Hey, Michael Dell — can you give me a ring?
I realize you’re busy engineering your namesake company’s comeback as a public business, through a complex deal involving the conversion of tracking V shares from Dell unit VMware that can be reissued as common C shares on the New York Stock Exchange. I’m sure it will be transformative, create long-term shareholder value, be great for all your stakeholders, etc. Good luck with that.
But I’m in the market for a new laptop at the office and have been having a tough time reaching anyone at Dell DVMT, -0.54% to make a simple purchase. I’m hoping you might help.
Calls to nowhere
Toll-free directory assistance offers three matching listings for Dell, starting with the obvious — Dell Computers, including separate numbers in New York; Hartford, Conn.; and Round Rock, Texas, home of your corporate headquarters. But the numbers are actually for a third-party tech provider “not associated with or contracted with any manufacturer.” When an operator finally comes on, she seems offended that I presumed she works for you. “Sir, we are not Dell and I have no idea how to reach them,” she huffs.
I then try the listing for Dell Parts and Accessories — surely that leads to your doorstep. Alas, that number’s been disconnected — good luck to anyone needing a new motherboard.
So I circle back and select plain, iconic Dell — how can I go wrong there? In fact, the number connects me with a company selling medical-alert systems — “You know, it’s the little button you wear around your neck?” runs the recorded message. I hang on until an agent answers with a helpful suggestion. “Have you tried calling 555-1212 and asking for Dell?” Just to be certain, I carefully redial the Dell listing — this time I reach a promotion for DirecTV, same number, different scam.
I finally find a number online for Dell direct sales and guess what? Your people don’t handle business purchases on weekends, which is the best time for me to manage all the niggly steps of ordering a new computer. I take my chances with a “home” sales rep at a far-off call center — she has no record of the scores of other Dell machines I’ve bought over the years, doesn’t have my address or phone number tagged, and doesn’t have proper specs for the laptop I want. Too bad all that powerful customer-relations-management software you’ve invested in apparently has failed to reach her screen. But you’ll be happy to know she treated me royally, calling me “Sir Allan.”
No longer a start-up
Look, Michael — I can appreciate that you’ve moved light years beyond the personal computer kit business you started in your University of Texas dorm room in 1983, becoming the youngest CEO to lead a Fortune 500 company, at age 27. I’ve seen your press releases, and know how proud you are of Dell’s sprawling offerings in data storage, peripherals, network servers, cloud computing, hyper-converged infrastructure, cybersecurity solutions and other commercial segments of IT.
But you must have noticed that PC sales have ticked up lately — Dell shipped 10.2 million units in the first quarter of 2018, a 6.4% bump from last year and the strongest gain of any company in your class. Dell holds a healthy 17% global market share in the category. Meanwhile, you reported that consumer revenue for the first quarter was $2.9 billion, a 7% increase from 2017. And consider that all of those products come with your name boldly stamped on front.
Hats off for daring to return your company to the rough-and-tumble of the public markets, especially given your own estimated net worth of $24 billion — I would have gone fishing at one-thousandth of that amount.
I’ll take you at your word that you want to “deliver on commitments we make to our customers,” not all of whom are mega commercial buyers. You may want to start by getting a working customer phone number, just like Lenovo, Acer, HP HPQ, +1.14% Apple AAPL, +1.39% and all your other competitors. And if you want to make a surefire sale, just call me — I’m listed.
Allan Ripp runs a press-relations firm in New York.