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The Community as Customer Service

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A recent post on the Consumerist pointed to an address to send feedback to Michael Dell, and after I left a comment there (providing a better method for giving us feedback and getting issues resolved) I began to think about how Dell’s efforts in social media have changed since we began.  I was pleasantly surprised by some of the comments there- but I’ll get back to that in a bit.

 If you’ve been reading Direct2Dell for a long time you might already be familiar with the blog outreach program that we started in April 2006. The idea was to take customer support into a realm that it hadn’t been before: proactively contacting people online, in the blogs and forums where they were talking, and work with them on their own blogs rather than wait for them to come to Dell. The early days were filled with learning what did and didn’t work, and soon after the Online Community Outreach (aka Dell Customer Advocates) team was born.

Since the time of John’s post, the team has grown and evolved in ways that I think surprised all of us that were involved in the early days.  One of the first transitions was combining the outreach team in with the team of Dell Community Forum moderators to pool their talents for community in general, given the team’s similar objectives.

Combining the teams was a precursor to what we’re trying to do with the new Dell community. Instead of separate groups that are tenuously tied together, we’ve combined the different pieces (blogs, forums, wikis, etc.) together with a goal of providing a seamless experience for our customers. By unifying the groups that work directly with people online, regardless of where the conversations happen, the hope is that we can more quickly and completely support our customers and bring them into conversations or present the information that is most relevant to them. Obviously we still have a ways to go on that front, but we remain focused on reaching that goal.

Getting back to the Consumerist post- what really grabbed my attention was the number of positive comments that appeared. In the beginning of the blog outreach team our efforts were focused on negative experiences and so the commentary we saw most often about Dell was also overwhelmingly negative. Seeing the positive commentary made me think that perhaps, as an entire company, we are beginning to move in the right direction again. Not all of the comments were positive, but we know that we still have more work ahead of us.

We’re still listening, and we’re still out there looking for ways we can help. These days, our monitoring tools are much more sophisticated.  And while I think our team has come a long way since those early days, there’s no substitute for employees who focus on helping customers and connecting them with useful information.

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