By Charles King, Pund-IT, Inc. July 25, 2018
As is true in virtually every other industry, technology vendors understand the critical importance of establishing, nurturing and managing relationships with customers. Despite that, how and how well those efforts succeed varies pretty widely. That’s partly due to the complexity of customer engagements. Plus, individual relationships tend to evolve over time, depending on changes in the involved parties, markets and competitive issues. Not all vendors are quite up to that task.
But one that is handling these points especially well is Dell Technologies, in large part because of the efforts of Dell’s Chief Customer Officer (CCO), Karen Quintos, and her global organization of customer advocates. Since joining Dell in 2000, Quintos has served in a variety of services, support, supply chain management and marketing roles, eventually becoming the company’s Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) in 2010.
When Dell merged with EMC in late 2016, Michael Dell appointed Quintos as the company’s first-ever CCO. Within her CCO responsibilities, Quintos oversees Dell’s global efforts for corporate social responsibility (CSR), including its Legacy of Good platform, diversity and inclusion and entrepreneurship.
Recently, Quintos and members of her executive team briefed analysts on the current state of Dell’s customer-focused strategy and related efforts.
In the beginning – The Age of the Customer
Shortly after Quintos became Dell’s CCO, I interviewed her for a Pund-IT Spotlight feature focusing on her new role and responsibilities. She noted that the decision to create her position came from Michael Dell’s recognition, “That we live in the Age of the Customer, a time when customers are calling the shots and where customer relationships are the true differentiator for any business.”
Quintos said Dell believed that “Keeping the customer at the core of everything we do” would be critical to making the merger with EMC a success. Practically speaking, that meant seeking insights into and establishing oversight of every part of the end-to-end customer experience, from order management and delivery to product quality to support and services.
While that makes eminent sense, it’s not like Quintos had a lot of examples of successful programs she could look to for guidance. The CCO role was then and remains an unexplored idea for most businesses, and the vast majority of existing CCOs organize their teams around business-to-consumer (B2C) functions. In contrast, Quintos knew that she wanted to take a business-to-business (B2B) approach and initially focused on engaging large commercial and enterprise customers.
That was sensible for a couple of reasons. First, while Dell’s early success was based on sales to individual PC buyers and owners, the company had long since become a mainstay vendor for organizations of every kind. In addition, buying a well-established enterprise-focused vendor like EMC meant that Dell needed to step up its game in working with and serving the needs of some of the world’s largest public and private sector entities. Faltering or failing in those efforts could doom the entire deal.
Finally, through numerous listening posts Dell put in place with customers, it was clear that they expected the newly-formed Dell Technologies to deliver a consistent experience across its entire portfolio of brands and solutions. By doing so, the company would fulfill the promise of the tech industry’s largest merger to date.
Quintos decided to focus her office and team’s efforts on three critical areas:
- Creating customer advocacy teams aligned with Dell’s enterprise, commercial and small business sales teams. Use those programs to build relationships with existing and new customers.
- Apply analytics to Dell’s sales, service, support and social data. Leverage those insights to prioritize and to act in proactive, predictive ways.
- Continuing to strengthen Dell’s already robust efforts in CSR, diversity and inclusion, and entrepreneurship. Quintos prioritized those efforts after discovering that many customers regarded them as imperatives that tangibly, positively impact the way they do business.
In order to implement her strategy, Quintos recruited a group of experienced, able executives, including Marc Stein, SVP of Insights and Analytics, and Jim Ganthier, SVP Customer Solutions Strategy and Advocacy. Both provided updates on their work during Quintos’ analyst briefing.
Dell’s CCO strategy today
That event began with Quintos reporting on the CCO team’s progress to date. Generally, their efforts are organized around four strategic imperatives:
- Execute on the basics – Simplify business processes and pursue transformational customer experience (CX) efforts wherever possible to make it “easy to do business” with Dell.
- Honor customer loyalty – Deepen customer engagements through high-touch, high-value programs that create “advocates for life”, including advisory boards, user communities and executive sponsors.
- Lead with insights – Leverage one of the company’s biggest crown jewels – customer data – with analytics across the end-to-end experience to develop “a 360-degree view” of Dell’s customers. Use customer and sales team listening posts to glean further insights and prioritize critical issues.
- Inspire the future – Via programs and partnerships that advance Dell’s commitments in CSR, diversity and inclusion, and giving and volunteerism. In particular, work with customers to leverage collective strengths and passions to positively change the world.
