Crisis Communication

Case Study: Dell Inc. Battery Recall

Posted on: February 26, 2009

Dell Inc. Battery Recall Case Study
Silver-Anvil Award Winner

From tgdaily.comIn 2006, Dell voluntarily recalled 4.2 million lithium-ion batteries. The batteries, under certain conditions, could overheat and cause fire. The media had previously noted a Dell laptop going up in smoke and another that had melted.

It was the “largest recall in the history of consumer electronics,” (Case Study, PRSA Silver-Anvil Award Winner). According to Time Magazine, the recall affected 15% of laptops sold from 2004 to 2006.

Following a leak to the press, Dell launched its communication plans about 12 hours early. According to the case study, “Dell became a model for how a company could rapidly and accurately respond to its customers.”

Dell provided a Web site – – with details and instructions for customer. There also was a customer service line available.

Although Dell handled the crisis, the batteries were actually manufactured by Sony.

Time Magazine quoted Richard Shim, a PC industry analyst:

“Shim says that Dell, hit by bad publicity that could harm consumer sales, took this opportunity to reach out to its customers. ‘It’s part of a long-term strategy to build back the trust of consumers,’ he says.”

Dell’s credibility was negativly affected with headlines such as “Dell laptop become a flamethrower.”

But, the open dialogue and effectiveness of the recall probably helped Dell’s image. Dell was the first company to address the issue of the Sony batteries. According to the case study, “Dell initiated the recall on the basis of six incidents among almost 20 million batteries in the marketplace.”

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