Re-build your *ENTIRE* phone/chat sales and support staff
I really like Dell computers and own many of them up until last year. Last year I tried many times to buy a new Dell laptop but the Sales staff, both from the online chat and phone support, was horrible.
Get rid of the idiotic flowcharts and question process they use to select a machine. If the customer has an idea of what they want and your staff doesn't know enough about the product to immediately select a device, then don't waste the customer's time. I went through 4 reps that asked the same dumb questions and arrived at the same incorrect configuration.
Gone are the days when we had to explain megabytes and PCI busses. Dell's approach is to dumb down the selection process so we have such broad categories as Gamer or Home PC and then artificially try to shoehorn the more technically savvy customers into these categories. I can build my own PC if needed, but I go to Dell for a certain configuration and some measure of aesthetics. It's annoying to have to sit through some call center person as he reads some flowchart to me. Do you play games? Do you run Excel? Might you be interested in this fine laptop bag?
So, if the customer wants a certain thing, maybe it is 32G of RAM in a laptop or a particular type of keyboard or a certain screen size, build your selection process so that the call center rep can select these particular items. If the selection does not exist, either locate the next closest configuration or have some sort of voting process for these feature sets. The worst thing you can do is to spec a system that's missing the one or two "must haves" that the customer requested. The old Dell that I liked would help me build a laptop according to my needs.
So yeah, some consultant probably sold Dell on the idea that outsourced call centers would really be better... Doesn't seem to be working for me. Just gives me indigestion after a call.
So for the social networking aspect...
Online forums have existed for years and years. They are nothing new, except instead of Usenet feeds we have Facebook pages and Google+ circles.
1) Don't treat your social media presence as just another webpage.
Engage your customers on the site with polls, questions, etc.. And don't just put out polls and pose questions. Answer the questions, take action based on the polls. There's a danger in that the online folks may not be representative of your actual markets (e.g., business users may not spend a whole lot of time on your FB page) but you can gauge this with demographic data available from all the major players.
2) Don't be a "Like This Page" [redacted].
Many sites throw out these contests to get Likes and Circles. The problem is that your comment feed ends up being filled with noise.. "Hey", "Add me", "I like your page".. And eventually the people who are really interested drop off because of all the chatter. Sure, gain followers but aim for relevant followers and not just bots and professional contest winners (yeah, they exist).
3) Don't use schills.
The most annoying and credibility busting ploys is to use paid schills to hawk a product. Believe me, they're easy to spot.
4) Design is important.
Keyboards without proper function keys are useless to programmers. Just saying.
5) Media is important.
Provide product ads and info pages that are "you-tubable", mobile aware on different browsers, and use new tech. E.g., there are 3D plugins for most browsers.. why not use them to showcase a product. Create videos explaining how to use a technology or why the design decision was made. E.g., I became a bigger fan of the Nexus 7 Android tablet once they explained *why* there was no media slot.