For Crisis’ Sake

The Dell HELL Experience

How can blogs help during crisis situations? Here’s a case study that would prove the importance of new social media in today’s organizations.


Dell is a multinational information technology corporation based in Round Rock, Texas, United States, that develops, sells and supports computers and related products and services.



What happened at Dell?

Dell failed to deliver customer service promises. Jeff Jarvis blogged about Dell’s shortcomings. Dell failed to address in public the mistakes they have committed. Then it became hell for Dell.



What Dell did next?

1. Invested an additional $150m to improve customer service.

2. Launched an official Dell customer service blog and two other social media sites “Dell Studio” and “IdeaStorm”

IdeaStorm hosts online brainstorming sessions on Dell products and invites insights from people about the products and services offered by Dell while Studio Dell is where people can share Dell-related videos. At IdeaStorm, one can view all posted ideas, post his/ her own ideas, promote or demote ideas and see his/her own ideas in action.




At first people were critical about the step Dell took.

“The subtitle is ‘direct conversations with Dell’
but this is as much a conversation as yelling at
a brick wall. There is not one link there. It’s filled
with promotions for Dell’s wonderfulness.”

– Jeff Jarvis



Dell responded

With the initial criticisms, Dell assured people that they are actually listening to what they have to say.



Social Media  in Action

1. When Dell’s blog was launched, a serious issue emerged. Because of an exploding laptop, Dell was forced to announce product recall and because of the company blog the recall process became easier.  Dell was able to calm people down by announcing what they are already doing regarding the issue. The blog also provided an avenue for Dell to address the concerns brought by that exploding incident.

2. IdeaStorm has also been successful in promoting stakeholder democracy. One incident was when Dell preserved the option of XP despite the original plan of having Vista because of a suggestion in IdeaStorm which was agreed by almost 14, 000 members of the community.



Was Dell’s social media strategy effective?

A study showed that after months of having blogs and other social media sites as the customers’ platform for expression, perceptions about Dell improved and complaints decreased. Of course this would not happen if Dell only allowed comments to be expressed without them acting on these comments.


Lessons Learned:

1. Listen…

very well.

At first, Dell was not able to listen very well that’s why the problem became worse to the point of attracting so many bloggers and people online.


2.  Assure people that you are listening.

It’s difficult for a customer to feel that he/ she is being listened to, especially by a huge organization such as Dell. That’s why it is the organization’s duty to  tell customers that “Hey we’re here and we’re listening.”


3. Respond immediately.

How an organization responds to crises is very crucial for its reputation because it shows how it values customers and their perceptions. Organizations should not take customer concerns for granted because customers are the ones in control, as what Jeff Jarvis said. An immediate response is necessary and also crucial, that’s why organizations should carefully plan what they will say in response.


4. Admit mistakes

Pride and being defensive will only worsen things. If it’s your mistake, admit it.


5.  Act on it.

After assuring people that you’re listening and after informing them of what the company will do about their concerns, do what you need to do. You don’t want people telling the world that your company is just trying to put up a good image by managing online reputation without actually translating these attempts into action.


6. Take advantage of the NSM.

Analyze what type of social media will best address the problems at hand. There are a lot of SNSs out there but not everything will work well with the kind of crisis the organization has. Strategize.


It is equally important to engage people via the available social media even there’s no crisis at hand. Would you wait for a crisis to happen before you welcome New Social Media in your organization? Well, it’s up to you.



“The fact is a lot of companies thought they had
control of their brand.
“Guys: you never had control… Your customers
had control. If you give up the notion that you had
control, and listen to your customers, monitor
what they are saying – make monitoring blogs
part of what customer services does. Then if you
have a good product and good service and good
people it will work for you, people will talk about
you, recommend you.”
– Jeff Jarvis

3 thoughts on “For Crisis’ Sake

  1. Hi Kim! Thank you for sharing this example. I must say that this is a good illustration of how the new social media can be utilized in handling organizational crisis situations.
    If there are two things that I learned from the hell experience of Dell, it would be listening and responding. I believe that these two things must work hand-in-hand. We cannot respond appropriately if we don’t listen well. Listening well is useless if in the end, we do not respond at all. 🙂

  2. I believe that “fixing” the problem is simply not enough especially with the rise of the new social media era. We have to remember that whatever is “talked” about in the Internet stays there and all we can do is cover it up. There’s still the risk of people digging it out and bash your company even more.

    First and most basic rule out there is to not mess up. Yes its pretty hard to do and failures are sure to come but you must really try to give proper service to your consumers as much as you can.

    If you have a record of giving good service to your consumers a major trip such as this crisis may be dampened by the amount of quality service you have given. I’m not saying people will just turn a blind eye to it but it helps anyway.

  3. i understand now what went wrong for dell. they communicated the wrong message and failed to plan the communication strategies to be employed. it is important for any organization to recognize the fact that the public can speak now and they can even shout at you. one wrong move will seriously inflict damages.

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