Dell Customer Corps

Dell Customer Corps | by David H. Deans

Concept Proposal | GeoActive Group, Austin Texas

Objective: To delight Dell consumers with superior and comprehensive support, by tapping into the hidden talent within the company’s existing loyal customer base.

Background: The evolution of customer care and technical support within the computing, internet access and consumer electronics sectors has evolved through three key phases of fulfilling customer needs for fundamental assistance and guidance.

The first phase was focused on the typical break/fix scenario – where customers seek help to repair something that is assumed to be broken. The second phase was targeting the typical installation scenario – where customers need help to install and/or configure a complex device or system. The third phase is the applications support scenario – where customers need guidance on getting the most out of the investment they have made in these products and services.

However, given this backdrop, supporting a growing customer community of diverse needs, based upon variances in customer technical skill and knowledge, has created a significant cost burden as support organizations are forced to scale qualified teams to meet the demand.

In the past, the typical solution for cost reduction was to outsource the support tasks to other companies -- particularly with lower cost operations based in developing nations. But, problems with inconsistent skills, differences in culture, interpretation of meaning in language, and other practical issues have produced mixed results.

Some companies have invested in e-support software and online self-help or assisted-help automated solutions that ease the burden on call center staff. Regardless, some types of customer issues require the involvement of an experienced, caring and articulate person to not only help to solve problems, but also to transfer skills or knowledge – thereby avoiding repeat incidents.

Some companies offer a menu of flat-fee, in-person and on-site support offerings – the most well known being the "Geek Squad" business model. This capability meets the need of the first two phases of customer support requirements, but is often considered price-prohibitive for the third phase.

We know from research that a frequent solution to third phase support needs is to engage the help of a friend or family member, and this is proven to be effective -- when it’s an option. Unfortunately, it’s not an option for many, and so they struggle to use and apply their complex products.

Moreover, consumer frustration can mount when products sold as ‘plug and play’ fail to live up to the expectations of mainstream consumer interpretation of what that term really means to them. Better product design, with intuitive user interfaces, is one solution to inherent complexity, but it’s not a panacea. Sometimes, there’s a need for a guide to demonstrate practical applications.

There is significant pent-up demand for cost-effective application support, which is currently an unmet need. However, the good news, there is a known untapped resource waiting to be discovered. No, it's NOT yet another outsourced shallow talent puddle.

Tapping the Customer Talent Pool

The concept of the Dell Customer Corps is, in essence, a customer loyalty and retention program that rewards qualified people who offer to help their regional/local peer group of customers in need of application support.

The current activity on the Dell Community Forums demonstrates that there are already some people who are prepared to fulfill this need. However, they are few in number, and their active participation is totally unpredictable.

In order for the Dell Customer Corps to scale and meet the growing needs of increasingly demanding customers, it’s envisioned that the Dell support business model will require enhancement with the addition of new value-added elements as follows:

The program should state reasonable ‘terms and conditions’ that actively encourages participation for both the person offering application support, and those who choose to receive it.

Requirements incorporate ongoing ‘support provider’ recruitment, and a self-administered skills or knowledge inventory assessment capability; a ‘help task’ matching and assignment capability; a help fulfillment rating capability for the receiver; and, a simplistic award point acknowledgement for the provider.

The above mentioned requirements are not meant to be a complete list of program elements, but instead a starting point for further consideration. The basic idea clearly isn’t unique; although the use in the technical support arena may be untested.

A tier structure could be implemented, in anticipation of the need to manage the program as it scales to support more customers who choose to enroll. Meaning, anticipating program adoption.

DellNet, the social network structure, could include the following constituent tiers:

Advocate – a Dell employee responsible for managing the relationships with all support providers (ambassadors & mentors) in a designated region, and online forum moderation.

Ambassador – a Dell customer who volunteers to be the local community coordinator, and an active support provider, within their area(s) of expertise.

Mentor – a Dell customer who offers to provide no-cost support to other customers who have application support related questions. Help is provided in return for Dell product/service credits.


Program concept created by: GeoActive Group USA

Concept submitted to:  Dell Idea Storm