The Dell Hell Case study – How to turn negative into positive?


Synopsis:

On June 21, 2005, a “citizen journalist” by the name of Jeff Jarvis posted a single negative blog-post about his experience with one of the top computer and technology companies in the world- Dell Inc.  His rant was lengthy, and unforgivable, with sentences like, “DELL SUCKS. DELL LIES. Put that in your Google and smoke it, Dell,” and it attracted computer buyers from around the globe.

Objective(s):

Objective is to study the case example in order to analyse the consequences of a failed online reputation management effort by a top notch company.

Introduction and Background:

Dell Inc. is an American multinational computer technology corporation based in United States, that develops, sells and supports computers and related products and services.
Bearing the name of its founder, Michael Dell, the company is one of the largest technological corporations in the world, employing more than 103,300 people worldwide.
It is the third largest PC vendor in the world after HP and Lenovo.

Approach:

Dell had built a strong reputation during the 1990′s and early 21st century, however, the experience of one customer would serve as a catalyst to Dell for over two years.  Dell Inc. became known instead as, “Dell Hell,” and the bold opinion of Jarvis resulted in a domino effect that caused bad critiques and drastic declines in Dell’s success.  Their business, their brand, was under attack, and getting this smudge off their record was no easy task.

Dell set themselves up for this situation by failing to relate to the very people who keep them in business. The first reason to get serious about your business’s online presence is so you have a better grasp on what your customers are thinking.  Billions of dollars in marketing efforts are spent each year on studies, surveys, and behavior patterns to find out what people want and how to appeal to consumers.  But don’t think just because there aren’t conversations about your brand online that this is a good thing.  In fact, if you aren’t a topic of conversation online, this can be an even bigger warning: no one is talking about you because no one cares or knows about you.

Engaging in online reputation management allows you to also take a pro-active step towards your business goals by allowing your business the opportunity to tell the world who you are first, before someone else tries to do it for you.

The scenario:

“DELL SUCKS. DELL LIES. Put that in your Google and smoke it, Dell.”

– Jeff Jarvis, Angry Dell Customer

a “citizen journalist” by the name of Jeff Jarvis posted a single negative blog-post about his experience with one of the top computer and technology companies in the world- Dell Inc.  His rant was lengthy, and unforgivable, with sentences like, “DELL SUCKS. DELL LIES. Put that in your Google and smoke it, Dell,” and it attracted computer buyers from around the globe.

Dell Inc. became known instead as, “Dell Hell,” and the bold opinion of Jarvis resulted in a domino effect that caused bad critiques and drastic declines in Dell’s success.

Your page one defense with search engines is your first impression and accessible to consumers world-wide.  You have the ability to create the perception you want people to have of you, instead of others creating it for you.  Are you socially involved with your customers online?

If Dell would have already been encouraging conversations with their customers, and building their own reputation beforehand, perhaps they would have been able to spot this problem and correct it more quickly.  Dell reacted to this change by initiating online reputation transparency projects to try and turn such a negative situation into a positive campaign.

Results:

They learned the importance of breaking through the online barriers with efforts to show online users that they cared about them as valued customers. This resulted in Dell joining online conversations and turning their reputation around.  Reputation is built over time and can easily be destroyed in a few seconds, but there are tools available to help create and sustain a reputation that is difficult to attack.  Exceeding the expectations of customers by paying attention to them can allow online users to become your biggest asset.

The important part to this example is how Dell refused to let the negative review/content from destroying their name. Instead, they chose to take the criticism and negative feedback as a learning opportunity to listen to their customers and implement a reputation management strategy that not only was engaging with consumers, but also a strategy that worked to provide transparency throughout their brand.

Dell learned to listen and “they ended up seeing the value in listening to and ceding control to customers. They reached out to bloggers; they blogged; they found ways to listen to and follow the advice of their customers. They joined the conversation. That’s all we asked.” In fact, Dell ended up earning the forgiveness and respect of Jarvis back again.
Jarvis posted this on his blog on October 17, 2007, explaining in detail exactly what he saw in Dell that caused his change of heart:

Dell realized that engaging in the conversation wasn’t just a way to stop blogging customers like me from harming the brand. We, the customers, bring them great value besides our money: We alert them to problem. We will tell them what products we want. We share our knowledge about their products. We help fellow customers solve problems. We will sell their products. But this happens only if you have a decent product and service and only if you listen to us.

 

Future:

Keep the following three concepts in mind when implementing your online conversations with customers. Below are the first three pointers, taken from the 95 Theses “Cluetrain Manifesto“:

1. Markets are conversations
2. Markets consist of human beings, not demographic sectors
3. Conversations among human beings sound human. They are conducted in a human voice

Establishing a genuine relationship with consumers by listening first and selling second is key. So you don’t see a direct correlation with your company’s ROI analysis and marketing reports that state your customers bought in to your business because of your online content and online reputation strategy, that is not the idea. Customer service and an excellent online reputation (listening first) help drive consumers to your ROI/selling points (selling second).

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11 comments

  1. Joanie B · · Reply

    DELL is apparently at it again. On February 3, 2014, they advertised on the internet a Samsung Galaxy Note 3 for $285.00 with 2 year T-Mobile Contract, plus tax. After spending 2 hours on the phone calling phone numbers that weren’t active, being re-routed to other departments when I was able to reach someone. A Dell representative acknowledged that T-Mobile no longer had any contracts – that was a concern that I wanted to have addressed prior to putting up the $$$. Well I decided to proceed. Now it’s March 13th and delivery of my phone has again been postponed until 3/19 when I again assume it’ll be postponed due to “production issues”. This is the 3rd time. No one in the US to speak to, very solicitous, probably someone in India, judging by the accent.

    If they can’t deliver something why do they bother foisting something like this on the public? I REALLY need my phone! I don’t know if anyone will see this since it’s attached to such an old posting but I thought I’d put it out there, just in case… wish me luck!

  2. […] user’s free reign to threaten our organisation’s reputation. For instance in the case of ‘Dell Hell’ where one angry Dell customer, Jeff Jarvis, posted a negative SEO optimised blog post which in […]

  3. […] having to rethink their customer service strategies to mange their tainted reputation e.g. Dell Hell, United Breaks Guitar,  and the British Gas Q&A PR […]

  4. […] many of the customer service aspects have been benefits by hearing our clients, as in the case of Dell Hell in which the company Dell improved its customer service when they listen complaints over the […]

  5. […] se han podido mejorar oyendo lo que a las personas les disgusta, como por ejemplo el famoso caso de Dell Hell en donde la compañía Dell mejoró increíblemente su servicio al oír a sus usuarios renegando de […]

  6. […] is a perfect ‘Dell Hell’ scenario and they have the golden opportunity to soar like Dell did. I would suggest a ‘We […]

  7. […] recently read Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff’s account of Dell’s foray into the blogosphere. It really resonated with me and got me thinking about my own experiences working for a large […]

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