Dell IdeaStorm – Ultimate Customer Feedback Example

    February 27, 2007

Dell IdeaStorm, which launched earlier this month, is the ultimate example of Seth Godin-style “take something good, innovate, and make it great” thinking.

 Dell Idea Storm

I love it.

In a nutshell, Dell have turned user feedback into an entire social network site, complete with Digg-style voting, memberships, commenting and all that jazz. It’s a master stroke.

Now, if Dell want to know what their users care about and are most hungering for, they just go to this website and the front page lists the most requested product and feature ideas in order of demand!

Compare this, for a moment, to the typically boring “been-there-done-that” corporate approach to user feedback:

  • Post-purchase “Are you satisfied?” emails/direct mail pieces… boring.
  • Occasional customer surveys with gadget prizes as hooks… boring.
  • A typically hard-to-find customer feedback page that doesn’t promise your email will be answered… excruciatingly boring!

I could go on…

But what Dell have done is:

  • Invested so much effort into this community site that the message “we REALLY do care to know what you think” is heard loud and clear.
  • Invited their customers into a community experience that is rewarding in itself.
  • Shown the courage to expose their most valuable and (presumably) unedited user feedback/ideas on a publicly-accessible site where their competitors can see it too.

So, again, three thumbs up to Dell for this cool tool.

Now the challenge for Dell will be to make good on the promise to actually ACT on these suggestions, otherwise the whole thing will flow. This will test Dell’s time-to-market capabilities and the effectiveness of their internal channels of communication between Marketing (whom we presume run this site) and Product Development (who have the challenge of turning these customer ideas into products, features and services).

Now, How’s It Actually Going?

A search of the blogosphere shows that the conversation on the site is leaking outside as well, mainly related to the very loud and clear request for Linux on Dell notebooks. And how have Dell responded? Well, three days ago they announce that the users are getting what they asked for! So don’t miss this: Dell took JUST ONE WEEK from the launch of this site (Feb. 16th) to assess the demand, make the internal decisions and get the announcement out to the public! That’s pretty impressive.

The mainstream IT press seems cautiously optimistic that this might all be part of a new resurgence for Dell, who need some new wind in their sails.

Ultimately the litmus test for Dell will be to back image up with substance… to listen carefully to the users and to be quick to respond in the Product Development Department.

So far so good I think.

Lessons for Bloggers Like You and Me

So… what are the takeaways for you, dear blogging reader? Well, the point of this story for me is that there is always room for someone smart and skilled to innovate in a way that surprises their customer base (read: readership). For Dell, applying “Digg dynamics” to the lack-lustre subject of collecting ideas from customers took some deep-down right-brain thinking. Can you do the same thing? Sure you can :)

Here’s an idea for how to do that: ask your readers! Put up a blog post asking your readers what they’d like to see you do/write/offer differently. You may get deafening silence, you may get one pearl in a pile of rubbish.

Now, putting my own advice into practice… what would you like me to do differently? How would you like me to shift the focus of my writing to better suit your needs and questions? Do you like the focus of my writing or is it a little “hit and miss” for you? What burning questions about blogging do you have for me? What tools/features/stuff would you like me to provide here?

I’m all ears!