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Dell EMC: Technologic and NPS® Trailblazers

by Sarah Frazier

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Financial Services NPS® Benchmarks

by Cvetilena Gocheva

A History Lesson

Computer manufacturing is a market ripe with competition. Depending on your preferred historian, the first true “mobile” laptop found its origin story in 1981—and was about as convenient to carry around as a portable sewing machine.

Osborne 1, created by Osborne Computers—a short lived venture—was far from the modern machine we know and love today; weighing around 25 pounds, with a screen not much larger than a Post-It note.

Osborne 1

Needless to say, a lot has happened in the 37+ years since the Osborne 1 came into existence. More recently, innovations around computers (both from a manufacturing perspective and the boom of internet titans like Google) have been skyrocketing, stoking old competitions, and starting new ones as computer companies strive to outdo each other in the marketplace. Computer technology companies still have a lot to prove to consumers in order to stay on top. A large part of why some computer companies, like Apple, are flourishing is due to their renewed commitment to customer feedback and customer experience, and their use of metrics like the Net Promoter Score® (NPS®).  

It would be 3 years after the invention of the Osborne 1, in 1984, that University of Texas student, Michael Dell, would start what was to become Dell Technologies Inc. (now Dell EMC as of their 2016 merger). Since then, Dell EMC has become a multi-billion dollar enterprise, and a household name in the battleground of personal computing.  

In this article, we’ll look at Dell’s personal NPS origin story and how that journey has shaped its development and bottom line.

Introduction to NPS: Dell’s Customer Experience Transformation

Just as they were an early innovator in the boom of personal computing, Dell was also at the forefront of the NPS movement early on.  

In 2005, two years after NPS was first introduced by Fred Reichheld and 21 years since Dell’s dorm room inception, Dell began looking for a better way to understand and act on customer feedback. It was during this time that the company began using NPS to achieve these goals.

Net Promoter Score is a customer satisfaction metric, designed to give an overview on how customers view their experiences with a company, and segmenting customers based on their response to a 0 to 10 scale. NPS is calculated by subtracting the percentage of detractors from the percentage of promoters. From there, companies can add drivers to build a more sophisticated understanding around root cause.

Dell has come a long way since 2005. According to the last source posted on NPS Benchmarks, Dell currently sports an NPS of 24, a number lower than the technology industry’s average NPS of ~60. But, that’s not to say that Dell isn’t making incredible strides towards improvement. After all, when it comes to NPS, it is important not to focus on the number or score itself, but the change in NPS (delta).

In a 2018 interview with Rob Markey (co-author of The Ultimate Question 2.0), Marc Stein, Senior Vice President of Customer Experience at Dell, recounted how Dell began looking beyond simple support transactional surveys and into directly tying NPS to financial outcomes:

“The company was really attracted to the notion that NPS could help bridge sentiment with customers voting with their wallet. We’ve been on a journey over the last decade to move [NPS] from a score we look at over time to understanding root cause issues to spinning up projects and innovation initiatives to address break/fix issues or breakthrough initiatives. A lot of that came to head a year ago, when Dell had the largest acquisition in the history of information technology, when we merged with a company called EMC based out of Boston—who was also a big believer in the Net Promoter System….that caused the founding of a Chief Customer office organization within Dell for the first time ever.”

Together with EMC, Dell has found a strong NPS partner. Dell EMC ended 2017 with a full-year revenue of $61.6 billion.

Dell Tackles B2B and B2C Customer Experiences with NPS

Dell gets about 80% of its revenue from enterprises, and the other 20% from consumers, a ratio that companies like Apple are less likely to see, given the market Apple tends to attract.

However, that isn’t to say that Dell doesn’t also focus its efforts towards the B2C market as well. Within their B2C surveys, Dell looks at different aspects of the experience by using drivers to determine root cause analysis, specifically what drivers lead to higher contributions of detractors, passives and promoters. According to author A.Abeku Haywood-Dadzie, this has led to great insights concerning Dell’s bottom line:

“This relatively detailed understanding of the drivers of Promoters and Detractors allowed Dell to model out the impact of potential improvements.  In turn, this enabled them to prioritize initiatives based on their impact on NPS and, in turn, on longer-term revenues and profits.  Moreover, it helped them think through end-to-end transformation of all the elements of Dell's business that contribute to the customer experience, including everything from product design through supply chain to service and support.”

