There are days it is seriously fun to be me, and this was one of them -- with no responsibilities to plan, facilitate or manage the event, I was free to just engage in some thought-busting conversations with a lot of seriously smart folks in a gorgeous setting. My definition of fun!
What the Think Tank was all about
If you've ever bought anything from Dell, you know that their front-end experience is impressive. They want their support efforts to be world beaters, too, and have felt for some time that they are not there yet.
Remember, of course, that Dell is massive, and serving consumers, small businesses, and global behemoths. And within that diversity, there are vast differences in customer knowledge and ability to solve their own problems, and of course their actual situation. Consider a trading floor with a server down or my Mom trying to get wi-fi to work -- vastly different support scenarios.
So their challenges are not simple. Same thing with the challenges faced by some of the other corporate participants at the event, such as Wells Fargo, Threadless, Nationwide Insurance, Intuit Demandforce, Salesforce Radian6, Citrix and Symantec.
Social Service - how to integrate social media in a scalable way
One of the biggest challenges I see to social media use by corporations in a operating setting is that access to social media is often shut down in the corporate network. While this might make some sense for some people, managers are not going to become social-media savvy without using it themselves.
Seriously folks -- you want a social media strategy from people who are only supposed to use it in their free time? And the person they are working for has read a few reports on social media, but doesn't even have a Facebook account. Total fail in my view.
It seems that the reason some customers are turning to places like Twitter is because they are unwilling to navigate the complexities of finding someone to help, whether it's the IVR or the website. Future support needs to be a lot more intuitive.
I think most of the people encountering support have already tried self-help. They have looked at the FAQ, they may have phoned a friend. If their problem was that simple, they wouldn't be calling you, or desperately shouting out on Twitter.
There are a lot of things working today, however, and we talked about a few of these.
Among the things that are working well today, IMHO -- a lot of companies are making good use of video, especially YouTube ("Here's how to install a widget").
Support communities are also working, when they are well managed. It's not fair to expect your customers to do the job for you, though. You need to pay attention to the community and USE the information. Buff up your FAQs as a minimum, improve your installation instrucftions, and fix things that are just not working. Then tell the community, "hey, we listened."
Next post: managing the internal challenges.
Full disclosure: yes, Dell did pay for my airfare and put me up in the lovely W Hotel, but my opinions came free of charge.