Dell Support Fails at Providing a 360-Degree View

Customer-Facing Employees Don’t Seem to Share Customer Context or Company Policy Information

September 9, 2010

Providing a 360-degree view of all your customer interactions to your customers is vital. But you also have to provide a 360-degree of your internal policies and processes to all customer-facing employees. Dell didn't do that with unhappy results. A formerly loyal customer is now somewhat soured on what was a preferred provider.


When different people in your organization have differing information to offer a customer, bad things happen. Combine that with a lack of shared visibility into customer interactions, transactions, and history, and you have a recipe for disaster!

Here is my sad story about how Dell fell down by not making sure that everyone in customer sales and support was on the same page. Although I am happy with my new Dell laptop, the difficulties in getting a straight answer about some problems with the order will make me think twice, or more, about doing business with the company again.


Know Everything about All Customer Interactions and Transactions

Since Patty Seybold and I first wrote Classic in 1998, we have advocated that organizations always maintain a 360-degree view of the customer relationship. In fact, we made it one of the seven critical success factors for making it easy for your customers to do business with you, explaining that, “In order to be successful in electronic commerce, everyone who touches the customer needs to be able to see the total picture—a 360-degree view—of that customer’s relationship with your firm.” In addition, the customer also needs to have the same total view of their relationship with you.

This isn’t just limited to the transaction that customers have with your organization—orders, sales, returns, trouble tickets—but also all the interactions—telephone conversations, emails, Web chats, in-person dialog, etc. Anyone who interacts with customers—whether in person, on the phone, through email, or even in written communications like invoices—should have access to the history and context of each customer as an individual. The information needs to be shared.

Make All Information Available to Customers

Having a complete picture of your customer relationship isn’t enough unless you also provide this picture to the customer. Customers own both their relationships with you and their information. They have the right to access the information you have about them.

If you make it easy for customers to access, update, organize, and enhance the information you have about them, you are primed to keep customers happy long term. If you provide an environment that lets customers take advantage of the information you have about them to get things done, they are more likely to think of you as their primary provider, and place increased value on their relationships with you.

To provide a complete 360-degree view of your customers’ relationship with you, you’ll want to:

1. “Remember” everything your company knows about each customer. Nothing is more frustrating for a customer than realizing that the person (or system) they are interacting with has no idea what has already taken place. Case in point, IVR systems that take your account information but don’t pass it on to the live representatives.

2. Ensure that the customer can see the complete picture her way. It isn’t enough to hold the 360-degree view internally. Customers own their information and, therefore, need to be able to access it, modify it when appropriate, and organize it in ways meaningful to them.

3. Ensure that everyone in the company has access to the complete customer picture. Customers don’t want to be bounced from department to department to complete their agendas.

Equip All Employees with the Same Policy and Support Guidelines

Another area where a 360-degree view is important is in the sharing of company information, such as policies, procedures, and support processes. State-of-the-art customer support systems include knowledge management capabilities that are used to help customers find their own answers to questions and to fix their own problems. This same knowledge needs to be shared among all employees who interact with customers. There should be one answer to a customer’s question, and it should be consistent regardless of to whom they are speaking.

This isn’t to say, of course, that there aren’t exception to rules; for example, if a return policy states that you have 30 days to get a full refund, a customer support rep should have the authority to grant an extension to a customer for some valid reason; but the support rep still knows the policy and makes an educated and empowered decision to modify it.

Consistency through All Channels and Touchpoints

Remember that your customers don’t care whether there are different business units dealing with different interaction touchpoints. To them, it is all the same—all one company; one brand. Of course there are differences in details depending on the touchpoint—taxes are different offline than via ecommerce; shipping rarely applies to in-store purchases; etc. But different departments—for example, the call center and sales—should always have the same information and company policies at the ready.


Today, unlike 12 years ago when ecommerce was young, it is common practice to capture everything that a customer does on your Web site, including what pages they landed on, what they searched for, and how long they spent looking at a particular product. Even if no actual transaction occurs, a company knows how you interacted with its Web presence. This information is shared by the marketers and analysts who try to figure out how to convert these interactions into transactions—and make money.

However, there still seem to be major gaps in the telephone support channel. You often call a company’s support line and you find yourself repeating the same story over and over again to each person with whom you interact.

I’ve written before about the hell that is IVR (Interactive Voice Response). My pet peeves are probably your pet peeves ...


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