Making NPS Transparent and Accountable

We can’t tell you the number of times lack of NPS transparency within a company ultimately led to the program’s undoing. To combat this possibility, Dell keeps its NPS posted on its intranet, right next to the company’s share price, to emphasize “the importance of balancing the customer experience against financial goals.” This also allows the company to share a common goal of increasing NPS, which has been known to help raise the score.

In addition, Dell also formed a cross functional team in 2016 to address NPS when the score began slipping downward a few years ago. This team implemented a three part process to address the issue:

  1. First, the important goal was identified, in this case improving NPS.

  2. Next, the company’s performance was measured against that goal through NPS surveys and other means of customer feedback.

  3. Finally, the team worked to develop of a culture of accountability amongst employees that would encourage good ongoing performance, and goal attainment.

To ensure NPS buy-in within the executive c-suite, the measurement of NPS, and its related data, takes place in an entirely separate unit within Dell. The numbers the unit finds influences executive compensation, but can’t be directly influenced or gamed by executives. In other words, Dell tries to get neutral, accurate numbers, and aims to motivate executives through NPS in a way that they can’t control, forcing them to take action that matches customer complaints and praises, rather than what will serve their own interests.

Research has shown that making executives accountable for closing the loop with customers is vital for tackling churn at a company.

All these endeavours are bearing fruit for the company. Dell is taking the necessary steps to take action on the feedback they’re receiving. After getting a lot of customer feedback that people wanted products built, shipped, and delivered to them in a more timely manner, Dell began utilizing a Perfect Order Metric (POM) to have a concrete way of measuring delivery quality, and that provided a goal for workers involved in the processes. This metric is calculated by multiplying the percentages of on time delivery, order completeness, freedom from damage, and accurate documentation all together.

Dell Gets Customer Engagement

Dell EMC is incredibly invested in customer engagement, believing that “no two customer journeys are the same,” so sales are highly customized to the individual or business purchasing computer technology from them. A Dell sales representative asks for a person’s or business’s goals, and help them find the right technologies and solutions for their needs.

A consumer can attend a Solution Engagement to address a particular issue, or to master a certain piece of technology that can help with a need. Another consumer can attend an Executive Briefing Program, a meeting in which Dell experts gather employees from a company together, or where Dell experts go to a particular company, and help plan new ventures or growth ideas one-on-one, specifically looking at how technology works with these ideas. With both programs, Dell’s intentions are clear: they want to know every customer personally, and give them the best solution and hardware for their particular problem or business. Customers are engaged with directly, one-on-one, and with consistent communication so the customer always has an easy place to ask questions or make complaints, and also to offer praise.

In return for all of this, Dell gets a very clear picture of its customer base, and what they need and want. That helps with their NPS programs, and with general business decisions. As stated before, most of Dell’s customers are businesses, rather than individuals. Accordingly, much of their customer engagement program language is directed at businesses, showing they understand their niche.

Dell also knows small businesses have different needs, technologically, than a company with several thousand employees. So Dell has its Small Business Central program, in which it offers consultations and customer support to those who buy through it 24/7, as well as special deals and discounts for businesses that qualify in size. Dell knows the value of such services to businesses with limited resources, as it engages with these businesses often, and markets accordingly. The result is, Dell sees more business with small businesses, allowing for further engagement, and further understanding of the market. Dell, therefore, reaps the benefits financially.

Dell is also extremely active in social media customer experience. The company explains that “By listening to those conversations, particular departments within the organization, such as sales and marketing teams, can gain an understanding of how a brand is perceived and what customers want. Product and research teams can receive direct feedback. Support teams can understand top-of-mind issues.”


Dell is doing everything right for a high Net Promoter Score. They are measuring for the metric, and getting feedback from customers at every opportunity, particularly through highly customizable and personal sales. It’s taking action according to the feedback gleaned from that customer engagement, and addressing concerns as effectively as it can.

Beyond just focusing on customer NPS, Dell has also introduced employee Net Promoter Score® (eNPS®) into the mix as well. At an eNPS of 44, Dell is showing great industry leadership by investing in employee satisfaction, which will ultimately trickle down into improving their customer experience.

Dell, beyond being a staple in the computing industry, is also a trailblazer when it comes to investing in the Voice of the Customer. We’re excited to see how Dell EMC continues to use NPS and other customer experience techniques to improve their business in the future.

See anything here that should be updated? Feel free to reach out and let us know!

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