Dell exec addresses service woes in run-up to IT-as-a-service launch

CIO and services chief claims vendor is 'headed in the right direction' on fixing internal problems

Steve Schuckenbrock, president of global services and CIO at Dell, outlined his company's plan to deliver a hosted remote-management offering that it calls "IT as a service." In the following interview, Schuckenbrock spoke about the plan and what Dell is doing to polish its tarnished customer-service reputation.

It's no secret that there are a lot of Dell users with service horror stories, and there's obviously a reason that Web sites with names like IhateDell.net have sprung up. What's your response to someone who says that under the circumstances, there's a certain irony in Dell positioning itself as a service provider, because Dell's service is kind of a joke?

Well, first, I don't agree with that. Second, the reason I don't is because if you look at those sites, they call out specific issues, most of which are consumer-driven issues, not commercial-business-driven issues. If you look at our commercial business, it's performing very, very well.

In fact, if you go out today and look at Technology Business Research, which is a research company that has published scorecards relative to technical support services, a year ago, Dell was third behind IBM and HP. Last quarter, Dell was first. So I think our commercial customers are beginning to speak and say, "We're seeing great service from Dell, and in fact better than the competition." It's one quarter. Who knows what happens in future quarters? But we are fully focused on assuring that we provide the best service possible.

I understood from your presentation here that you want to focus on expanding in the consumer and small business markets. And that's where the biggest problem lies, correct?

The problem has been in the consumer space. Hopefully, you and others have seen a significant improvement in the last 12 to 18 months. Our own internal measures taken from direct customer feedback confirm that we are headed in the right direction.

Let me give you a little bit of the history. A few years ago, the company made a decision to move a lot of the support services offshore. We did it way too quickly - we didn't move process management disciplines with it as effectively as we should have, and we wound up making some mistakes with the services experience. We have more recently, over the last couple of years, moved a lot of that service back onshore, and brought real process discipline to both the consumer and commercial environments. The consumer suffered more, because more of that was actually moved incorrectly in the first place. And I think in both cases, you're seeing significant improvements.

What specific improvements can you cite?

We're standardizing processes around the world - one global delivery capability. We no longer have regionally based delivery capabilities for services. We've found best practices from all corners of the globe that have helped us tremendously in terms of improving the service experience.

And internally, we've had kind of a march over the last several years: "How do we get to 90 per cent customer satisfaction?" That's where the customers themselves rate their service experience with Dell as "top notch" or "very satisfied." Now, that's a pretty high bar. Asia's now at 92 per cent; EMEA's now at 90 per cent; the Americas is up and into the 80s. And that includes all services - small, medium and large customers.

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