Listening has gone from being a supplemental customer service tool to an essential aid in providing stellar customer service. Technology solutions company Dell was early to the social media table, yet it felt the need to increase its efforts in 2010 because of an increase in customers engaging via the Web. It all began with this simple little note scribbled just over two years ago from CEO Michael Dell:
There are more than 25,000 online mentions about Dell every day in English, whether in the news or social media. I met recently with chief marketing officer Karen Quintos to find out how the company accomplished the organizational shift necessary to turn those mentions into conversations.
Dell’s Social Outreach Services team engages in social media worldwide in more than 11 languages, 3,000 times per week, with a goal response time of two to four hours for customers reaching out via these methods. If you raise a concern on Twitter, Dell will tweet back. On Facebook they will respond to your post. Dell reports that its effort helps resolve 98 percent of complaints received, with 40 percent of those customers turning into Dell promoters.
So the ROI is clear: Listening works. Dell now shares the Social Media Command Center model with other companies, giving some 700 tours of the center to date. It now offers social media services to businesses that, like Dell, are hoping to use social media to better understand their customers. The American Red Cross adopted Dell’s approach last March to help it respond better to the public.
While social media responses are vital, the listening doesn’t stop there. Dell tracks its commercial customers’ needs through its Americas Command Center, enabling real-time response to critical IT issues.
The gymnasium-sized room is staffed with personnel responding to Dell customer needs worldwide in what resembles a NASA-like Mission Control center with massive floor-to-ceiling screens showing its customers around the globe and hot spots of activity that Dell is responding to. On these monitors, Dell can capture any place in the world where customers are experiencing issues.
Beyond enabling the ability to react to problems as they arise, the Americas Command Center tracks global weather to anticipate shipping, delivery and service issues that may occur in order to prevent them. Dell representatives assist enterprise customers from all over the world 24/7 in the NASA-like arrangement, each person assigned to a different country or region. Last fall, the command center enabled Dell to assist its customers through Hurricane Sandy, making sure there was little impact to their service and any issues that needed to be resolved were acted upon quickly.
From social media to mission control-style response, I was impressed with Dell’s efforts to listen and respond to consumer and commercial customers. Far beyond social media or any one technology or platform, the key lesson that stuck in my mind was this new emerging truth: business today, especially when it comes to maintaining customer relationships, is more about listening than talking.
Steve Harmon is co-founder and CEO of Taleee, the Consensus Engine, which measures consumer opinion from across the Web and social media.