It’d be fair to say that O2 hasn’t had a particularly enjoyable last two days. Blanket network failure saw social media channels overrun with annoyed and sometimes irate customers yesterday. In fact, social monitoring dashboard Synthesio shows over 11,000 mentions of O2’s network problems, with over 9 out of 10 of them on social media. And the overwhelming majority of those were on Twitter.
Many companies would have buckled under the pressure. Most do. But not O2. In fact, the social media team has emerged from this crisis with its head held high, having garnered the respect and admiration of hundreds, if not thousands, of watching Twitter users. The way it professionally, calmly and skilfully dealt with the furious and unnecessarily malicious comments of angry customers is something to behold. These are just two examples that I saw:
[Update: there are more examples of O2's responses on New Statesman]
Now let’s be honest, this approach isn’t for everyone. It’s gutsy and it’s not what you’d see in a best practice guide to handling a Twitter crisis. But I love it for two reasons. First, it’s personal. It’s easy to forget that behind the brand there’s a real person whose job it is to handle this stuff, and that they had nothing whatsoever to do with the network failure. So raining down fireballs of spiteful tweets at them is, on the face of it, unreasonable. And yet O2 has responded with an extremely personal approach and a very gentle touch that is truly admirable.
And second, it portrays an organisation that has empowered and trusted the people who run its Twitter profile to do their jobs as they see fit. In a world where I still see some companies who want to insist on signing off every tweet and status update, often with at least a 24 hour turnaround, this is extremely refreshing. So good on you, O2. You’ve turned a huge negative into a mass of positive publicity today. I’d change network due to this sort of thing. And isn’t that what it’s all about?
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