Crisis Communication Report Card: How HP Handled Charges of Racist Computers

Pamela Vaughan
Pamela Vaughan



HP computers are racist?  Who knew?  In a humorous video that went viral on YouTube over the weekend, two sales associates point out a flaw in HP's facial recognition software, which apparently fails to recognize black people (see video below).


While the video's creators, Wanda Zamen and Desi Cryer, say they originally made the video with the intention of being funny, it's accumulated over 750,000 views on YouTube -- probably not the best-case scenario for the folks over at HP.

HP responded with a post on its The Next Bench blog addressing the situation and stressing that "Customer Feedback is Important."  Did HP handle the situation the best they could?  Let's evaluate: 

Timeliness of Response (Grade: C)

Wanda and Desi's video was posted on Thursday, December 10, and went viral over this past weekend.  HP published their response on Sunday, December 20, but for a better grade, they should've issued their statement within hours -- not days -- of the video's YouTube explosion. 

Social Media Monitoring/Involvement (Grade: B+)

At least HP was paying attention to its customers in the social media-sphere, and they obviously don't have a restrictive policy against social media engagement , which is more than we can say about some other big brands like Carnival Cruise .  But again, closer monitoring of the situation could have resulted in a timelier response.  

Quality of Response/Statement (Grade: B)

HP's blog post was not too shabby, but we think it could've been better.  For one thing, they could've included a simple apology for anyone they may have offended to cover their bases.  And while they indicated they're looking into the problem, it's always a good idea to promise the issue will be fixed.  Who doesn't like a guarantee?

Tact (Grade: A)

HP did an awesome job of crafting their response in a way that downplayed the racial angle while still showing sesitivity about the issue.  Instead of focusing on the racial undertones, they treated the video as a help desk issue.  Well done! 

Communication (Grade: A)

The fact that HP actually issued a response via their blog garners respect in itself.  Social media monitoring means nothing if you don't react, and HP's use of social media for two-way communication is exemplary.  As seen from the Kryptonite bicycle lock case study , we know what can happen if you choose to ignore customers' reactions on the Web. 

We also like how HP continues to encourage customer feedback via the forums on its blog and on Twitter by messaging @HP_PC .

Final Grade: B+ 

Overall, HP did a pretty good job handling the situation. But what could HP have done to make their handling of the situation go from good to great? How about making lemons out of lemonade, like EA Sports did (below) in response to the YouTube video that surfaced showing the glitch in the Tiger Woods PGA Tour '08 video game?


What do you think about HP's response?

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