Customer Service whose job is it anyway?

If you follow my blog you’ll be well aware of my recent trials and tribulations I’ve been having with Dell. I suppose like many others before me I innocently thought that when I placed the order that I was buying from Dell and that they would take accountability for my order until it was delivered. Sounds sensible don’t it? Well from the many conversations I have had with them during this debacle this obviously wasn’t the case. For example, here are some quotes I got from their call centre that made me think otherwise:

“Our customer service team is not to blame for mismanaging your expectation; the delay to your order was a supplier issue and it was beyond our control.” – and who picks the supplier?

“Your order is delayed because of a high level of demand at this time of the year.” – I always thought supply was a vendor issue not a customer issue?

“Delivery is now with UPS and you should talk to them about the status of your order.” – erm, I thought my order was placed with Dell not UPS?

It’s quite obvious here that Dell didn’t take ‘end to end’ accountability for my order and therefore the customer experience I recieved was abysmally poor.

Another example I’ve had recently is with Next Directory, if you’re from the UK you’ll know of them as the catalogue outlet part of high street chain of clothing stores right… well I thought the same but it turns out I was wrong!!! In this scenario I ordered something for collection at one of their high street stores. They sent me a email that it was ready for collection, so off I go to collect. When I arrive it isn’t there, there has been a delay and this is what I’m told by the Next shop assistant?

“Sorry your order isn’t here it’s because Next Directory isn’t part of Next and so it’s not under our control.”

Sigh! How about a simple hang on a minute, I’ll check with the Next Directory people for you… would have turned this into a good experience instead of a poor one.

In both cases there was a clear lack of accountability, if someone had taken accountability instead of saying it’s not my job then they could have dramatically changed my experience.

Now compare this to Amazon (Amazing), and a department store called John Lewis in the UK… they both have amazing customer experience because no matter who you talk to they look after you and their people make sure your issue is resolved whether it is their primary role or not.

The lesson here is very simple… no matter what role you have in a company, you are accountable for customer experience… do everything you possibly can, and then a bit more, to make sure your customers have a good one.

Dell – a story of Great Expectations (but mostly failure)

Dell is probably a very reliable company most of the time, but I’ve seen a very different side lately…

I’ve been a Dell advocate for at least 13 years now… Having bought a number of Dell machines for home use and having lost count of the many many Dell machines I’ve bought and used in a professional capacity. I’ve found them to be very reliable and the spec has always been good especially for high end developer PC’s.

However, after years of being a satisfied customer my respect for Dell has taken a knock. I ordered an Alienware PC (a high spec gaming PC from Dell) in November. The order process was a good one with a promised delivery before Xmas (a box to tick on the web order form) and the estimated delivery date on their on-line order tracking site was set at 19th December. All good so far and I’m tweeting my pleasurable experience on twitterverse.

Needless to say I was getting a bit concerned as xmas drew closer and my fear was justified when on the 16th December Dell sent an automated email from their manufacturing system saying revised delivery date was now 5th January.

Obviously very disappointed to hear this as it is ‘the’ Xmas present for my son, so I call support at Dell. A very polite technician promised to investigate and get back to me same day. However, to add to my already disappointed state the technician didn’t get back to me. I have to say at this point someone promising to get back to me and then not just makes me annoyed.

So now I’m disappointed and annoyed and as with my earlier tweets praising Dell, I’m now sharing my disappointment on twitterverse.

A few days later @DellCares picked up one of my tweets and asked me to follow and DM my order details. They responded with DM and said they were expediting the order. Not wanting to appear stupid but I asked what that meant exactly. A day later I asked again and they said the order would be prioritised but they couldn’t guarantee delivery due to high seasonal demand.

High seasonal demand… so now it’s other customers that are causing my problem. Surely managing the logistics around seasonal demand is the vendor problem. I’ve lost words to describe how I’m feeling now…

Now we’re two days past the original delivery date and I go to the web site to look for a new date and it’s still showing estimated delivery of the 19th December. So I followed up by phone to see if they have any more information. The technician was a nice guy from the Philippines who didn’t have any more information to share, but said as it’s been expedited we would be allocated an account manager to keep us updated with progress (we have never had one single piece of information from our designated account manager).

So now its Xmas eve and I make another phone call and get an update to say the order has shipped and it could be with us by the 29th December… At last a bit of good news, I.e. whilst it didn’t make it in time for Xmas, there was a good chance it might arrive before new year. At this point I have to tell my son that his xmas present won’t be arriving on time but there could be a chance it could get here during the holidays.

Xmas comes and goes and now it’s the 28th and we’ve still not heard anything more so I send a few more DM’s to @DellCares, no further information other than its shipped. However, upon checking the website there’s a tracking number is on there. A click through to the carrier reveals that it is being delivered by UPS and a glance down the screen reveals that it won’t arrive until 3rd January. As if this wasn’t disappointing enough the shipping date is actually the 28th December and not the 23rd December as previously communicated.

