Is Michael Dell’s Google Plus Idea an Admission of Failure?

Michael Dell, CEO of Dell, is thinking about using Google Plus to replace traditional customer support channels. Is this a wise decision?

‘I am thinking about hangouts for business. Would you like to be able to connect with your Dell service and sale teams via video directly from Dell.com?’

He suggested that Dell should consider using Google Plus ‘hangouts’ (think of hangouts as video chat rooms and you get the idea) to resolve customer support issues.

The response was very, very positive.

Is Michael Dell’s Google Plus Idea an Admission of Failure?

Is Michael Dell’s Google Plus Idea an Admission of Failure?

But it’s all a bit bonkers if you think about it.

  • Why is Dell considering moving customer support on Google Plus?
  • What does this say about its traditional customer support channels?
  • Is this an admission of failure?
  • Shouldn’t he be doing something else? or
  • Was he just thinking out loud?

Should Google Plus Replace Customer Support?

Let’s leave Mike alone for a moment. Maybe it’s just an idea he floated that gathered legs. But would it work?

  • Would Dell service teams want to be on video while angry customers screamed at them?
  • How would you restrict access to the hangout to one or two people only?
  • How would you remove people from a hangout if they got abusive?
  • How would you log into the same hangout if you got logged off?

And why not use Skype instead?

It also raises a more serious issue.

Social Media Will Not Fix Your Business

Social Media is many things. What it’s not is a replacement for your existing business processes. In other words…

  • If customers are complaining about product defects, your software team should be fixing it.
  • If customers are whinging about negative in-store experiences, your customer support team should be responding.
  • If competitors are lying about your products, your legal dept should be on it.

Not your social media team.

Social Media As an Admission of Failure

Danny Sullivan takes up this point.

“I don’t want to use Hangouts to connect with Dell customer service. What I want, from you or any company, is to ensure I actually get the best customer service experience possible when I actually use your “normal” customer service channels.

Eventually, I’ll finish my long-planned blog post on how every customer service “success” on Twitter, Facebook or Google+ is really a customer service failure. In short, consider this.

If I walked into a store and started yelling about how bad the store was, to get my problem resolved, who would consider that a successful customer service model? But that’s basically what we are encouraged to do through social media, yell there as an attempt to get problems solved as a last resort.

…But these shouldn’t be end runs your customers need to use because your regular customer service channels are so convoluted and so often backed by people who aren’t enabled to just solve problems”

My concern about Dell’s suggestion is three-fold:

  • That Social Media will be used to fix, resolve, or replace systems, e.g. customer support process that have been refined over decades by an immature, untested platform.
  • That others will follow the same path. The response on Google Plus was very positive. But that doesn’t mean it’s right.
  • That it will fail.

And that’s the worrying part. Unless they’re all sycophants, I find it hard to understand who so few see the flaws in this thinking. Maybe they want to be like by Mike, be seen as visionaries, or don’t want to be ‘that guy’.

You know, the one that finds holes in things.

Social Media As Pseudo-Customer Service

I raised this point on Jeremiah Owyang’s, 10 Reasons Customer Care Has Changed and How To Build a Strategy.

I mentioned that a while back the CEO of Starbucks UK responded to some upset tweep, not once but several times. Even at the weekends….

Was this great customer service and responsive?

No.

The CEO of a large firm should NOT be manning the station responding to every whim, moan, and grip on the web. They’ve a business to run.

Jeremiah responded that, ‘It depends on the culture and brand promise. Michael Dell, Tony Hsieh, the CMO of Best Buy all respond directly to customers, and as a result, the rest of their employees know the value of customer service. It depends on the culture.

I’m not sure what brand promise really means.

  • Why is the CEO responding directly to customers? I’d prefer them to run the company and let sales respond to customers.
  • Or build products that worked?
  • Or hired native English speakers for their US customer support team?

Conclusion

Would it not make more sense to fix broken customer support depts instead of monitoring tweets and getting groovy with cool new tools like Google Plus?

Maybe the real problem is that it’s not very glamorous. Let’s fix customer support? Hmmm…

As regards the ‘rest of their employees know the value of customer service.’

I’m sure they do but sending them over to Google Plus will only make frustrated customers even more furious.

Maybe I’m wrong.

What do you think?

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