After several frustrating hours trying to sort out wife's iPhone (turn off and on; clean SIM card; go on Apple forums etc.), I finally found out the problem was with her network provider, O2. Turns out O2 have suffered a major network failure. Now, shit happens to all brands. But what is really shit is how O2 have handled this crisis.
Update: this blog post caught the eye of Sky News, and was I interviewed live to comment on the brand impact :-)
1. A naked homepage
It simple beggars belief that there is ZERO news on the O2 homepage about the outage, what is being done and when it will be fixed. To make things worse, its a nightmare to find a number to call customer service on the site. Why isn't this on the homepage (answer, probably to save money by reducing calls to the help-line).
Update: I finally found out there is a status update hidden at status.O2.co.uk..... and the day after my post, this has finally been added to the top of the homepage. Although in this update O2 say they have no idea about when the problem will be fixed.
Update: the problem was fixed 24 hours after it happened
2. Staff shortage
When I finally found out what the problem and finally found an O2 customer service number to call, I got... a busy tone. Called again, engaged. Not even a message saying, "Sorry, we have a network problem causing lots of calls. We will be with you in a minute". Just an engaged tone.
Where is the emergency back-up system to staff the phones in a crisis like this? What are the board of directors and senior managers doing?
3. Failure to offer a short-term fix
Most amazing of all, I found out on Twitter from a pissed off O2 punter that by turning off 3G you can get service back! Why did O2 not find this out and tell people about it?
4. Tone on Twitter
To O2's credit, they have made use of Twitter as a new-age help-line, replying in person to complaints. But the tone of the Tweets has shown a lack of empathy in understanding how big a nightmare it is to have no mobile phone.
O2's response to the quick fix above of turning off 3G? Rather than saying "Good idea, thanks!" They replied "May do the trick in the interim, but a permanent solution will be in place when engineers fix it". Right, thanks. When a Tweeter, quite politely in my mind, said "O2 you suck", the response from O2 was "Harsh!"
In conclusion, O2 have shown how to cock up a brand crisis, showing a lack of customer empathy and reactivity.
It will be interesting to see how they say sorry once the problem is finally sorted. Will they carry on being rubbish. Or will they take a leaf from Apple's book, say sorry, and offer a free gift. Apple offered a free case to anyone with recpetion problems with the new iPhone 4, as I posted on here.