Dell Docs Making House Calls

Dell is working on its bedside manner, sending tech docs to the home front to help customers set up its branded flat-screen televisions, home networks and data security systems.

The fee-based in-home service is part of Dell’s strategy to make a name for itself outside the desktop arena. The company began introducing consumer electronics last year and recently launched two 42-inch plasma-screen TVs.

Another reason for the amped-up services, Stephen Baker, the director of industry analysis at the NPD Group, told CRM Buyer, is a move by Dell to reduce the number of returns on its equipment. Baker said this is a general problem the industry faces with the sale of new, more complicated devices.

“If there’s a way you can limit returns by servicing the customer and making sure they know what they get up front, but also giving them support after they get the product, you can save yourself a lot of money in return costs,” Baker said.

Help Needed

“People are time starved, technology is more complex … and many customers need better help navigating through the digital landscape,” Mike George, general manager of Dell’s consumer business, said during a conference call Thursday.

“While we’re doing well against our competitors, we want to make sure Dell is the best in customer service across all industries.”

Dell already ranks high in PC customer service. The American Customer Satisfaction Index recently reported Apple’s customers were only slightly more satisfied than Dell. Dell received a mark of 79.

The new IT services pave the way for more revenue for the computer maker. Not that the company is hurting. Dell’s revenue in the second quarter was US$11.7 billion, a company record and 20 percent higher than in the same quarter a year ago.

Baker told CRM Buyer that Dell’s primary motive is tapping into what the industry perceives as a profitable niche.

Revenue Enticement

“There’s an impression right now in the marketplace that as we move toward convergence and digital technologies, people are going to pay more for services alongside the devices they buy,” Baker said. “Everybody is out there looking at how they can access what everyone believes is an opportunity to generate more revenue.”

That “everybody” includes HP, Best Buy and CompUSA. While Baker said the perceived opportunity is not paying major dividends today, these companies are preparing for the future predicted boom.

The current challenge, said Baker, is consumer price perceptions. Some people wonder why they have to pay $100 to set up $120 worth of networking equipment or pay $150 a year for virus protection on a computer that costs $700. And, Baker noted, it’s hard to compete on the price of the human capital required to provide the services.

Service Upgrade

Dell’s customer service upgrades are two-pronged. First, users can access in-depth advice and technical support on a wide range of topics through Dell’s online Solutions Center. Even non-Dell customers can use the service for technical information.

The headline-making service, however, is the house calls. George said $169 sends a Dell technician to your living room to install a new plasma television and related components.

This service enhancement news comes in the same week as Dell’s official announcement of its new Oklahoma City customer contact center. The company will build a 120,000-square-foot facility on a 60-acre site. The facility should be completed next summer.

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