How to really fail in a crisis Blackberry style

If you have a Blackberry you probably haven’t had much in the way of service in the last couple of days.  There are headlines like ‘BlackBerry users angry at failure’, BlackBerry service disrupted on 4 continents and Blackberry’s message goes missing across the web. It started early on Monday came back briefly and then was gone again for all of Tuesday and still today.

This isn’t a rant though this is looking at how Blackberry has responded via its various online channels to customers and as far as I can tell it is orchestrating with great élan here a major PR fail via the web and social media.

Take a look at its UK website. The UK is an important market for Blackberry. Anything on the homepage? Well no although there are plenty of details about its new phones.

Where else might I look? Of course, stupid, the Blackberry help blog. This is where I would be placing my updates and blogging throughout the crisis as I would know (being in the communications business and all that) that keeping customers up to date is important. Blogs are great for this, so I hear.

Oh, but wait there is nothing on the help blog. It hasn’t been updated for four days. Or to put it another way it hasn’t been touched since this whole crisis kicked in.

What about the help forums? Oh wait that is no use either. Sure there are people asking questions and Blackberry customer service teams engaging with customers, but no one at Blackberry is answering them. Why on earth not.

Worse than no one answering them, as the post in the Blackberry forums above claims, questions on Facebook are being “blocked and removed from the site”. There are various threads without any input from Blackerry.

Finally what about Twitter? Tens of thousands are tweeting at the various Blackberry accounts, but the last update was measly and 11 hours ago. Is it really apparenlty too much to ask for multiple updates.

“@UK_BlackBerry Message delays were caused by a core switch failure in RIM’s infrastructure. Sincerely sorry but now being resolved.”

So what are we to learn from all of this other than Blackberry appears to be pursuing a text book version of how not to respond in a crisis. Maybe it is a Canadian thing. Maybe it is what failing companies do.

What is‎ certainly true is that this is a great ad for just about any other smartphone service. I’ve had loads of conversations with Blackberry users who are now thinking about the jump to an Apple iPhone or something else. Some of that is just talk others will switch.

What is also true is that during this crisis no one will be thinking of jumping to Blackberry from another device. The traffic for Blackberry is all one way.

The outages on four continents follow rumours that Blackberry is up for sale, talk that RIM it is a break-up target and a recent report from Jaguar Financial Corporation that cites concerns about its poor share price performance and lack of innovation resulting in a loss of market share.

“Jaguar Financial Corp said on Tuesday holders of at least 8 percent of the stock are behind its campaign for a shake-up, and that percentage could keep rising as it talks with more institutional shareholders about forcing a dialogue with the struggling Canadian company.

“Shares of RIM rose more than 4 percent after Jaguar’s declaration of support. The stock has been battered this year as the company steadily loses market share to devices made by Apple or powered by Google’s Android software, raising questions about its direction and leadership,” Reuters reports.

It’s a shame as I like my Blackberry. I like the keyboard. I’ve got the Torch. And okay, it died four weeks ago and they had to send me a new one, but really I like it and I wasn’t put off by my Curve having a critical failure at christmas and having to get a new one. This might be the last straw though.

  • Peter

    Good article, what a mess.

    Just a heads up:


    plural of cri·sis (Noun)

  • @gordonmacmillan

    Yes, asleep at the wheel there.

  • @Mattkynsseo

    Great article, apart from the odd text from my network provider I really have no clue what’s going on. A real fail for a company in a market where customer service is a defining selling point.

  • Jessica Groombridge

    Great article. Vodafone Italy haven’t even woken up to this yet – not one single communication from them. Big companies just have no idea about customer service

  • @gordonmacmillan

    I had nothing from 02 in the UK. Not even a text. Although they happily spam me on a regular basis with offers.

  • Lynne Mendoza

    I’ve not had anything at all from 3 in the UK. This is all ridiculous :-(

  • David

    The networks are innocent in this. It is a core failure with the Blackberry services outwith the hands of the likes of O2 and 3. They are as much in the dark as we are!

    Shocking situation really

  • lisa frank

    Ha. Scrolled down to the bottom of this page and found:

    Ads by Google

    BlackBerry® Curve 8520
    Get A Blackberry Curve 8520. Now On PAYG With Vodafone – Buy Now
    BlackBerry® Curve™ 9300
    Free Handset on a £15/Month Tariff. Now with 1GB of data at Talkmobile™

  • @gordonmacmillan

    That is inspired advertising. Genius.

  • samir

    i live in UAE, i called RIM customer support and they told me “well you can switch to iphone sir” huhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh

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  • Eric

    Here in the Middle East, telcos are, so far, promising three days’ worth of compensation, the method depending on the plan you’re on. Last night, du in the UAE sent an… SMS to its BB subscribers to apologize for the disruption and say that BB is “working to resolve the difficulties” we’re experiencing.

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  • Jonathan Hemus

    For a business which facilitates the use of social media to apply it so badly to its own crisis is simply unforgivable.

    Jonathan Hemus

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  • RedHead

    I think Blackberry avoided any kind of engagement because a) they knew they’d already lost the battle b) they would never be able to apologise enough c) they were terrified of their ‘fans’.
    Either that, or they’re a bunch of cowards too high to deign to engage with the common consumer.