Dell Moves to Improve Customer Service

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PC maker Dell has mastered the art of the Internet and direct-mail sale. But customer service has suffered, according to Business Week magazine. In a June 3 article, Dell’s new head of customer service Dick Hunter explained how the company plans to fix some of its service issues.

Hunter views customer support as a giant process and call centers are like factories. “The input is calls, e-mails, and questions on the chat board,” he told Business Week. “There's tens of thousands of people in the center following a process. The output is satisfied customers. That's the theory.” He admits Dell’s customer service has stumbled. “In the quest for efficiency, we became efficient but quite ineffective,” he said. “Management has put rules and regulations and hurdles that the phone agent has to jump through. They’re in the interest of cost, but not the interest of consumers.”

For instance, Dell set up specialized phone queues for different segments of the business. But the company ended up having to transfer up to 45% of the 500,000 or so calls it gets a week. “That's terrible. It's like delivering materials to the wrong factory 45% of the time. You could be transferred to four countries. That's not a good way to do it,” he said in the article.

They are trying to change that, but the process takes time. Dell is now cross-training its customer-service reps so fewer calls will have to be transferred. “While there's not the intent to train all techs to do everything, there are those who will work their way up to be ‘supertechs.’ My belief is to put all functions in the call center. We need to be set up to handle 95% of issues within the center.”

Dell is also increasing the number of customer service reps it employs to cut down hold times. “In the past it was seen as OK to hold for eight to 10 minutes,” Hunter told Business Week. “But my goal is to never be on hold more than four minutes. We've made great strides. In November, we answered 20% of calls in four minutes or less, and 3,000 callers in a week waited more than 30 minutes. Now, we've got 80% answered in four minutes or less. And last week, 80 people waited more than 30 minutes.”

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