Exploding Notebook Ignites Dell’s Online Presence?

A photo taken by an Inquirer reader has been orbiting on the Internet, something along the lines of an exploding laptop. Some would say it was on fire. Mere semantics. The picture from Osaka, captures flames and sparks and smoke, and nearby conventioneers, perhaps dulled by beers and saki from the night before, staring on in disbelief and fear. The laptop happens to be a Dell, and the anticipated PR nightmare has ensued.

But besides combating the bad press surrounding this with the usual stuffy recall notices and small-font announcements on their customer service page, Dell is launching into the blogosphere. Beware, says the skeptic. Is this just some sort of gimmick, meant to win over compugeeks who may otherwise turn away from Dell and toward less commercial notebook brands? Or will Dell’s one2one blog, as it’s called-turn out to be an honest attempt to reach out to its customers and form bonds with them on a more intimate, sophisticated and comfortable level?

Right now, if you go on the blog, it’s a tough call. Plenty of space is devoted to posts from a “Digital Media Manager” named Lionel Menchaca or a “WW Customer Experience” director named Laura Bosworth. And plenty of it is marketing copy that’s crafted to sound informal, young, engaging and caring, such as one line that reads “So – you wanna talk about service. Let’s do it.” Another post asks, “Is Dell listening?” and then quickly replies, “The answer is absolutely.”

But these are professional corporate communication folks. These are people who know how to communicate with bloggers, generation Y kids, Millennials-members of the Internet generation who are supposedly immune to standard corporate marketing ploys and language. So what would you expect?

But however you look at Dellone2one, it is working from Dell’s perspective. Folks are seemingly encouraged by the computer giant’s tentative forray into the blogosphere, and are getting people to respond. As Lionel, the Digital Media Manager, admits in one of his posts, they’ve gotten 140 blog posts in “a healthy mix of positive, negative and neutral.”

And from a looksee at some of these posts, the “astute” youngsters are falling right into Dell’s trap. Even when bloggers bash Dell on one2one, they end up giving Dell recommendations on how they can improve their customer service, or even quality-control with third-party component vendors.

Then again, I’m a cynic. Maybe Dell is being earnest. And perhaps in the process they can’t help but sound like corporate folks who are trying to sound like they’re still in college 🙂 As for heated discussion about Dell’s exploding laptop issue, that isn’t going away anytime soon. Was it a battery issue, or a design flaw? Let’s hope answers will be available soon at DellOne2One.

August 25, 2006 – Update! – It seems the incident may not have been Dell’s fault afterall, indeed the finger of blame is now being pointed at a batch of dodgy lithium ion battery packs manufactured by Sony. Apple have also recalled 1.8 million batteries, and this “Total Recall” of 6 million plus battery packs is likely to hit Sony hard in the wallet, somewhere between twenty and thirty billion yen.

By Matthew Brodsky – Laptopical

Friday, July 21, 2006