Landor: Blog: In the world of Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook, Dell’s social DNA serves its brand well
You don’t have to be a parent to understand that there’s a difference between just hearing and actually listening. This comment, at the beginning of the recent conversation I had with Karen Quintos, senior vice president and CMO at Dell Inc. summed up our shared opinion that a company can think it’s being customer-centric when, in actuality, it’s not. I had called Karen to talk to her about how social media has changed the way companies interact with customers and whether Dell, being a quintessentially customer-oriented brand from the get-go (as in, tell us how you want your computer built) had evolved as a result. What follows is a snippet of our very interesting dialog:
Allen Adamson: Dell, as in Michael Dell, came up with the idea of involving customers in the building of their personal computers and, in doing so, built a differentiated brand name, customer-centric from the start— “customer-centric” being a buzz word, but an appropriate description nonetheless. How has Dell kept up with this concept given the advent and exponential growth of social media since your company was launched in 1984?
Karen Quintos: First of all, customer-centricity is and always has been part of the Dell DNA. It’s not something we think about. It’s the way we do business. It’s like the difference between hearing and listening. Hearing is passive. You can hear someone say something, but it doesn’t prompt any reaction. Listening, on the other hand, is active. You have a passion for the message and you take accountability to respond to what customers need. Listening is what we do at Dell and social media has made it that much more effective and efficient.
AA: I remember back to my “mad men” days in advertising when it was the research department that had the primary responsibility to look and listen and report back. It seems listening is the way Dell operates across the board.
KQ: Absolutely. We have taken listening to a whole new level and we use it in every aspect of the business—from product and solutions development to services to sales to customer support to marketing. A great example of this is IdeaStorm, which we launched in 2007. IdeaStorm is a social community that allows customers to suggest new product and services ideas, and then we refine and prioritize those ideas within our organization. As another example, we have a very active group of storage technology enthusiasts. We leverage their knowledge to help us with new solutions and technical specifications.
AA: With social media, there is almost no option but to get things done in real time. The transparency dynamic prompted by digital technology has really brought to life the notion that “a brand is as a brand does.”
KQ: Without a doubt. That’s why we pay close attention to the conversations we have with our customers. We have what we call ourListening Command Center which monitors conversations taking place about Dell on Twitter, Facebook, across all social media communities. The folks on this team can immediately triage a situation. They’re able to trend data that shows us what issues people are latching onto, positive or negative, and then our teams deal with them accordingly. One of the ways we respond to these conversations is through a program called Dell Cares (@dellcares on Twitter). Dell Cares is overseen by an enthusiastic group of customer support and technology people. Instead of just making note and letting issues fester, this team is on top of addressing problems or questions promptly.
AA: Do you think Dell has a particular advantage over other companies because you started out as a brand with an inherent listening culture?
KQ: Yes and no. There is nothing new or novel about the notion of listening as a way of providing customers with what they want and need. It’s so simple and so basic. But if you don’t do it, you can’t act on it. Listening enables superior customer outcomes. All of us at Dell, including Michael, start every staff meeting with a customer story, and then we talk about how we could have made the customer experience even better. If you fundamentally believe that being customer-centric is the right thing to do, opportunities will follow. But you have to believe in it.