This means that my countless phone calls and DM’s and the expediting (prioritisation) has come to nothing really.

Anyway, I try ringing UPS to ask if they can deliver sooner. The lady on the phone is very honest and sincere (and very apologetic even though it wasn’t her fault) telling me that because the consignment is now on route they can’t change the priority. Whilst this is disappointing news to hear, I feel I am being treated well and appreciated the honesty.

Before ringing off I ask if it could have been delivered sooner, and what I hear next was unbelievable… yes it could, there are a range of options including next day etc… but Dell have sent the order by the lowest possible priority that UPS support.

Flabbergasted at this I contact @DellCares to ask how this can possibly be when they have expedited the order… to which they reply they expedited the production not the delivery!!!!!!

Need I say more?????

UPDATE… Unfortunately it seems there is more to say after all. It’s now the 29th December and today I find out that only 2 of the 3 boxes in the consignment have been despatched. Another call to the call centre and yet again they are nice people but they can’t tell me what’s going on.

You really couldn’t make this up…

UPDATE… 31st December … All my endeavours to expedite the order have unfortunately failed. The consignment (hopefully all three parts) is in a depot only 5 miles away and despite my efforts today I couldn’t get them to release it to me, so I’m going to have to wait until next week.

I have to say that whilst I’ve found the Dell call centre a complete waste of time and on occasion rude during this fiasco, I have had a better experience using the @DellCares twitter route… It would only be fair of me to shout out to someone going by the call sign SS who has been the only person to reliably get back to me…

If this should ever happen to you, and I hope it never does, then track down @DellCares as you’ll be wasting your time with the call centre.

The “One for all and all for one” Cloud…

I was intrigued by this story from the BBC website last night on how 70 big name firms had formed an alliance to drive Cloud standards. The story begins :

Some of the world’s biggest companies are using their market clout to demand that computer equipment makers change the way they make their machines.

The 70 firms, which includes BMW, Shell and Marriott Hotels, said systems that do not work together are holding back the spread of Cloud computing.

The companies have formed the Open Data Alliance Centre to push for unified standards for technology.

Standardisation is something that has been talked about for some time in the industry, and whilst I fully support standardisation and applaud the concept, I have some concerns.

Why do I feel this way?

Well, in my recent post when the industry is crying out for standards, why reinvent the wheel, you can see just how difficult it is to get a simple xml schema adopted for sharing transactions across heterogeneous systems.

I am pro Cloud and pro standards, and I feel a “Cloud standard” would indeed be a fantastic thing as it would remove a number of barriers blocking Cloud adoption today:

  • It would remove the vendor lock in fear and put choice back into the hands of the customer by enabling the movement of customer applications and services between Cloud vendors, should the customer need to.
  • It would allow customers to run and have interoperability between different applications and services hosted on different Clouds, i.e. it is highly improbable for all aspects of a businesses need for systems to be available from a single Cloud provider.
  • It would also help bridge the gap between the Cloud and the millions (billions) of desktop software applications.
  • If we started with a security standard then that would allay the many fears that people have about Cloud Security, almost in the same way that certification works today.

So what would prevent this, well maybe we have to look no further than the Cloud vendors themselves? What would be their competitive advantage if all were equal? What would separate the big guys from the small guys? Would it stifle innovation? And how long would it be before there was a breakaway?

We have seen this many times before in the world of technology, you only have to think back to Java and how Microsoft broke the language when they launched their own flavour … J++ .

Will the Amazons, Azure and Other major players come to the table in the spirit of altruism? Or may they not need to should “Open Source Cloud” gather significant momentum, much in the same way that Linux has become the defacto supercomputer OS.

The seeds may have been planted already… In a very interesting move earlier this year, 25 Cloud vendors including the likes of Rackspace, Dell and Citrix teamed up with NASA on the OpenStack project. The press release started:

San Antonio, TX – July 19, 2010 – Rackspace® Hosting (NYSE:RAX) today announced the launch of OpenStack™, an open-source Cloud platform designed to foster the emergence of technology standards and Cloud interoperability. Rackspace, the leading specialist in the hosting and Cloud computing industry, is donating the code that powers its Cloud Files and Cloud Servers public-Cloud offerings to the OpenStack project.  The project will also incorporate technology that powers the NASA Nebula Cloud Platform.  Rackspace and NASA plan to actively collaborate on joint technology development and leverage the efforts of open-source software developers worldwide.

And goes on to tackle the standards question by saying:

“We are founding the OpenStack initiative to help drive industry standards, prevent vendor lock-in and generally increase the velocity of innovation in Cloud technologies,” said Lew Moorman, President, Cloud and CSO at Rackspace. “We are proud to have NASA’s support in this effort.  Its Nebula Cloud Platform is a tremendous boost to the OpenStack community. We expect ongoing collaboration with NASA and the rest of the community to drive more-rapid Cloud adoption and innovation, in the private and public spheres.”

This could be exactly what’s required to move the standards argument forward, and I for one will be following it with great interest.