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What Your Company Can Learn From Dell's Social Listening

In early 2010, I complained loudly about my Dell computers to anyone who would listen. Dell tour To my surprise, Dell heard my complaints and invited me to take part in DellCAP, their new Customer Advisory Panel. They flew me to Austin, and allowed me to tell my story to an audience of top Dell executives.

Anyone who knows me knows that I am a pretty straight shooter, and I did not hold back. We also heard from Dell employees, who told us that they were listening, even as they initially made some pretty lame excuses for their service and defective products.

This year, I was absolutely shocked that they invited me back to Austin to update us on their progress. I must say, it seems like Dell is finally taking social customer service seriously. There are people like me who would rather "tweet" for help than call Bangalore, India. This time, there were no excuses. Only real answers, metrics and process improvement updates.

And, I got to network with some of the smartest, nicest people on the planet, including Dave Gardner, who writes for Fast Company. Full disclosure: Dell paid for my trip, my expenses and my meals. But they did not try to control the discussions, and live-streamed the whole meeting. We even got to meet Michael Dell, and that was recorded too.

Dell has a new social customer service area that employs 70 people. So now, if you have an issue with a Dell machine, you can tweet your question, concern or complaint to @DellCares on Twitter or DellCares on Facebook. Your query will then be assigned to a social media customer service rep in Dell's social media listening center and handled by this special support team.

Dell has also implemented a very sophisticated Radian6 monitoring system due to the global, complicated nature of their business. By the way, I can vouch for Radian6. In my opinion, they are the best social monitoring system out there. And their people are very connected and smart. That's important to me.

This team's evolution is a direct result of the complaints lodged by customers. Dell has always had great employees who cared deeply about the customers who were experiencing pain in the customer service process. Now, the company has formally backed up these employees with official resources, office space and listening tools.

Here are the take-aways for your business. Listen up!

  1. People are taking to the social web to complain about poor service and defective products. Be prepared to deal with that. Knowing about it is the first step.
  2. Design a process to deal with a social media complaint. Whether it is a very simple refund process or an online apology, make it real and make it consistent.
  3. Monitor your brand. Set up Google Alerts, check your Facebook wall and your Twitter "@" replies daily. Respond as soon as possible after hearing the complaint. People will keep complaining until they feel like they are heard.
  4. Respond publicly in as much detail as possible without violating the privacy of your customer. Then follow up privately (offline) with more details of how you plan to fix the problem.
  5. Do not display anger and frustration online or verbally confront and embarrass your customer. Be as civil as you can, and model friendliness. Others are watching how you handle the problem.

Even for small business owners, monitoring and responding to social media questions, complaints and yes, even compliments(!), will be a part of your daily routine. The quicker you get with the program, the quicker your customers can get on with their lives and quit bugging you. Capice? 

- Claire Celsi


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Fabulous review Claire, and I'm so glad you could make it again. I love that Dell was able to show y'all how they have changed/altered their processes based on feedback that y'all have given them over the last year. That's hugely important to acknowledge your customers that are trying to help you.

I am really interested to see what Dell does next. I think that Dell needs to investigate launching a formal brand ambassador program to better connect with and get feedback from its advocates, and I have communicated this to the #DellCAP team. I think they need to find a way to scale their ability to genuinely connect with customers as they have done with #DellCAP. Yes, the criticism might sting a bit, but you can't correct it until you know it exists.

Hope to see you again soon Claire!

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