissatisfaction a year ago, in recognition of ongoing service problems.

"We made a decision six to 12 months ago because we weren't pleased with our internal and external customer satisfaction indices," said Anderson.

Anderson said he "would not go through the litany" of problems with Dell service levels, but said that in future Dell would provide better quality of support. "Should you have any issue, we will handle it properly," said Anderson. "Unfortunately the slipping didn't happen overnight, and repairs won't happen overnight," said Anderson.