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The Digital Lifestyle Puts Customer in Control.

Opinion/Editorial Writers

AUSTIN, Texas--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Oct. 8, 2002

Dell (Nasdaq:DELL)

Editors: Please consider running this guest column some time between now and Oct. 15 in observance of National Customer Service Week.

The following is an opinion editorial provided by Bert Quintana, vice president of sales and service, Dell:

Digital technology is becoming as commonplace in the home as telephones.

The U.S. Census Bureau says that nearly 60 percent of households have at least one computer. Roughly 20 percent of all households in North America own a digital camera. Cell phones are even more ubiquitous -- there are now about 110 million subscribers in the United States. And tens of millions of people use personal digital assistants (PDAs), DVD players and digital music players. Whether at home or at work, in remote hotels or distant countries, we all are climbing the high-tech ladder.

This "digital lifestyle" trend is bringing astounding efficiencies -- and more entertainment value -- to customers. People now gather, process and transmit information more efficiently than ever. Just look at how e-mail has transformed our lives: sending and receiving digital photos and video clips is easier to do, and cheaper, than sending by mail.

But this trend also comes with growing pains for customers and manufacturers. As technology becomes more pervasive in the home, new services and support challenges are arising for manufacturers. At Dell, for example, as business soared in the past couple years, so have the number of service calls. In the past year alone those calls have increased 30 percent.

It is up to both individual companies and the industry as a whole to creatively broaden service capabilities and customer choice without increasing inconvenience for customers. Industry-leading companies must improve response time to customer inquiries. They must better understand how customers use their products and help customers fully realize what the products can do. Digital manufacturers need more technicians who are better trained to help customers get more value out of the products they purchase.

Of computer owners polled in a soon-to-be-released Dell/Microsoft survey, only 12 percent said they believe they are using their technology products to the fullest. Consumers can get more value out of their products by taking advantage of the full range of services available to them, including Web training, online courses; e-mail and 24x7 phone support.

Consumers themselves can get more out of their customer-service interactions in a number of ways: First, before you contact Dell or any product maker, make sure you have your account, product or service tag numbers ready. That will help the call get off to a fast start. Also, familiarize yourself with product documentation, warranties and service agreements ahead of time.

Second, check the Web sites of the companies whose products you are using. Many, including Dell, have extensive online resources available to customers that are easy to use and always available. If the answers you need are not on the Web, then give e-mail a try. By using e-mail customers can ask questions and get quick answers usually in short order.

Third, think beforehand about what you want to achieve with your service call. What precisely is the problem? You might want to make a list of questions or desired outcomes beforehand. If a customer is clear about what he or she is seeking, a service technician can more quickly solve the problem. Work with the technician to solve the problem together. It will help you become more comfortable with your devices.

Fourth, if you prefer to call, by all means do so. At Dell, our call centers are open 24 hours a day.

Fifth, keep a record of your call, date and time and what action was performed. Always ask for a case number. If a follow-up call is necessary, that information could be important.

Whether you've bought a new notebook computer, DVD player or digital camera, you need to understand its many features and it must work properly. We want the same things for our customers. That's the essence of customer satisfaction. If customers have good experiences, they'll likely learn that technology can make their lives easier, more fulfilling and more fun.

Mr. Quintana is vice president of sales and service for Dell's U.S. consumer business. He writes this column marking National Customer Service Week.
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Date:Oct 8, 2002
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