The Voice of the Customer

While this blog has certainly added a new dimension in our ability to get feedback from customers, it is not the only method we use. We have many avenues ranging from the direct relationships with our business customers, to customer focus groups, to the direct product quality data that comes from our tech support, to externally published product and satisfaction rankings. But today, I want to share some details about our formal corporate wide “Voice of the Customer” program. This research program is centered on customer surveys.

We use responses to surveys to help us 1) determine what issues need to be addressed 2) how to prioritize the issues we work and 3) to help us monitor whether or not the changes are actually working. For the business folks – you can appreciate that we need to ensure our investments get the right return; for the process engineering folks – you can appreciate that we need to use rigor and good design practices when we start to change processes.

The inner workings of this program are quite fascinating. We need to make sure we don’t over-survey our customers (and I am sure some of you feel like we do!) yet still survey about all aspects of the experience—in enough detail to make sure we can do something about it. What d’ya mean? Well, we survey about your online shopping experience, how you felt about any interactions with sales agents and what about the delivery of your system? Did you need to call customer care to get any help during this time – if so – how did that go? Maybe you used Dell Financial Services and want to give us feedback on that. And while you’re at it – how was your last interaction with Tech Support? I think you get the idea.

You might be surprised to learn that there is a great deal of science behind this type of research. We need to make sure that we have statistically relevant sample sizes…. Yikes what does that mean, you ask? Well, just think about all the political polls that come out. They always mention how many people were interviewed—say 500—and then they tell you the margin of error is + or – 1 point. So when we make changes we need to get a statistically relevant survey sample to make sure those changes actually worked.

Worldwide Dell receives about 2 million survey responses a year associated with our Voice of the Customer Program. You tell us resolving problems quickly and easily is one of the most important things we can do. But we’ve also learned that preventing problems is equally important – we need to make sure your order is right and gets to you on time and you want us to deliver a high quality product. This is how we are investing our efforts and ultimately you are the ones that tell us if it is paying off.

OKAY…but does it really work? Last year, for our US consumer customers, our surveys showed we had declining satisfaction and loyalty. This was supported by industry customer satisfaction surveys like University of Michigan (ACSI) and the PC Magazine Reader Satisfaction Survey. Since many of these industry surveys only happen once a year, our internal surveys actually tell us sooner whether our changes are working. Recently, the results show we are starting to turn the corner in the consumer business. And fortunately, our Americas corporate business, Europe and Asia did not see the same declines last year and are making steady progress. We are not celebrating and we have a lot left to do—but it is encouraging for all of us—that you are noticing some of the changes.