In some comments and e-mail responses to Direct2Dell posts, you have asked specifically if Dell has plans to move call center functions from India and other global locations back into the United States. The short answer is no. Several of you have also claimed that offshoring is simply a way to increase profits at the expense of customer experience. This is not the case, but before you tune out, I urge you to stay with me. Cost is only one aspect of expanding our customer contact center network and it’s becoming less of a factor over time. Intellectual capital and size of the talent pool are becoming increasingly important in making call center placement decisions. The reality is that some of our most knowledgeable technicians come from India and other global locations. The same goes for engineering talent—Dell operates five Global Design Centers in Austin, China, India, Taiwan and Singapore.
Dell also operates a 27-site network of call centers across the Americas, Europe and Asia including 12 centers in 6 countries that support our U.S. customer base. We have U.S. call centers in 5 states and we continue to add more support agents in many of them. All of us at Dell recognize that there is room for improvement in the way we support our customers and we are working to make it happen. In responses to my previous post, some of you mentioned that language skills and accents are a source of frustration. However, we know the biggest impact we can have on overall customer satisfaction is to make it easier for you to reach a technician who can quickly solve your problem. When the accent gets in the way of resolution, this is indeed an issue. We have recently implemented more stringent English language criteria. But there is so much more that is involved in resolving problems than just the accent—simplifying the phone menu system, decreasing hold times, reducing call transfers, and training agents to make them more knowledgeable on a wider range of topics. To address these concerns, we’re working to simplify processes and investing in more training for all agents around the world. In fact, our tech support agents receive 3 months of training before they ever step into the queue to support you. They also receive three weeks of annual refresher training to keep them proficient on the increasingly complex issues faced by our customers.
Many of these things seem pretty simple and, in hindsight, seem obvious. Because we know that no customer wants to waste time on the phone, we spent more time focusing on efficiency instead of effectiveness. We measured and rewarded agents based on call length vs. total issue resolution. Over the past couple of months we moved away from this and are now focused on “first contact” resolution as the right end game. We would rather see a 30-minute phone call that we know fixes the issue vs. a 20-minute phone call that will undoubtedly lead to a repeat call. We are investing heavily in tools like DellConnect that enable a higher resolution of difficult “soft calls” centered around Windows, drivers etc. Calls with DellConnect typically take longer than without but the resolution rates overall are higher. This focus is on effectiveness vs. efficiency. Obviously there is a balance to be had as there is a law of diminishing returns on how long customers want to be on the phone. We need to make sure that we work towards this balance point in order to provide the fastest, most accurate resolution possible.
As a group, employees who work in customer contact support functions represent more than 40 percent of Dell’s overall global employee base of almost 70,000 people. We’re proud of the contributions that these employees make on behalf of our customers. That said, we’re at the early stages of a prolonged effort. Our goal is to provide the best support experience in the industry—in all of our call centers around the world. I recognize this is a sensitive topic and that regardless of what I say that some people will simply throw their hands up and say, “to heck with Dell.” Action speaks louder than words and we are working to make it happen.