There's an interesting and candid interview with Dell chief exec Kevin Rollins in the New York Times today.
"We got a little too far ahead on profit, and that allowed competitors to sneak in," he said in an interview at the company's headquarters here, referring to Dell's profit-margin goals. "Our competitors got better, and that allowed them to get strong."
One problem cited in the article was that Dell let its customer service fall way short. Just do a Google search for Dell customer service to figure out what went wrong. Dell is trying to make up for it now, and has reportedly spent more than $100 million in the last few months to answer consumers' questions.
It's an interesting thing to watch, this slow turnaround in companies' approaches to customer service. For a while, it seemed impossible to find a phone number on a company's Web site (you still can't find one on Amazon.com, but it's 1-800-201-7575). A year or so ago I went through seemingly every page on Symantec's Web site without finding a customer support number; at least now they're willing to talk but make you pay the long-distance charges.
Microsoft is now offering telephone support standard with its Windows Live OneCare, which costs $50 a year. Symantec is planning to open up its phone lines also in a rival product, slated to debut this fall.
Is any of this a reaction to Apple Computer? The company has long been considered an industry leader in customer service, and as a Mac user I can verify that it is incredibly pain-free, as long as you're willing to pay the fee for AppleCare support.