Dell Karen Quintos

Karen Quintos, Dell and the Ultimate Differentiator

With specialization among C-suite executives increasingly common, the role of Chief Customer Officer (CCO) is starting to gain more visibility. However, as a matter of course, business organizations hoping to succeed must be customer-centric. So why would a company need a senior executive and team that focuses solely on its customers and customer relationships?

To develop a better understanding of the CCO role, how it shapes strategy and how it enhances an organization’s relationship with its customers and partners, I recently spoke with Karen Quintos, who became Dell’s EVP and CCO in 2016, and is also the company’s highest ranking woman executive.

In addition to leading Dell’s customer advocacy and experience programs, Quintos also has responsibility for Dell’s strategy and programs for Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), Diversity & Inclusion and Entrepreneurship. These are all business imperatives that she found really matter to Dell’s customers.

During the course of our hour-long discussion, Quintos described how customer relationships have become the ultimate differentiator for companies in all industries. Given the importance of that point, she took a unique approach to defining and developing her CCO responsibilities.

When I asked Quintos about the impetus behind Dell’s decision to create the CCO position, she said, “Michael (Dell) recognizes that we live in this Age of the Customer, a time where customers are calling the shots, and where customer relationships are the ultimate differentiator for any business.”

Why was she chosen as CCO? “For as long as I’ve worked with Michael directly, he has consistently said that I’m one of the most customer-centric executives at Dell. I’m used to being the one from his leadership team advocating on behalf of our customers. Add in my marketing background, my operations background, my service and support background, combined with just how I’m wired, and I think the new job is a natural fit for me.”

Quintos said she and her team focus on three things. “First are what I call customer advocacy teams that are aligned with our sales teams’ go to market models. The second area is around customer analytics and insights, and the third piece is around continuing to strengthen our efforts in corporate social responsibility, entrepreneurship and diversity and inclusion.”

Has she discovered any unusual customer issues or problems? “That a bunch of seemingly small errors or negative experiences – what you might call “amber lights” – can add up to a “fire-engine red” status warning. Meaning it’s not just big failures that we need to be avoiding.”

Quintos also talked at length about Dell’s CSR efforts. “Here in Round Rock, we have enabled nearly 75 percent of our employees to work from home one or two days a week. This is something our customers are super interested in because it’s about technology, it’s about policy, it’s about manager training. Frankly, it’s a real differentiator for Dell.”

In addition, the company’s CSR policies and environmental programs have global implications. “We’ve recycled 1.6 billion pounds of used electronics since 2007. By the way, it’s not just Dell technology we recycle – we will take any used electronics. We are more than 75% of the way to our goal of recycling 2 billion pounds by 2020. We’re also leading the industry in our use of recycled materials inside our products.”

We discussed Dell’s long history of supporting diversity and inclusion, and its critical importance to the company and other businesses. “It’s an economic imperative, a business imperative and a social imperative. You simply will not be able to provide the right solutions and products without understanding a diverse set of perspectives and having an employee base and a leadership team that reflects your customer base.

Quintos also reflected on the central issues that drive Dell, and how they impact the company’s customer interactions. “The notion of technology enabling human potential really continues to be the foundation of (Dell’s) culture. It guides what we believe in for our customers, how we go about winning, and how we approach innovation and giving back.”

You can find the full interview here

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