Probably few companies have greater need to watch what’s said about them online than IT vendors. I’ve had thankfully few nightmare experiences in the past 15 years, but thinking back, it occurs to me that most of them had to do with computers not working. In a moment of inattention I once bought a peripheral from Dell which I could equally well have bought from Amazon. It never arrived, and led to months of fruitless correspondence with a brand that couldn’t seem to care less.
Back in 2005 another angry customer posted a widely read rant about his “Dell Hell“, describing what he went through trying to get the company to respond to the problems with his new purchase. He concluded that they just didn’t seem to be listening to their customers. After giving them chapter and verse he gave them this advice: to read blogs, to get active in blogging themselves, and have conversations with consumers.
Well, Dell seems to have taken all this to heart. Three years on the company has a pretty active blog, which it says generates 3.5 million pages views per month. The most recent post uses the platform to hammer the message about its green credentials, something that every company should be doing. Also, check out the December 23 post about how a public tweet led to a casual get-together to discuss virtual worlds.
In addition to its public blog, Dell runs nine official blogs and hundreds of team/departmental blogs in various languages, to which its employees can participate in conversations. Dell also runs a ‘crowdsourcing’ site called Ideastorm, where users can go to post suggestions for changes and blow off a bit of steam – this has generated around 10,000 ideas so far, it says. It is active on Twitter, where it runs 22 separate corporate accounts to help users keep in touch with trends and with each other. It even has a ‘virtual worlds’ thing going, with the Dell Island on Second Life.
Back in the real world, no computer vendor is going to please everyone. But at least Dell is being proactive. By initiating and taking part in public conversations it is taking sensible steps to nurture its image, instead of letting itself be a passive target for complainers.