Social CRM: Exclusive interview with Dell

By Chris Lee

Computer maker Dell has invested a lot in building relationships with its customers over social media channels. In an exclusive interview, NMK’s Chris Lee spoke to Kerry Bridge, Dell’s Head of Social Media Communications for Europe, Middle East and Africa, to learn more about how even the biggest corporations cannot afford to ignore the conversations their customers and potential customers are having and how to engage positively with them.

Which social channels is Dell using to engage with its customers and partners?

The Dell brand is included in around 4,000 conversations online every day, making it one of the most mentioned brands in the world.  Dell seeks to actively engage, listen and learn from its customers wherever they are, be it on blogs, forums, Twitter or other areas. The Dell team engages in over 1,000 customers online every week. In terms of engaging with customers via Dell social channels we have a blog where we communicate all our main news, we have many employees and business units and our support team engaging with customers via Twitter and Facebook.

Many credit the ‘Dell Hell’ blog as the start of Dell’s social media engagement. Is this a fair assessment? What effect did Jeff Jarvis have on the way Dell conducted customer service?

Today social media is being embedded across the fabric of our business and used as a tool to listen, learn, engage and act based on what our customers are telling us.  In this respect, Dell’s social media efforts are not just customer support but range across all aspects of our business.  Jeff and many customers began talking about us and to us on the Web.  For us to get involved was a natural extension of our direct customer connections.  

Tell us a little about the Social Media Listening Command Centre and how it works?

The Social Media Listening Command Centre, launched in December, tracks conversations across the Web and making sure Dell is able to hear all conversations, as well as engage and act where needed.

Dell’s Social Media Listening Command Centre tracks on average more than 22,000 daily topic posts related to Dell. Those conversations can be positive feedback or might be suggestions of things that can done better or be from customers looking for support.  Conversations on the social Web touch every aspect of Dell’s business – that is why Dell’s efforts in social media are focused on primarily on listening, and then making sure the relevant people in Dell’s businesses get that feedback. Dell’s aim is to use these conversations as opportunities to continually connect directly with its customers, and become a better company from these connections.

What are the main differences from your perspective over customer relations on Twitter and those on Facebook? Is there much overlap or a totally different audience communicating with Dell over either channel?

The approach to how we manage customer relations over Twitter and Facebook vary due to two fundamental differences: character limitation and intimacy of conversation.

Twitter is 140-character conversation and forces a discipline for tweets to be very subject focused and less commentary driven.  The key with Twitter is to ensure you get to the point quickly and fulfil the expectation for a rapid response. Facebook conversation on the other hand is normally steered by commentary with the subject embedded within the post. 

In general, we’ve found there is not a great deal of overlap of Facebook fans and Twitter followers. For the most part Facebook fans normally begin conversation based on a post, where Twitter followers generate conversation on their own. 

Where do you see customer service over social media going in the next year or two?

Support on the social web is a natural extension of our business and support tools, just as we added chat, email support, Dellconnect and customer forums over the years…so today there is also support available on Twitter, Facebook and elsewhere across the social web.  It is a question about customer choice and being where our customers are, in order to continue to be able to communicate with them. Ultimately the answer is simple: In the next year or two, we will go where our customers are!

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