Dell Aims to Improve Customer Experience

Updated: The PC maker goes back to basics with its Dell 2.0 initiative, saying it will work to win back customers' loyalties and boost profitability.

NEW YORK—Dell wants to just do it better.

The Round Rock, Texas, PC maker, which has been battered by sagging financials, a probe by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, and questions about the leadership of its chief executive, Kevin Rollins, has embarked on a companywide effort, "dubbed Dell 2.0," designed to put itself back on track, Rollins said during the companys Sept. 12 Technology Day here.

By doing its job better—which means working to improve product design, beefing up its services and support operation, extending its partnership with storage maker EMC, and offering more interactive platinum-level professional services—Rollins said Dell aims to shed recent criticisms of its service and support and thus win back customers loyalties such that it will be able to return to its historical patterns of increasing revenue, profit and shipments.

"We know weve not done this perfectly in the past," Rollins said, referring to service and support. "The Dell experience is the number-one priority of the company. It is where we are going to invest this year and for the long term to provide the best customer experience, bar none."

To that end, Dell has done work to respond to customers concerns, including introducing on Sept. 13 desktop PCs with Advanced Micro Devices processors—it will offer servers with AMD Opteron chips in the fourth quarter, one person familiar with the companys plans said—while working to offer businesses more energy-efficient hardware. Its also revamping its technical support for small businesses and consumers who it says have been frustrated by being transferred between support techs. It now aims to solve customers problems in a single phone call, Rollins said.

"The common goal [of Dell 2.0] is that were committed to doing everything … better," Rollins said. "We know that when customers are happy and we meet their needs … the revenue of the company continues to expand."

But Dell, which has been criticized by some of its corporate customers of late, may have some work to do to get there. Several Dell customers told eWEEK they are expecting to see both more innovation and more proactive support from the PC maker.

/zimages/5/28571.gifClick here to read more about what Dell customers want from the company.

However, after hearing Rollins broad vision for getting Dell back on track, some present at the event said they would have liked to have heard more exact details on the companys plans.

"I wanted more details on specific strategies … sort of a bigger vision," said Richard Shim, a San Mateo, Calif.-based analyst with IDC, who attended the event, following Rollins presentation.

The lack of specific details left analysts to wonder how well Dells fundamental business model, selling PCs direct to customers, can hold up against stronger competition from rivals such as Hewlett-Packard, which sells both direct and through distribution channels to customers.

Given Dells troubles of late, Shim said analysts want to know, "Is that a sign that the [Dell direct-sales] model is broken or it just needs tuning?"

Rollins, in his address, said the company has been making the effort to respond more proactively to customers needs, including taking things such as manageability and, now, energy efficiency into account when designing its computer hardware.

Dell, he said, designed the OptiPlex 745—a new corporate desktop based on dual-core Intel Core 2 Duo processors—to use far less power and to offer several more user-friendly features, based on the feedback of IT managers.

The machine, which has built-in Dell power management technology in addition to features such as a centralized management console, is up to 70 percent more power-efficient than its predecessor, Rollins said.

That means one of the machines can save up to $80 in electric costs per year for a business, he said.

For consumers and small businesses, Dell has also taken measures such as cutting down on the amount of preloaded software it puts on its PCs. It dropped the number of desktop icons from around 20 to 9, for example, company executives said.

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