Dealing with customer problems

Recently in the UK one of the big mobile operators, O2 suffered a damaging communications failure which brought disruption to many of its 23 million customers. Being media savvy many took to damaging twitter messaging to express their dissatisfaction, especially as the O2 website slipped out service for a while due to high demand. What was interesting was 02’s response to the barrage of criticism – they opted to respond to these social media messages by taking a quirky self-deprecating manner and responding using a personal tone. Did it work?
Media commentators have differing views on the approach O2 took – many think it was a credible response that injected (or sustained) the O2 brand personality. Others feel that as O2 has many business customers this jokey manner was in-appropriate. While the network disruption affected and upset many the issue was resolved within days and 02 are compensating their customers. It will be interesting to see the long term impact. Will customers stay with 02 and appreciate their honest feedback. Or should they not have wasted so much time crafting twitter replies. There are parallels, Blackberry suffered a huge outage last year and they got severely criticised for adopting the corporate tone and messages along the lines our network is down and we are trying to fix it. Who will sustain their growth and build a positive brand?
Maybe O2 really do understand their customers and responded in a timely smart manner appropriate for their brand and service. But it’s worth thinking about – how would you deal with a crisis? Is your brand going to be damaged or enhanced by taking such an approach? What’s right for your customers?