Dell: 'Our goal isn't to be No. 1'

PC maker's top priority now is to "look after" and retain customers as the company looks to grow its business, says senior executive.

SINGAPORE--Making its customers happy is Dell Computer's top priority as the PC maker aims to fuel its business growth, according to a senior executive.

"If [customers are] not happy, we can't blame anyone else."
-- Craig Slattery
Dell Computer

In an interview with ZDNet Asia, Craig Slattery, Dell's director of enterprise for Australia and New Zealand, South Asia and Korea, said: "Our goal is not to be number one. Our goal is to look after our customers."

The company has had to battle declining customer satisfaction in the past, where critics further questioned its commitment to customer service after the company shut down its Customer Care message boards which were part of the Dell Community Forum.

But in the past year, the PC maker appear to have taken note and took steps to address the issue including the recent launch of Dell IdeaStorm, an online community initiative to gather feedback and ideas from customers about the company's products and services.

Slattery told ZDNet Asia: "At the end of the day, the customer experience is a differentiator." He added that a growing customer base is an indicator of whether the company is looking after its clientele well. "It's probably a good macro view to see if you'redoing the right thing by the customers," he said.

"If [the customer base] continues to grow, what it really shows is you're acquiring customers [who] are happy to stay with you, and [that] you keep acquiring customers," he added.

Slattery noted that it is not difficult to acquire customers, particularly those who are customers for the first time, as long as prices are kept low.

"If it's a 'no brainer' kind of deal, someone's going to buy it," he said. "But if the quality [and] the support's not there, you [will] burn the relationship. They won't buy from you again, so you won't grow [the business]."

"If they're not happy, we can't blame anyone else," he said. "So we have to do the right thing to retain our customers."

And by Dell's definition, doing the right thing means talking and listening to customers and understanding their needs, according to Slattery. The PC maker has invested more than US$600 million over the last few years in initiatives to measure its customers' experience, he said.

To further boost its business in the Asia-Pacific region, Slattery said Dell will continue to "stick to what we're good at, [as well as to] acquire more customers, make them extremely happy and then acquire more customers".

Meanwhile, Dell has teamed up with multiple vendors to bundle products and ensure there is interoperability. Last year, it partnered Symantec to offer Secure Exchange, an initiative which combines both companies' products to provide security around the Microsoft Exchange e-mail system.

Once the poster child for a working direct-sales model, Dell has been struggling with disappointing fiscal results and increasing competition. Specifically, rival Hewlett-Packard last October reclaimed its throne from Dell as the worldwide leading PC maker.

With founder Michael Dell back at the helm, following last month's resignation of former CEO Kevin Rollins, Dell is looking to regain its former glory by bringing in new hires and trimming costs.