Thursday, 13 October 2011

Blackberry Crumble

I remember it clearly. I had typed a message on BBM (BlackBerry Messenger for the un-initiated) to my friend expressing my shock at the previous night’s X Factor results, pressed send and...nothing. Well, not nothing precisely, but a single solitary tick. No ‘D’. No ‘R’. Just a cyberspace shaped void of the unknown.

Now I’m not naive enough to think technology is going to be on my side all the time, but several hours later when my message was still seemingly floating somewhere in the ether, I became suspicious.

Being a social media fiend, my first investigation was on Twitter. I was relieved to see that hundreds of other tweeps were wondering what was going on, however I was also shocked that all the tweets were questioning the issue, but there was no explanation. So, I decided to transfer my investigation to Google, because it’s the fountain of all knowledge right? Wrong. Again, there were plenty of real-time results flashing up from confused BB users, but no statement or apology from Blackberry themselves. Getting annoyed at this point, I headed straight to the Blackberry website where there was bound to be some form of explanation behind it? Yep you guessed it. Nothing.

Slowly, a few half hearted messages from the @UK_Blackberry Twitter feed started to trickle through acknowledging the problem, and even apologising, but what they were apologising for was still a mystery. Looking now at the Twitter feed, there have been a measly 7 tweets about the issue, and a reason for the problem was not given on their official website until 10pm Tuesday – over 24 hours after the crisis broke out. (The explanation, when it was eventually given, was “message delays were caused by a core switch failure in RIM’s infrastructure”. How many people are going to know what that means?).

What I have difficulty understanding is Blackberry’s approach to the whole crisis. Tens of thousands of loyal customers were crying out in their hour of need and they simply ignored them. Questions fell on deaf ears, Facebook posts about it were deleted, as were Twitter posts. Blackberry essentially turned their back when their customers needed them the most.

It’s common practice in the social media world that in order to succeed online, you have to keep up constant communication with your audience, through the good and bad times. The Smartphone market is a tough one, and this could have been Blackberry’s opportunity to stand out from the juggernaut Apple and prove their ability to look after customers in a crisis.

Four days later - there are still ongoing issues and one hell of a backlash. Shares in RIM have dropped and I’m sure Blackberry has lost a large following. To make matters worse, this has all come just days after the launch of the iPhone 4S, and a heightened interest in Apple after the passing of Steve Jobs.

It will be interesting to see if the following hours, days, or even weeks will prompt another response from Blackberry, but one thing’s for certain, if they don’t act soon they’ll be heading straight into the ‘How not to handle a crisis’ handbook.


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