This week I got to spend some time in Round Rock, Texas, working with Dell on its #DellCAP reunion project. This is an extension of the first #DellCAP that was held last June, that I was also lucky enough to help Dell with. As with last year’s event, Dell brought in 15 customers (including 13 from last year’s #DellCAP event) to spend the day getting feedback from them, and letting them know how the company had acted on the feedback it received from them last June.
The event itself, especially the people involved (customers as well as Dell employees), was amazing. And I knew I wanted to do a recap post on my experience as soon as I got home and got my bearings. But I’m torn on how to do this, because I want all of you to appreciate just how inspired I have been not only by Dell, but by their customers as well.
So I wanted to start by telling you two stories. The first happened during last year’s #DellCAP event, which was structured a bit differently than this one. Last June, Dell invited a total of 30 customers to #DellCAP, and split them into 2 groups of 15 customers each. But the catch was that the 1st group of 15 customers were all selected because they had issues and complaints about Dell’s products and services. The 2nd group was selected because they were considered to be fans and advocates of Dell. So Dell wanted to hear from both its fans and ‘detractors’.
Which I thought was incredibly brave, but one instance drove that point home for me. Last year, I was hired by Dell to moderate both days of the #DellCAP event. On the 1st day we were going to spend the day with Dell’s ‘detractors’. As you might imagine, the idea of inviting a group of ‘upset’ customers to your world headquarters can be a bit un-nerving. Right before the 1st day’s events were to start, I was going over my notes and the agenda for the day when one of the Dell employees that was facilitating the event hurriedly ran up to me with a last-minute clarification to the agenda. As they quickly explained the changes to me, I caught something in their eyes that I wasn’t expecting.
I saw fear.
I looked around the room and saw looks of nervousness and anxiety on the faces of the other Dell employees. One of them was literally wringing their hands. That’s when it hit me that Dell really did NOT know what to expect from this event. But that made me truly respect them for having it. Let’s be honest, the idea of flying 15 customers that have had negative experiences with your company to your headquarters to spend the day with them would scare the hell out of most companies. And looking around that room, it seemed that some of that fear and anxiety was on display, but the company was willing to do it anyway, because Dell knew how important it was to connect with its customers.
The second story I wanted to share with you happened at this year’s event. Near the end of the day, Michelle Brigman asked the attendees what their advice would be for the next steps of this program. Each person shared their ideas, but Connie Bensen told Michelle that Dell literally needed to find a way to ‘help us to help you’. As the microphone passed around the room, several of the attendees echoed Connie’s point, that they wanted Dell to give them the tools to help them tell others about the company. Here were Dell advocates begging Dell to empower them to speak on their behalf to other customers.
And while I wouldn’t call myself a Dell advocate strictly on the basis of loving their products, I am definitely an advocate of the people working at Dell. I think most people know who Lionel and Richard are, and for good reason. Both are truly corporate social media pioneers. But Dell’s team of social media wizards is so much deeper, Michelle, Carly, Sarah, Chris B, Bill, Jason, Cory, Laura and Susan are just a few of the gems we met and have come to know.
I believe in these people, and over the past year, I have come to care for them as well. And as a result, I believe in and care for Dell. I want to see the company succeed just as badly as anyone else, because I want to see the people behind the company succeed. Because I believe when a company makes a real effort to listen to, and empower its customers, that that #smartitude deserves to be rewarded. I left #DellCAP knowing that every Dell employee that participated in #DellCAP truly listened to and truly cared for the people they connected with.
Which leaves Dell in an interesting position. I think this year’s #DellCAP reunion showed the company that it has a very loyal group of advocates that want to see it succeed. That, as Connie said, want Dell to ‘help us help you’. The challenge now for Dell is to find a way to not only unite, empower and embrace their external advocates, but to also share internally what they have learned from the DellCAP program. We discussed the issue of scaling the interactions we experienced between company and customer during DellCAP. I mentioned that I think one way to address this is to scale the interest in expanding the program from the company side. I’ve got a lot more thoughts on how Dell and companies in general can embrace and mobilize its evangelists, and I’ll write more about that next week.
BTW I can’t close without acknowledging the #DellCAP participants from this year. Y’all are so amazing to take 3 days out of your lives to come to Round Rock and share your wisdom and experiences with Dell. I was truly blown away at the sheer intelligence of the ideas and suggestions that the group proposed, and its value to Dell is huge. Here are the #DellCAP attendees from this year: Sarah, Haley, Allen, Robyn, Connie, Claire, Dave, Ed, Erika, Paul, Shane, Shawn, Susan, Brandon and last but not least, Mr. Travis Bailey. It was a joy to spend time with each of you, and I consider you all to be good friends. I hope we don’t have to go another year before we see each other again!
UPDATE: Chris Yates and his team from Huddle Productions were kind enough to record the LIVE #Blogchat that Dell sponsored as part of #DellCAP earlier this week. While there, he shot this short video where Lionel explains a little about what the #DellCAP program is.