Sorry seems to be the hardest word – What other brands can learn from iiNet’s major outage

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Jay Dillon

Director of Strategy and Creative at Inbound Experts
Jay is a digital marketer and producer whose creative and technical skills have developed digital brand strategies and sales campaigns using a range of complex internet applications from stand-alone websites through to Facebook API integrations.
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Illustration from the painting “Sinking Ship” by Bill Frederick

We all know it – the world literally stops when you have no broadband/wifi/internet access.  For many people and businesses across Victoria, Australia, in particular, their world stopped around 5pm yesterday and still remains on hold. I am one of these people.  I’m writing, researching and posting this article using tethering to my phone. What a palava.

iiNet is ‘Australia’s second largest ADSL providers’ thanks to a series of buy outs of smaller providers over the past years.  What is the relevance of that besides the shuddering thought of such a monopoly?

Being large means that when something goes up the wazoo it translates into lots of people being affected – and usually highly pissed off.  iiNet have been dealing with this crisis since yesterday so how are they doing with their communications and what can other brands learn from this approach.

How are you using your website?

Things go wrong in business and your legacy of good customer service is tested when this happens.  So, be upfront and tell people if you have an issue and work with them, to keep them informed, so that they can feel more comfortable with their relationship with your brand while you are trying to fix the issue.

Start by putting up a message ON THE FRONT OF YOUR WEBSITE as this is the entry point for many consumer’s interaction with your company.  Don’t hide your issues away in the backend.  No one will thank you.

Who is speaking and calming the masses?

In times like this you need to roll out the big guys, whomever they may be in your company, and they need to talk to the people.  Not later, not in a bit but now.  Stick them on twitter, record a podcast and get it up pronto or get them to write the update and put their name to it (with a photo even but make sure they’re not looking smarmy – it will only displease).  This will not only help you with your consumer’ trust in the brand but it will go a long way to protecting your share price. Yes, that all important thing.

I bet my bottom dollar that all the big contracts are being engaged; directly and at a high level. And if they’re not , God help us all.

Press Release/update on website missing a lot of appropriate responses

So there are a few things which could be helping this brand at this time but it seems like the comms team hasn’t twigged to these yet, like;

  • Acknowledging the inconvenience felt by their customers – how about saying, in plain English, that iiNet recognises how bad it is to be totally disconnected and they are sorry about that
  • Try quoting the expected rectification time in the appropriate timezone for where the outage has occurred – not WST (which is Perth time and where the company is based) and use AEST which is the Victorian time zone
  • They are talking about most of Victoria affected by an outage but the update specifies certain suburbs so people are rushing to twitter and to the call centre to report the fault in their own area. Why not put a call-t0-action to gather more information about the extent of the outage while giving people their voice to tell you they are also affected.  In times like this you never assume anything on your customer’s behalf.
  • Tell people about the high volume demands on your call centre and the reasons why, rather than have them hanging on for minutes or hours – redirect them to twitter, ask them to email you, direct them to a comprehensive piece of information on your website.  Anything!

Social Media

People are still most likely able to access information via iiNet’s website and social links via their phones.

Apologies are happening on Facebook and Twitter but why not also;

  • Get a personalised message from one of your execs and put it here
  • Use the real estate banner on FB and Twitter and put up a big Sorry message with information about when it should be fixed
  • Provide links to an in depth technical explanation about why this has happened and why there is such a delay – highlight the seriousness, the details and try to take people on the ride with you.  Provide an opportunity for empathy
  • Like a suggestion from Twitter, why hasn’t iiNet emailed all its customers with an update?  Most of us can at least get our email on our phone.  Instead it was explained by iiNet that they didn’t want to seem like they were spamming people and offered the explanation that if you wanted to stay up-to-date then the customer would choose to subscribe to a specific mailing list.  Are you serious??!!!  It’s a customer service issue. If you can email us your invoices then you can email us about a serious outage.

Dark day content

Hey, build some content which can be easily standardised for when things go bad.  Make up some banners, shell press releases and some visuals to use to take the sting out of the incident and give your brand the ability to move quickly. Do a risk assessment with the extended business team and decide what you could use to help dig you out of the mire.  You’ll thank yourselves for it when the time comes.

In the meantime, does anyone want a cup of tea and a biscuit, or for me to write them their crisis communications plan? We’re gonna be here for a while.

Find me on twitter @libbyfordham

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