Digital Marketing Update – Customer Relations the Blackberry Way

 

With many users now into their third day of prolonged service outage, Blackberry is hitting headlines all over the world for all the wrong reasons.

Apparently due to an issue with RIM’s hub in Slough (and I say apparently as nobody really knows) Blackberry services started going down on Monday of this week in Europe, the Middle East and Africa. While they came back up briefly yesterday, millions of users woke up this morning to find the problem was back and they were once again cut off from using email, messenger and the internet from their devices.

Given that Blackberry is the device of choice for people who spend their working life communicating on the go, the loss of service has meant huge disruption for many of the 70 million subscribers around the world.

While this is going to cause some rather disgruntled customers, the failure of Blackberry to engage in any form of dialogue with those affected has dealt a huge blow to their reputation.

As consumers we can be quick to complain when an issue arises and easily forget the years of wonderful, uninterrupted service we’ve become accustomed to. But we can also be a forgiving bunch if we believe those responsible are doing everything they can to fix the problem.

Sticking your head in the sand and passing the buck is no way for a company of this size to behave, or to treat the millions of customers its spent years building a relationship with. And with the outage now affecting the US, you can bet they’re not going to take this lying down.

Blackberry’s main form of communication around the issues is its blog which you could hardly call regular or at all detailed. The last post stated in two lines that they were aware of the issue and they will keep customers updated. That comment was posted over five hours ago.

Blackberry seem to be keen to point out that the issue seems to lie with its service provider Research In Motion, but its customers don’t have their relationship with RIM and that’s not who they look to when things go wrong.

For a company of this size with the resources at their disposal, keeping their customers informed and making them feel supported should be a walk in the park. Instead its chaos and users are turning to Twitter for answers. Not great for Blackberry’s reputation or for anyone considering opting for a device which relies on their system.

Blackberry seem confident they won’t lose any customers over this, but perhaps that is more to do with the lack of a suitable alternative than a true belief in the company and its products. Very poor effort BB, you really could have done better.

Editor: Between the lack of confidence that this episode has caused consumers, the gradual 80% drop in share price and the lack of traction gained by the PlayBook (which is a shame as it’s actually a great little product in context), many are understandably concerned with Blackberry’s future.

The reality however is slightly more complex. The massive organisations that use Blackberry are unlikely to change supplier easily or quickly. However the business consumers that have a choice may choose a different upgrade path next time they change phones. Are this is the problem for Blackberry. They may not see the consequences of this problem for months to come and they could see a gradual decline in their user base.

There are plenty of signs that one of Blackberry’s very active investors is moving for some transformational change for the company. This may lead to a more dynamic and innovative culture which can only be a god thing for consumers.

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