Dell Unleashes Social Media Services

Dell is catching up to industry peers with the launch of its own social media services aimed at better understanding customers and assessing market needs.

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Amid sinking hardware revenues, a sluggish software business and shifting economic tides, Dell, Inc. is making a concerted effort to understand its customers and better assess market needs. The tool of choice is a set of newly released social media tools.

The Round Rock, Tex.-based hardware firm developed the suite of social media services in house from a cross-functional team comprised of Dell Marketing and Dell Services. And naturally, the launch comes as an attempt for the firm better engage and assess the needs of its customers and the market as a whole.

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Altogether, the social media release incorporates command center build-outs designed to integrate the services across customer facing departments, as well as advisory services that provide customer assessment and recommendations, listening and insight services and best practice seminars.

The launch represents a first stab for the PC manufacturer to assess business needs of its customer via social media -- which has put it behind many of its industry peers long entrenched in the social media space.

Dell however isn't a complete newbie. The firm dipped its toe in the space by partnering with the American Red Cross in a Digital Operations Center launch earlier this year. And a partnership with Clemson University also helped boost the launch of the institution's Social Media Listening Center or “SMLC.”

Now it's likely Dell hopes to replicate prior endeavors through its own set of services.

“Organizations of all types and sizes recognize the value of integrating social media into their enterprise processes, but implementation of social media can be very different for each company,” said Allison Dew, Dell vice president, global corporate and consumer marketing. “We work with our customers to understand their needs and challenges and design an approach that is right for them, whether they need consultation, tools and solutions, or simply want Dell to manage it for them.”

But time will determine its success. The services could potentially provide a useful tool that give partners and customers alike an available forum on which to provide feedback, lodge complaints or ask questions.

And Dell is hardly the first to launch social media efforts. In fact, far from it. Industry peers such as IBM Corp. and SAP have made more investments in social tools, as has SalesForce, Cisco Systems, Inc. and others.

But coming in late to the came could present some obvious drawbacks. With a vast array of available and well-established consumer social media sites that include Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIN, as well as a myriad of enterprise social media and collaboration offerings, the company could risk losing to social media burnout from users.

But more than that, the roots of the company’s most salient challenges run deep. For its third quarter, Dell posted declining revenues in just about every sector , with PC sales and its consumer divisions suffering the most acute losses.

Over the past year, Dell has voraciously bulked up its enterprise software and services portfolio through aggressive serial acquisitions that included database management firm Quest Software, Inc., firewall vendor SonicWALL and thin client firm Wyse Technologies, Inc., among others.

However, the company is likely discouraged by slower than anticipated growth for many of its new acquisitions, purchased with the intention of rounding out product holes and ultimately propelling the company toward a more comprehensive software and service overhaul.

The new set of services could help provide a few more insights that allow Dell to better meet customer needs, and adequately respond to integration, support, customer service issues, as well as product deficiencies and other glaring challenges.

However, in the long run, the chances are strong that feedback will likely reaffirm to Dell what it already knows.


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