The Story
In 2005 Jeff Jarvis, a known blogger and media consultant purchased a Dell laptop that was not functioning. Jarvis tried to engage in a conversation with the Dell’s customer service in order to fix his laptop. He was asked to send the laptop back to the manufacturer. When he received it the second time it was still broken. Jarvis was trying to contact Dell’s customer service via phone calls and emails but he received no response. This triggered a series of blogs on Jarvis’ website ( about his bad customer experience with Dell. His negative reaction was quickly picked up by other dissatisfied customers and was spread around the web with an increasing number of negative comments about Dell. As a result, this had a negative impact on Dell’s sales and their share price dropped. Meanwhile Dell was not reacting to Jeff Jarvis’ blogs. Moreover, during the height of Dell Hell, Dell closed its online customer forum.

Dell’s Reaction
Only after writing a letter to Dell’s Chief Marketing Officer Jarvis received the full refund for the laptop. However, the negative reaction of the public was still at its peak.
A year after the Dell Hell incident, Dell created two new corporate communication initiatives which incorporated social media technology. In the summer of 2006 Dell launched its own blog – Dell2Dell. Dell started to proactively participate in the online conversations. This initiative was quite successful reducing the number of negative comments by more than a half.
Building on the success of the Dell2Dell initiative, the company launched IdeaStorm – an online forum where any Dell customer could post ideas about how Dell could improve its product or service. This website also received good feedback from the consumers and enjoyed high user engagement.

Jeff Jarvis’ reaction
Two years after his Dell Hell blog, Jeff Jarvis published another article in the Business Week titled “Dell Learns to Listen”. Jarvis acknowledged that Dell had come a long way since 2005 in learning how to listen to their customers and how to leverage the power of social media to interact with the public.

Key Learning
  • Customers are in control. You are always being watched
  • Real conversations are two-way
  • Think before you talk—but always be yourself
  • Address any form of dissatisfaction head on
  • Be aware that any conversation can become global at any time.
  • Size doesn't matter—relevance does. Just as one journalist can trigger a news cycle, one blogger can do the same.
  • Don't be afraid to apologize
  • Develop direct links to customer community (IdeaStorm for Dell), listen for how you can improve.
  • One customer is part of many communities
  • Teamwork, transparency and frequent consistent communication are key in this new world.