Dell Labs Tour - Rice Bags Have a Place in the World of Tech

DSA had a first-hand experience to take a peek at the workings behind the scenes at DELL labs in Austin Texas. In conjunction with DELL EMC world, reporters were taken on a tour at Dell headquarters to take a closer look at how the giant operates in all its centres.

As one of the 6 Command Centres worldwide, it is modelled after NASA’s command centre and took 16 years to set up. Built from ground up, entirely in house.

The centre is entirely customer focused and derives analytics into how to best address customer’s issues or difficulties before they happen. At the same time Dell keep overheads low by maintaining a lean team; ultimately this translates into better pricing for Dell customers.

The Command Centre uses analytics to manage customer issues at scale. Using their analytics tools Dell are able to monitor approximately 10 million customers' concerns from across the globe at any one time and running with a team consisting of only 50 people. 

By way of example, Dell opened up an incident in real time allowing us to understand how issues are dealt with. In this instance a city in India was flagged as having a crisis situation. The command centre analytics picks up details of the crisis and makes the centre team aware of what is going on.  The team immediately reacts using analytical tools to determine the possible impact of the crises to their customers in that vicinity. The level of detail they go into is impressive - even making determinations about road access and traffic lockdowns.

The key to Dell’s approach is prediction in advance of the problem. Ultimately when a customer issue is confirmed the centre team needs to make direct contact with the affected customer. This is also part of the issue diagnosis where experienced operators ascertain specific details around what kind of help a given customer might need. (e.g. parts replacement, servicing or just advice). Dell’s attention to detail and geographical awareness is relentless. In certain parts of the world where technical issues are often caused by flood, Dell have an interesting checklist they go through with customers, down to checking whether rice bags will be needed on site to dry components.

In todays world, component failure is less likely to be an issue. It is common to find that environmental and configuration issues can end up being the root cause of a customer’s problem. Dell’s labs are equipped with an extensive array of technology so that customers environments can be replicated and created quickly within the lab itself. Once a replica environment is built, Dell’s highly experienced engineers are able to replicate the actual problem, work locally to identify the root cause and solve it. Having access to the equipment to build replica environments at speed, means that resolution time can be very quick and customer downtime avoided.

The lab is looking at ways to continually improve. They are actively increasing the ways that customers can interact with them in order to better understand real issues in real time.  

Dell are innovative in the way they use social media in their support strategy. They actively use all major social media to monitor possible problems in real time. People sometimes complain on mass about a fault or bug on social media often before many cases are officially raised on the support centre. By scanning and analysing social media Dell are able to proactively monitor for problems and have fixes ready even before customers actually raise a “ticket”.  Dell also use sentiment analysis across social media to understand accurately what customers are looking for in terms of service, support and product enhancements.
 
Support is a serious business for Dell. A company of this size doesn’t deal with isolated issues, in times of natural disaster such as earthquakes or floods they can have tens of thousands of customers affected at any one time. As a company Dell takes a global approach to crisis management which is always looking to pre-empt risk and prepare in advance to help customer recover on a mass scale.

This expertise can be boiled down and used to support other mission critical scenarios. At the recent Olympics in Brazil, Dell built a dedicated command centre to ensure operations, logistics and media were supported at a level where risk of disruption to the games was minimised.

Dell has always been great at marketing their products yet have sometimes struggled to shake of the image of their formative years, with people not always seeing them as a provider of enterprise solutions and still thinking of Dell as the direct PC and laptop supplier. As we know the overall portfolio even before the EMC acquisition was rich in enterprise capability, but the command centres are more of well-kept secret.

In truth it is the experience, thought process, skill, resource and technology that underpins Dell Labs which really means they are a company that you can trust with your mission critical enterprise class IT.

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