I have O2 to thank for my first ever live TV appearance.. after Sky News picked up my blog about O2's poor communication following their network failure last Thursday. When asked about the possibility of brand damage, I said the key was O2's actions in the coming days.
So, 1 week on, and what has happened?
Well, most importantly, O2 fixed the problem fast, with the network back up in 24 hours. So, well done to them for sorting out the technical nightmare quickly. As a result, the brand damage to O2 will probably be limited, especially as this is a relatively low interest category, and up to now O2 has offered pretty good service. Most people will have forgotten about the issue when they come to re-new their contract.
But what about O2 showing they are sorry through a bold action, which is what I recommended O2 should do? I quoted in the Sky interview the example of Apple offering a free case to anyone that had reception problems with the iPhone 4, as I posted on here.
Well, a full week went by without a whisper from O2 to me and its millions of other customers. Not a text. Not an email. Not a call. Nothing. And this for a company is faster of the mark then Usain Bolt when it comes to texting me about going over my data limit and telling me how big my bill will be.
Then finally today I got a text saying "Thanks for bearing with us over the network disruption" and offering £10 to spend in an O2 shop from September 1. Well, it is something, and £10 is OK. But again, for a company who spent millions on ads saying "We're better connected", I think O2 has performed poorly:
- A week is way too long to talk to me
- I'm flabbergasted that they didn't actually say sorry for all the hassle
- Why do I have to wait till Sep 1st to redeem my offer? Over 5 weeks seems a long time to wait. Perhaps this is a craft move to reduce redemptions and save them money?
- I have to spend it using "Priority Moments". What the bloody hell are they?
Net, I don't think O2 have damaged their brand. But I do think they've missed an opportunity to slightly enhance their brand. Most people get that things will go wrong with technology. Just think about the problems you have setting up your home internet for example. Now, times this by 20 million and you've got the size of challenge faced by a company like O2.
But O2 were crap at communicating with customers last week when the problem happened (no update on home-page, no text or email update, phone lines engaged). And they've coninued to be crap since. Their apology, or rather thankyou, has been late in coming and under-whelming.
They had a chance to act quickly and boldly, for example with an app like Apple did, where you could buy a free £10 gift from O2. And if they'd done that, perhaps people would have been pleasantly surprised and actually talked about it.
In conclusion, in today's complex world, for service brands its not a question of IF you're going to have a technical problem, but rather WHEN. Having a plan worked out in advance about how you will communicate and act when the inevtibe nightmare happend could help you protect your brand and maybe even enhance it a bit.