Dell, Expedia share how they're striving to improve customer engagement

The two brands share very different approaches to how they're tackling the fickle issue of customer experience and engagement

Two very different approaches to tackling the fickle issue of customer experience and engagement were presented by Dell and Expedia at the recent Customer360 Symposium in Sydney’s Hunter Valley.

Dell global director of customer quality, Billy Butler, told attendees the IT vendor’s efforts to become more customer-centric started with the need to find new purpose as an organisation. Having spent its first 24 years as a product company focused on user costs and ownership control, the company had taken its eye off the ball and lost its identity, he said.


Pictured: Bill Butler

“We had to develop a new purpose, and move towards it,” he said. “For us, this was to move from a product producer to a solutions provider.”

Butler outlined the steps Dell has taken over the past four years to improve its customer focus, starting with an audit of its internal capabilities and subsequent acquisition of 21 companies to improve customer services. Michael Dell’s decision to buy the company back was also a reflection of this commitment, he said.

“Our key messaging is driving technology solutions that enable people everywhere to grow and thrive,” Butler said. “We have trained staff not to sell, but to first ask the client ‘what is the problem you are trying to solve?’ This was a major shift for our organisation, and we’re also working with partners we chose to achieve this.”

Promoting two-way interactions with customers is vital to this process, and Butler pointed to Dell’s Ideastorm online forums, customer events, the contact centre and social media command centre as examples of how it is striving to better listen to customers.

Internal changes were also necessary, and annual staff performance bonuses are now dependent on customer Net Promoter Scores (NPS). In addition, Dell has introduced a social media certification program for sales and contact centre teams and has trained 15,000 staff so far.

“To achieve customer engagement, you need to talk your employees: They know the pain points customers are going through every day and are a great resource for that insight,” Butler continued.

“Previously, we’d do quarterly NPS surveys of customers but what we were finding was there were too many results and the next batch would provide different insights or tell a different story. We have since moved to doing this twice a year, and in between these we take a ‘pulse of the business’ to listen to sales and agents, content and support teams.”

Talk to any thought leader on what it takes to win customers, and they’ll nominate ‘wow’ moments as a vital component. Dell is no different, and Butler highlighted its ‘customer outreach’ program as an example of how it’s trying to build more customer-centric conversations.

Under the program, sales teams call customers on a ‘thank, engage and share’ basis. Dell then leverages its CRM systems, coupled back into sales data, to drive improvements.

Butler said employees use hashtags to detail the root causes of a customer problem and the actions needed in order to identify support groups across the Dell business. Those groups have a two-week window to come back to the sales person on customer changes.

“Under our executive engagement program, we also give executives a list of customers we want them to call directly,” he added. “We have also introduced a ‘help a customer’ initiative where each employee has a customer card. They tell us an issue… this goes into a centralised team and we do the work internally to sort out who should call the customer back.”

Expedia’s customer efforts using technology

Expedia’s head of customer experience, Justin Lee, also took to the stage at Customer360 to outline how the online travel provider is focusing on customer experience through technology innovation and data analytics.


Pictured: Justin Lee

He highlighted three core challenges in improving customer engagement: Getting to actionable insights and ensuring these are used to drive business change; making sense of customer verbatims on reviews and surveys; and online reputation management.

Like Dell, Expedia has introduced NPS as its main customer experience measurement, but Lee said it was important for organisations to use this as a basis for action. “The question is, are you using NPS as a score, or a system?” he asked the audience.

According to Lee, Expedia had also struggled with customer feedback and intelligence, explaining that while it was asking the right questions on customer survey and gaining insight, these weren’t actionable. To rectify this, Expedia has partnered with technology vendor, Resonate, to help consolidate user data in a way it can then respond to in real-time.

Customer feedback insights are delivered via a tailored app on screens in the Expedia kitchens to all employees and partners so they can see customer comments in real-time and become closer to what they are experiencing on a daily basis, Lee said.

“The key is that it provides a blended mix of what customers are experiencing, good and bad,” he said.

Online reputation management is the third piece in the puzzle, and Expedia has brought on Feefo’s user-driven merchant reviews system as a way of taking a more proactive approach around customer product reviews and to protect its brand reputation online, Lee said.

The big challenge with user reviews is that they often aren’t representative of the wider customer base, he claimed.

“It becomes overwhelming to master all these sites and have comments up there that you’d rather take offline and manage,” Lee said. “These reviews also come up in search results in Google, which are problematic for us as these erode trust and confidence.”

Using Feefo, Expedia is now asking users of its site proactively for reviews and is already up to 20,000 reviews a month. These reviews and ratings are then being used within marketing and communications to provide a more positive conversion around customer experiences, Lee said.

More from Customer360 Symposium

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