Jeff Jarvis had a problem with his Dell computer. Dell’s customer service did a terrible job of responding to him. He documented the whole affair here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here. (I may have missed one or more installments in the saga, and no doubt there will be more to come.) The latest coda is contained in a letter that Jeff wrote to a VP at Dell:
This machine is a lemon. Your at-home and complete care service is a fraud. Your customer service is appalling. Your product is dreadful. Your brand is mud.
Good for Jeff. He had a horrible experience with Dell’s customer service operation, like so many others, and he decided to document it in a very public place. But I’m not writing today to trash Dell. Instead, I’m writing to express my disgust with the response that Jeff’s series of rants got from other people who have high-traffic Web sites that are run by popular content-management systems (blogs, I think they’re called). These folks seem to think that because Jeff is semi-famous and gets quoted a lot on other Web sites and occasionally has his face on TV to talk about these blog things, he’s entitled to special treatment.
There’s no doubt that Jeff’s high Google juice will result in lots of people reading about his experience. When they do, they’ll get an accurate picture of how broken Dell’s customer service is and how their Complete Care guarantee doesn’t deliver on its promises. And Jeff understands what this means for Dell:
I could have stayed on the phone for hours and gone up a tier at a time playing the customer having a psycho fit (ask anyone who has heard me go after customer service people who don’t serve: I play the role well).
Instead, I chose to write about the saga here. I chose to elicit the sympathy and conspiracy of fellow pissed-off Dell customers. I chose to see whether Dell is listening.
They are not.
Their media people were not reading the media that matters — media written by their very own customers. This page is already No. 5 in Google under Dell sucks. I gave them time. They failed.
Give Jeff credit for recognizing that it’s the comments on his post that matter, not his isolated experience. But his compatriots missed that message.
Jason Calacanis, for instance, says Dell should have a new rule. Treat bloggers really well:
My advice to Dell? Send Jarvis a new machine (you should have done this a while ago) while you figure out what is wrong with the product. The reply to him ON HIS BLOG with an apology, explanation of why there was a breakdown, and permission to show him how good your service can be by making his in house service free.
Dell should look at Jarvis going off on them as FREE CONSULTING. Jarvis is a highly-paid consultant—be thankful you got his services for free!
Scoble says Dell misses chance to make influential happy:
If you aren’t listening to the new word-of-mouth network you’ll miss opportunities like this to make influentials happy.
Steve Rubel writes:
What a crock of shit.
In the world that these guys inhabit, people with high-traffic Web sites get special treatment because they’re “influential” and “A-listers” and “highly paid consultants.” Would Steve Rubel advise the clients of his PR agency to give preferential treatment to high-profile customers so that those customers can then write in glowing terms about the service they received, even when that service is not representative of what an ordinary customer will get? That doesn’t seem honest or ethical.
These “A-listers” also assume that the problem never existed until one of them wrote about it. News flash, boys: There’s a site called Dell Hell that pops up in the #1 slot when you run a Google search for that term. That site includes a link to this entry I wrote back in November 2004, and this follow-up. There’s a serious problem with power supply failures on Dell Dimension 4600 models, and I continue to get comments from other victims every week. A little more Googling would have turned up my Memo to Dell CEO Kevin Rollins from later that month and a follow-up post from December 2004, which includes a link to yet another post called Dell Hell, on a Web site run by yet another tech-savvy Dell customer who had a bad experience. But Jeff Prosise and I aren’t A-listers, so I guess this doesn’t matter.
Google Dell customer service problems and you get 2,950,000 hits, with titles like “My unbelievable experiences with Dell” and “How bad is Dell support? A lot!” and “If you have problems, expect no assistance from Dell” all on the first page of results. (And Jeff, if you had done that search before you made the purchase, maybe you wouldn’t have bought from Dell.)
My point is that there is already plenty of evidence available to anyone who knows how to use Google that Dell’s customer service sucks, to put it mildly. Granting special treatment to so-called A-listers only convinces me that A is for arrogant.
Jason, the rule for Dell should be “Treat customers really well.” If a customer happens to be a blogger, fine, but having your own blog shouldn’t be your prerequisite to special treatment.
Robert, how should Microsoft respond when it finds out that a product or process is broken? Should your company give special treatment to “influentials” and ignore the underlying problem? Or should it communicate with that influential to thank them for pointing out the systemic problem and then fix that problem?
Steve, sending a tech to Jeff Jarvis’s house fixes Jeff’s problem. It doesn’t fix Dell’s problem, and it leaves all those millions of other customers out there in Dell Hell.
You guys need to stop going to conferences with other A-listers and start paying attention to real people. And I assume that I won’t be invited to the next get-together of A-listers, either. Which is just fine with me.