Dell’s Incredible Turnaround

Updated October 23

One of the biggest worries executives and entrepreneurs have is negative brand perception resulting from bloggers rants (Nevermind that these rants usually happen because there is something wrong with the product or some other service issue). This loss of message and brand control scares companies, and in some cases prevents them from engaging in social media.

The reality is that negative comments and general brand perception usually occurs for a reason. Companies need to look at these situations as opportunities to engage their customers and communities. By doing so — listening and engaging — organizations can 1) turn around negative perceptions and 2) build an incredibly loyal following.

There’s no better example of this than Dell Computers. This company has experienced a significant turnaround in social media realms, moving from “Dell Hell” to an incredibly loyal community on its sites. This morning I chronicled this rise on Technosailor…

From Hell to Heaven (as run on Technosailor this morning)

Remember Dell Hell? Jeff Jarvis used the BuzzMachine to slam Dell for his horrific customer experience buying a laptop two years ago. This series of posts epitomized growing dissent against the company, and served as a channel to punish the Texas computer maker for bad products and customer service experiences.

A lot has changed since then:


The Dell community has become a strong one. The company has listened to us, and participated transparently, honestly and openly — going so far as to put one of its exploded laptops on its blog to admit, yes, there is a problem (caused by the battery manufacturer). They even let us tell them what to do on IdeaStorm.

The company has done a lot to turn its brand around. And it is working. Is Dell perfect? No. I think their social media pros Lionel and Richard would be the first ones to tell you that. But they are part of the conversation, and they are actively serving the community. We have a direct and very open line to Dell.

The result? Much better relationships throughout the social media world. And the leading voice of computer manufacturers in social media environments. Goodwill is abound for Dell these days, and rare is the mention of Dell Hell. Some competitors are opening up and blogging.

Consider these statistics:

  • At start of program, 49% of blog posts were negative.  Today, overall tonality is 22% negative.
  • Direct2Dell currently ranked about 700 on Technorati, among the highest corporate blogs.
  • Direct2Dell gets more than 5 million unique views per month
  • Over 7000 ideas have been submitted via IdeaStorm
  • Studio Dell is gets more than 200,000 views per month

The take away for us as individuals trying to maintain our brands is that by listening, changing and participating we can survive bad experiences out here in the social media world. But the key is to listen (are you reading this, Scoble?), let people comment and provide input, and then create products, posts etc. I think that’s really been they key to Dell’s brand turnaround success. Coke had a similar experience as it went from indigestion on Mentos (bad) to Virtual Thirst in Second Life (good).

Tomorrow , Jarvis is expected to report on Dell, and discuss the progress they’ve made. While no one knows what the report will say, it is conceivable that Dell has literally gone from Hell to Heaven. Regardless, they’ve provided a powerful example of listening and change.

Updated, 10/18 at 6:50 p.m.

The story broke, and Jarvis did indeed say that Dell has repaired its tarnished image. Read the BusinessWeek article on Dell learning to listen.