Dell hell freezes over
Remember Dell Hell? Back in 2005, blogger/pundit Jeff Jarvis had a nasty experience with the computer retailer, and vented on his Buzz Machine blog with some very salty language. Readers responded with infernal rage, and in a short time, Dell (DELL) found itself with a huge PR problem. It didn't stop with Jarvis; entire Web sites were set up for people to come and dump on Dell (we'll come back to that in a minute). The episode is often cited as the first, or best, example of how blogs influence corporate behavior.

The Browser was thinking about all of that last night when Dell beat analysts' expectations and announced healthy third-quarter earnings. The financials were all the more impressive, given Dell's encounters with exploding batteries and the increasing market share of Hewlett-Packard (HPQ). Oh, sure, there were a few things in Dell's SEC filing that might spook shareholders, such as ongoing investigations into the company's accounting practices. But overall, the announcement tends to confirm the analysis from Fortune's David Kirkpatrick a couple months back: Dell's growth overseas is impressive - up 33% in China year-on-year - and augurs a bright future. Even as The Browser writes, Dell stock is burning brighter than a laptop battery, up 10% in early trading.

And so: For all the noise, did Dell Hell really make any dent? There are a few ways of looking at that. One view is that the blogosphere identified a problem with customer service, and Dell fixed it (and indeed, if you look these days at Jarvis's blog, you'd think Dell hired someone to service him alone). Another view, though, is that Dell Hell was largely hype. Yes, there were some customer service nightmares, as with any large retailer, and yes, the nature of social media allows a large number of people who've been burned to find each other and trade their hellish tales. But it's not ultimately surprising that tech-oriented people are going to take out their aggressions on a technology company as opposed, say, to a health-care provider.

More and more The Browser has been thinking that social media sites do not necessarily represent the wisdom of the crowd as much as they do the prejudices, however reasonable, of the technology community. And while perhaps none of these theses are provable, it does seem relevant that at least some of the once-flaming Dell Hell sites are now merely receptacles for spam and porn.
Posted by Jim Ledbetter 9:26 AM 4 Comments comment | Add a Comment

Thanks Jeff!

I have noticed better service and not getting hung up on forever menu's, wasting time giving EVERY piece of identification/inquisitioned/etc..., and getting Indians I had to call back several times to get someone I could understand (I think incompetent techs used to hide behind threatening inquisitions). My Dell 530 workstations are the best ever made by anyone (5.6GHz, 4GB RDRAM - 2002) and I think Dell was best even before when it was (very) hard to get service. Now it is much better dealing with Dell Service. I can now work through problems talking to several techs as I go, where it used to take that long to talk to just one I could understand. Its almost a pleasure dealing with techs now. Power to the People! And Dell was paying for a lot of non value add labor time before that, so it helps Dell's bottom line too. Win-Win scenario with Quality service.

Again, Thanks Jeff!
Posted By Phil Sarasota, FL : 11:47 AM  

Jeff, if you think Dell tech support and customer service are improving, you clearly don't have a Dell computer.
Posted By A. C. Pief, Herndon, VA : 12:37 PM  

Dell has a lot of things to improve before I will go back to them. I have had my issues with HP equipment too but at least they seemed to want to help and I got resolution. The Dell people I was dealing with recently make excuses and I get no where.
Posted By mark d, Boise Idaho : 3:41 PM  

Jeesh. If it was hype, then why did Dell decide it had to spend millions to improve customer service? Why did they change their tune online? Don't make the mistake of thinking that bloggers are minimedia. In this case, we are customers. And the customers who piled up behind me storming castle Dell were a leading indicator of the problems the company certainly had.
Posted By Jeff Jarvis - New York : 4:10 PM  

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