Michael Dell is back at the helm of his namesake company. A few years back, when Apple Inc. was in the doldrums, someone had asked Mr. Dell, basking in the glory of his low cost, low price, no innovation formula on what should be done to fix Apple. Mr. Dell replied, “Apple should be sold and money returned to the shareholders”.
Of course, Steve Jobs brought back Apple from the brink of disaster solely on the basis of innovation, the one single quality missing from Mr. Dell’s company. Rumor has it that on the day Apple’s total market value exceeded Dell’s recently, Mr. Jobs sent an email to his entire company congratulating them on their success. If he did, it won’t be totally out of character with Mr. Jobs flashy personality.
Dell’s woes also have an Indian connection. One of the primary reasons behind people’s dissatisfaction with Dell has been its after-sales service and Dell has a huge chunk of its customer support based in India. Anyone who has tried to contact their customer service will readily admit that they are one of the worst. Obviously, it is not India’s fault that Dell’s customer service sucks. If you won’t spend to hire good workers, won’t train them and treat customer service as a necessary evil, then your service will suck whether it is based in the US, India or Mars.
Dell is not the only low-cost, low-price mass marketer in trouble these days. Indeed, the king of that model, Walmart is also suffering from stagnant and declining sales while its slightly more upscale competitor, Target, is raking it in. Walmart has been forced to innovate in order to attract customers looking for more than just tissue paper rolls and dishwasher detergent. Let us see if Mr. Dell can bring some fresh ideas and innovation to his boring and staid company in order to attract customers looking for more than $300 desktops and $500 laptops.