October 12th, 2011 by Lloyd Gofton
If you are a Blackberry user, you are no doubt very familiar with this week’s service issues, and if you’re not a Blackberry user, you can’t have escaped the continual discussion of the problem via various social networks and in the mainstream media.
To put it mildly, RIM, and more specifically the Blackberry brand, is having a difficult week. Without wishing to be overly dramatic, this could in fact be Blackberry’s worst week yet.
Why? Well, let’s consider the background to any story around Blackberry at the minute. Blackberry’s loss of market share in the US is well documented (see Guardian article for more details) and recently there have been rumours that Blackberry is up for sale, talk that RIM it is a break-up target and concerns about its poor share price performance and lack of innovation. That’s not to mention the iPhone’s continuing dominance of the market, the recent launch of the iPhone 4S and iMessage, Apple’s answer to the hugely successful BBM (Blackberry Messenger). Add to this the issues around the London Riots, and it seems there has been a relentless battering of Blackberry’s brand.
So what has been Blackberry’s response to this growing crisis to date? Well, it’s perhaps best summed up in Gordon Macmillan’s piece on the Wall, titled ‘How to fail in a crises Blackberry Style‘ but here is the latest and greatest response from RIM, which came last night at 10pm BST, days after the issue stated:
“The messaging and browsing delays being experienced by BlackBerry users in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, India, Brazil, Chile and Argentina were caused by a core switch failure within RIM’s infrastructure. Although the system is designed to failover to a back-up switch, the failover did not function as previously tested. As a result, a large backlog of data was generated and we are now working to clear that backlog and restore normal service as quickly as possible. We apologize for any inconvenience and we will continue to keep you informed.”
No timelines were attached to the resolution, no timelines attached to the next update, and nothing has been mentioned since, you could also say that the apology was not appropriate, of course there has been inconvenience, and recognition of this would have been better.
The actions of Blackberry over the last few days suggest that the lack of communication to its customer base and wider community is a considered tactic. If this is the case it’s quite scary, as the case studies of brands turning a problem into a crisis by poor communications are many and varied, and it appears Blackberry will now become the latest and perhaps most confusing.
Why confusing? Well consider the current issues, consider the scale and damage of the technology problem and if the best response is silence, or minimal communication, then I for one am very confused, and it seems I’m not alone.
Not only is this a trending topic on Twitter, with literally every other tweet focused on Blackberry in my feed earlier today, with talk of this being the ‘final straw’ and ‘Apple should make an offer to existing Blackberry users’, but the real reason is yet to be revealed it seems. I only say that because the scale of the technology issue and the response to date do not seem equal is anyway, so is there more to this?
Lord Sugar (quoted in a Telegraph article) perhaps summed up the issue best from the technology point of view: “In all my years in IT biz, I have never seen such a outage as experienced by Blackberry. I can’t understand why it’s taking so long to fix.
“All my companies use [BlackBerries], every one so reliant on getting email on the move, people don’t know if they are coming or going.”
Ian Fogg, a mobile industry analyst at Forrester published the following on his blog, which was also quoted in the Telegraph: “RIM is in danger of becoming its own worst enemy if it is unable to reliably operate the communication services that have differentiated it. BBM is the reason many young consumers stay with BlackBerry. If it doesn’t work, they will leave RIM.”
As I mentioned in a recent blog post, I was a loyal Blackberry user from launch to earlier this year. The reason i changed was simply because the iPhone offered so much more, and i found myself continually justifying the reason for keeping my Blackberry because of its superior email service, when i was losing out in almost every other area. Considering the situation over the last few days, even this and the BBM argument is falling apart.
So where does that leave RIM and Blackberry? At time of writing it leaves the organisation and brand with a mounting crisis, poor communications, extremely annoyed customers and a lack of understanding in terms of why the problem exists and when it will be resolved.
It’s never too late to open up communications, but one could certainly argue a great deal of damage has already been done, and it will take a significant effort from RIM to rebuild faith in the Blackberry brand.