Dell learns from Indian call center failure

Dell admits it has "learned its lesson" after being forced to drop its Indian call center last year following customer complaints about the quality of service.
Written by Andy McCue, Contributor
Dell admits it has "learned its lesson" after being forced to drop its Indian call center last year following customer complaints about the quality of service.

The call center operation for the OptiPlex desktops and Latitude laptops was moved back to the United States. Dell CIO Randy Mott said in an interview that the Bangalore center was unable to deal satisfactorily with the volume of calls generated by the rapid growth of those product lines.

"In that example we were not as efficient as we wanted to be," he said. "We were growing very quickly in that (consumer) segment. It got a little ahead of us. We took the decision to get it back under control. Our customers expect more from Dell than other companies, and we weren't meeting those (expectations)."

Surveys released in February showed that, while Dell's market share has continued to grow, customer satisfaction has declined. The company has acknowledged the problem and said steps are being taken to improve tech support and other customer services. Mott did not rule out future expansion in India and said Dell has a policy of "all shoring"--spreading jobs throughout Dell's global reach--wherever the right skills are to meet the needs of its global business.

"We certainly learned a lot of things, and we'll be smarter about our growth in newly developed areas," he said.

Mott has been CIO at Dell for four years now after his move from U.S. retail giant Wal-Mart Stores, and said being CIO for a technology company has its good and bad points.

"One of the positive things about it is you have a management team that understands the importance of technology," he said.

In Mott's time at Dell, the IT budget has dropped from 1.91 percent of revenue to 1.44 percent, though of larger revenue, and the company is spending less in real dollar terms. Mott said he plans to bring that down even further to around 1 percent of revenue, but that is likely to mean an actual dollar increase, given Dell's ambitions to be a US$60 billion revenue company by 2005.

And Dell is getting more out of its own IT for that money. Mott said his department completed 480 projects last year and has 650 on the table this year, with 60 percent of the 3,000 IT staff now working in development.

Internally the priorities include the Dell enterprise data warehouse, its global online shop and the migration from Sun Solaris running proprietary Unix to Red Hat Linux, which is set to be completed this year. Externally with its own product set, a lot of resource is also going into development around applications for Dell's "one-stop shop" services business.

One area Dell won't be looking at for its own needs is outsourcing. Mott admitted that outsourcing can lead to an "average" IT cost for some firms but said IT is a core part of Dell's business.

"The last thing we want is an average cost structure," he said. "We consider IT a core competency. It is something we look to for sustainable competitive advantage."

Andy McCue of Silicon.com reported from London.

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