Can O2 use social media to deal with the bad press following their service outage?
Coming from a family made up almost entirely of O2 users, all I have to say is, “God damn, that was annoying!” Admittedly, I wasn’t too inconvenienced (apart from being forced to endure an entire real conversation face-to-face – oh, the horror) but I completely understand the frustration felt by many of the 7.6 million users affected by the recent network problems.
Now that the technical problem has been fixed, the only thing O2 has to deal with is the effect that this has had on their image. In this day and age, with social media representing a major aspect of pretty much every business’ marketing efforts, they’re going to have to use it like a pro if they want to minimise the damage.
If they don’t, history tells us that it won’t end well for them. October of last year saw another big mobile phone company, Research In Motion (the owners of Blackberry) suffering a similar outage and let’s just say that their social media team weren’t on the ball. As a swarm of angry customers took to Twitter to vent their frustration and confusion, making the #DearBlackBerry hashtag a worldwide trend, RIM did quite the opposite. Throughout the majority of the four day outage, RIM seemed to be giving its customers the silent treatment, saying virtually nothing on their social media accounts to alert or apologise to their suffering users.
With the problems starting on the 10th of October, a shocking two days went by before they decided to post on their Facebook page. Even then, the response was subpar, giving no real information to customers and not containing even a hint of an apology; only thanking users for their patience, which was certainly running thin by this point. Another two, similarly pathetic posts were made on Facebook throughout the crisis.
For now at least, it seems that O2 are doing better than RIM, addressing the problem swiftly:
After posting this initial message, O2 have continued to keep their customers in the know by posting every few hours on Facebook and express that they “want to restore customer confidence and trust in us.” This is a considerably better effort by O2 than RIM but an explicit apology has yet to be posted on their Facebook page which just leaves you wondering “Why not?”.
The Twitter response by O2 is also considerably better than RIM for a few reasons. Firstly there is the recurring theme of LET YOUR CUSTOMERS KNOW WHAT IS HAPPENING! Also, they managed to do this in an understandable way. The few posts that RIM did broadcast in an attempt to minimise the distress of customers made a massive mistake: they were cluttered with jargon. So any customers who didn’t happen to be telecommunication engineers were left with the same amount of information after reading the posts as beforehand. O2, however, have kept things simple, with the most technical words being “network”, “2G” and “3G”. Another positive aspect of their tweets was that they gave a timeframe. Nothing annoys people anxious to get their mobile service back more than a company saying something wishy washy like “we hope to have it working soon”. Instead, O2 tweeted, “We expect full service to return to all affected customers this afternoon”. Good show!
Furthermore amongst the abuse O2 were receiving on Twitter they had some fun with it and it got rather entertaining!
It’s not long since the outage happened so it remains to be seen how O2 will attempt to deal with it. Hopefully, they’ll keep up the good work. The next step for them should probably be some form of compensation. This was one thing that RIM managed to do quite well, turning this overall PR catastrophe into a more positive social media experience for their subscribers by giving away a selection of apps for free. This would definitely be a good move for O2 as it simultaneously tries to make up for the problems and promotes their Facebook page. Thankfully, they’ve hinted at this idea on one of their Facebook posts saying, “we will be doing everything we can to make it up [to our customers] in an O2 way.”
Going forward, it’s also going to be essential for them to update their pages regularly with news of what went wrong (in layman’s terms). Following on from this, they’ll need to work hard to assure their subscribers and followers that they’re committed to fixing the problem so that it never happens again and, preferably, they should explain how they’re going to do this.
Overall, they’ve used social media effectively so far by keeping customers updated, making sure that they’re not too technical and promising compensation. It’ll definitely be interesting to see how they go from here.
Well done to you O2, we feel your pain.
How do you think O2 dealt with the PR nightmare? Comment below or tweet us.