I think it’s great that Dell has come out with IdeaStorm, a suggestion site inspired by Digg (and that inspiration is explicily admitted on the site, unlike Yahoo’s recently launched suggestion sites, which caused such a ruckus because they were supposedly a “ripoff” of Digg). And like Rob Hyndman, I think the name is great too. What better way to show your community of users that you’re listening to them than to encourage them to submit ideas and vote on them?
There’s no question that Dell has come a long way since the early days of the Dell blog, when Jeff Jarvis ripped them a new one (mostly for not mentioning him and all the blog coverage he got after having a bad experience with Dell support). They responded to that openly and honestly on the Dell blog, and they followed it up with lots of posts about what they were doing to fix various user problems such as faulty batteries, etc. And best of all, they admitted that they still had lots of learning to do.
The big question now, of course, is: How much of this community input will Dell actually put into practice? In other words, the walk must eventually be walked, rather than just having the talk be talked. The top user suggestion as of this writing is the “No Extra Software Option” — in other words, the option to buy a Dell with no extra software. It had about 2.000 votes on Saturday afternoon. Will Dell listen? No doubt the company has agreements with software companies to include their products for a fee. Will it be willing to give that up because the community wants it to?
Mark Evans has more on Dell and IdeaStorm here and Richard MacManus at Read/Write Web has a post about that and Dell’s other Web 2.0-style innovation, which is a user-generated video site called StudioDell. And Richard points out that more companies should be trying to listen to their customers the way that Dell is. What does it cost? Barely anything. But the payoff — even just in goodwill — is enormous.