The power of the blog?

There’s some talk now about how companies should treat and respond to so-called “A-list bloggers.” [Jeff Jarvis](http://www.buzzmachine.com/) has had some trouble with Dell. He seems to be most upset that Dell won’t fix his laptop in his home. Aren’t laptops always “sent in” for repair? As I understand it, in-home repair is handled by 3rd parties who come with a basic set of equipment. What’s needed to fix a laptop is usually not what’s included in their bag, so why wait for a service technician to send the laptop out if you can do it yourself? If you bring a PowerBook to an Apple Store under AppleCare, they’re going to send it out too.

When I want to buy a product, I Google “[name of product] blog.” Great way to see what people are really saying about something. Doesn’t shape my entire opinion, just more fuel for the fire. What’s interesting here is that Jarvis truly expected to bypass the channels of frustration that the rest of us have to deal with because he has a widely-read blog:

>I could have stayed on the phone for hours and gone up a tier at a time playing the customer having a psycho fit (ask anyone who has heard me go after customer service people who don’t serve: I play the role well).

>Instead, I chose to write about the saga here. I chose to elicit the sympathy and conspiracy of fellow pissed-off Dell customers. I chose to see whether Dell is listening.

>They are not.

Reality check: for every Jeff Jarvis with a horror story, there are probably 1000 folks like me who own Dell products and haven’t had a problem worth blogging or whining about. He has a right to be angry, I’d be angry, too. I’m not belittling his experience. Just his expectations.

If Dell has customer service issues (they do, all big companies do), then they should be fixing them for the guy that does wait on hold for hours, not spending any effort whatsoever catering to the whims of bloggers. If Hermes employees are racists, as Oprah Winfrey [calls the most “humiliating” moment of her life](http://www.cnn.com/2005/SHOWBIZ/TV/06/22/oprah.apology/), then Hermes should be dealing with that issue and they shouldn’t be apologizing to over-pampered celebrities and their entourages who want to shop a store 15 minutes after it closes.

[Ed Bott covers the debate well.](http://www.edbott.com/weblog/archives/000825.html) But he says:

>Google “Dell customer service problems” and you get 2,950,000 hits, with titles like “My unbelievable experiences with Dell” and “How bad is Dell support? A lot!” and “If you have problems, expect no assistance from Dell” all on the first page of results. (And Jeff, if you had done that search before you made the purchase, maybe you wouldn’t have bought from Dell.)

Not entirely fair. By comparison, Apple has a reputation for good customer service. Generally, I agree but I’ve had my frustrations with Apple both on the phone and in person. I’ve had Dell computers for 1.5 years, Apple computers for 13 years. Of course I’ve dealt with Apple more often and therefore statistically speaking chances are I’ve had more opportunities for problems. Dell has millions more customers than Apple or any other computer reseller. Statistically, they’re going to have more complaints. Is Dell too big for its britches? You bet. Name a company of its size that isn’t. Google [Apple customer service problems](http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=apple+customer+service+problems&btnG=Google+Search) and you get 5,720,000 hits. So that’s not a very good measure, is it?

Seems to me that it’s the little experiences that count more. What you learn from what you do and what you talk about to your friends. Do you avoid Dell because Jeff Jarvis had a bad experience or because your cousin did? Do you buy Dell because your friend did and said they were great?

I would have more “sympathy” for the plight of Jarvis if he *did* stay on the phone for 4 hours going up the chain. Maybe if he sent his laptop in for repair like everyone else does because that’s how laptops are repaired. Maybe I’m weird that I never thought the “in home” part of the warranty applied to laptops (I have the same 4 year warranty that Mr. Jarvis does…paid for the “complete accidental” clause, not the home visit).

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One thought on “The power of the blog?

  1. Surveillance videotape of the encounter supports the store’s account, according to the spokeswoman.

    To answer your implicit question, I’m not opposed to bloggers trying to get things out of people or companies, but I am opposed to pretention and ego in any form.

    Had Jeff waited in line (on the phone) and then published a rant, fine. Hanging up and writing, then saying “Dell is not listening,” not fine.

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