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Dell long ago mastered the skill of efficiently assembling a PC. In recent years, however, the quality of customer service offered by the world's largest PC seller has slipped. That's become a source of exasperation for customers forced to wait on hold for long stretches or struggle to find technicians capable of fixing their machines. Now, Richard "Dick" Hunter, Dell's new head of customer service, is on the hot seat to fix service problems that analysts say are impeding efforts to end a string of disappointing results.
This is an EXTREMELY disconcerting interview. It may have ended with an explicit acknowledgement that call centers aren't factories; but everything prior to that acknowledgement defies it, beginning with the assertion that "customer support is a giant process." The point is that an input-output process model does not get at what is really at stake behind customer satisfaction. It abstracts away the difficult truth that customer support depends on effective ENGAGEMENT THROUGH COMMUNICATION, a problem that has received considerable attention in social theory but still tends to be ignored by more concrete disciplines, such as engineering and manufacturing.
Also, it is important to recognize that there are (or at least can be) TWO different categories of communication taking place: communication with the customer, and communication among the support agents. Hunter, with his manufacturing perspective, seems to want to keep those two categories as separate as possible. Any "cross-talk" needs to be mediated by a site manager, according to the one example raised in the interview. There is no reason why a support agent cannot be communicating with the customer and other support agents at the same time. (Drawing upon my personal experiences, some of the best calls I have had resulted in conference calling on the call center side, with me included.)
If Dell really wants to improve customer service, they really need to look someplace other than manufacturing for ideas about how to do so!