Crisis management – a lesson from BlackBerry

There can be few people who didn’t hear about BlackBerry’s massive service problems last week. A faulty switch at a datacentre left customers unable to use the messaging and web browsing services on their handsets.

Initially, BlackBerry tried to play it down, giving little information to the press and customers except short statements saying that they were sorting it out. However, the longer the problems went on (over 3 days!) and the more people that were affected (millions of users worldwide), it became clear that this was a big deal and the company was forced into crisis management mode.

Not only did the world’s media report it but thousands of people turned to Twitter and other social media networks to express their poor opinion of the company and its stuttering efforts to fix the problems. As we predicted in our blog, BlackBerry’s reputation was badly dented by the situation and they have clearly realised that they need to recover their customers’ confidence and goodwill.

But rather than go through the bureaucratic nightmare and very expensive process of providing the financial compensation that many users were calling for, BlackBerry has opted for a quick response, by giving users something for nothing.

Classic games such as Bejeweled and The Sims plus personal productivity tools and utilities (to please their disgruntled business users), are now being offered free to Blackberry owners. In total, 12 apps, which Blackberry claims are worth around £63, are being offered to customers and RIM said more would be made available in the coming weeks. In addition, business customers are being offered a free month of technical support. Those who already have a support contract will be offered a month of Blackberry’s enhanced support service.

This giveaway is a classic tactic and is clever because, although it will not repair BlackBerry’s battered reputation, it will be enough to appease many casual users and the storm will die down leaving BlackBerry to sort itself out.

And because the problem was so high-profile, BlackBerry has been very public about its response, in order to restore its reputation with everyone, not just its customers. In a statement announcing the giveaway, Mike Laziridis, chief of Blackberry owner Research in Motion, said, “We are grateful to our loyal BlackBerry customers for their patience. We are taking immediate and aggressive steps to help prevent something like this from happening again.”

And that is key to all of this. Yes, BlackBerry has restored its services and appeased customers with some freebies, but if the service problems repeat themselves they’ll be in even deeper, hotter water.

In the meantime, their response might just buy them enough time to sort themselves out…


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