SVP Marc Stein provided an overview of how data and analytics are at the core of Dell’s CX strategy. That effort begins with a firm foundation of security and governance protocols, then grows via internal and external data gathering programs to capture sentiment, operational and financial insights. Those include Voice of Customer/Employee events and online resources, close tracking of quality ratings on Dell products and services, and insights from third market research organizations, such as Temkin, Maritz and Brand Tracker.
Using this data to prioritize focus areas is key, and the results can be seen implemented across Dell engagements. Some build over the course of customer relationships, beginning with initial contacts and product discussions, solution adoption/deployment, asset management and, eventually, contract renewals. Others remain constant from the get-go, including an early warning system designed to alert Dell that a problem may be brewing. The company also regularly monitors the state of its client relationships and customer loyalty through Net Promoter Scores.
SVP Jim Ganthier’s organization focuses on the company’s top 3,500 accounts, which have at least two or more businesses or differentiated capabilities that are strategically-aligned with Dell. As such, the group aims to ensure that customers can easily do business across the entire Dell Technologies portfolio by looking at the entire customer journey in a fundamentally transformational way.
To get to the “ideal end states” of what customers could and should expect from Dell Technologies, the team looks across process, communications, technology and governance. Ganthier’s team is also central to developing and delivering transformational Dell solutions that incorporate the full range of the company’s product and service portfolios.
How does that work in practical terms? The group’s efforts span from Dell EMC and VMware license agreements and unified support to the latest Dell integrated digital transformation solutions for IoT, multi-cloud, cloud native and .NEXT implementations. Ganthier also detailed how his team plans to extend these offerings to other top tier customers and engage Dell channel partners in the effort.
Quintos wrapped-up the presentation by detailing the progress of programs that related to Dell’s Legacy of Good initiative showed how with the company and its customers are driving positive change. For example, Dell is leading efforts to tackle ocean-polluting plastic by intercepting plastics for use in its packaging, and convening a cross industry consortium, NextWave, to scale use cases for ocean-bound plastic material.
She also discussed two programs supported by the company’s purpose-driven charitable donations. The first was Digital LifeCare, a mobile cloud and analytics solution developed by Dell, customer Tata Trusts and the government of India to improve screening for chronic diseases and create electronic health records for rural residents. The second arose from Dell’s longstanding partnership with TGen, and focuses on leveraging genomic sequencing analysis to enhance the treatment of childhood cancers and other rare childhood diseases.
Quintos detailed efforts that support Dell’s current employees and nurture the next generation of IT workers. The company has long espoused diversity and inclusion programs, including employee resource groups (ERGs) highlighting a range of workplace and personal affiliations. To help attract top talent, Dell supports programs empowering young people, women and underrepresented minorities who are entering or re-entering the workplace to explore careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics).
Finally, Quintos pointed out how the Dell Women’s Entrepreneur Network (DWEN) continues to support women entrepreneurs globally by providing them with access to capital, technology, networks and expertise to overcome cultural and political barriers.
So how is this all working out for Dell? Quintos noted that since implementing and growing its core CCO programs, the company has enjoyed double-digit revenue growth in some segments of existing clients. In addition, customer satisfaction scores in some Dell segments have improved by nearly 20% year-over-year (YoY). In essence, by taking a hard look at and implementing more disciplined customer-focused support services, the company helped switch “red” issues to “green.”
This all sounds great but are Dell’s achievements as rosy as the company claims? Certainly, Dell isn’t the only commercial vendor investing in customer-oriented strategies. Plus, many other IT vendors are leveraging sales, service and support data to enhance their relationships and engagements with clients. But at the same time, few other such efforts seem as finely focused, or as robustly supported as Dell’s. Plus, few are being led by executives as experienced and dedicated as Karen Quintos and her team.
Along with these practical successes, Quintos’ CCO update reminded me of something she said during our prior discussion: “The basic fundamentals are all about the same. You’ve got to deliver great customer service. You’ve got to bring attractive pricing and solutions and technologies. That is all a given. But the real differentiators are the (customers) who you build relationships with and the things that your company stands for.”
If one agrees with Michael Dell’s belief that we live in the “Age of the Customer” then building and refining a strategy focused on customers’ needs and requirements is simply common sense. Pursuing and achieving that goal obviously requires clarity of purpose and intent. The success of CCO Karen Quintos and her team suggests that Dell Technologies is doing everything it takes to keep customers central to its current and future vision.
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