Tenth Circle Added to 'Dell Hell'
Only a company with a reputation for customer service as abysmal as Dell’s could spend $150 million on improvements to support and service and still see its ranking on the American Customer Satisfaction Index (PDF) drop by five percentage points.
Dell scored 74 points out of a possible 100, putting it near the bottom of the index’s annual rankings of personal-computer makers. Though the company staffed up its call centers and outfitted its tech support staff with a new arsenal of tools, it was unable to shake the public’s perception of its products and services as unreliable. And the New York attorney general’s decision to sue it for consumer fraud did little to help matters.
“We saw Dell drop like a rock in customer satisfaction in 2005,” said Claes Fornell, a marketing professor at the University of Michigan, which conducts the annual study. “Since then, it’s been difficult for Dell to come back.”
Which is not to say that it’s easy to maintain a high ranking once you’ve attained it. Though Apple still leads the PC vendor category, its rating fell from 83 last year to 79, apparently thanks to growing pains. “With more than $21 billion in revenue, Apple has grown by nearly 400% in sales during the past five years,” Fornell explained. “Recent demand for Mac computers is up by about 25%, which is more than twice the rate of growth for the overall PC market. Many analysts seem to believe that Apple is gaining market share in part because of iPod users switching to Mac computers. It is very difficult to ensure that both customer service and satisfaction stay high when a company suddenly needs to service many more customers. This is probably what is behind the decline in customer satisfaction for Apple. According to the Economist (6/9/07), there are also ‘grumblings about manufacturing defects and customer service.’”