It is every company’s worst nightmare – the global collapse of a primary service that affects millions of customers, and which lasts not for minutes or hours, but for days.
This was the crisis that last month engulfed Research In Motion, owner of the smartphone brand BlackBerry.
European, Middle Eastern and African BlackBerry owners endured three working days without mobile internet access, including email and instant messaging, in a crisis that has been described as a public relations disaster for the phone-maker.
One in five users has since considered switching to another supplier because of the service problems, according to a survey of 1,000 consumers by shopping comparison website Kelkoo.
Jonathan Browne, senior analyst at technology and market research company Forrester Research, comments, ‘No matter how hard you work or how hard you are trying, what really matters is how you are perceived by your customers.’
According to Browne, 70 per cent of customer defections are due to a poor experience and, given the growing trend of people turning to the internet to express their discontent, implementing procedures for businesses to respond immediately to feedback should be high on the agenda.
Speaking at The Future of Customer Experience conference in London last month, organised by communications firm Rapide, Browne says a company needs personnel dedicated to improving customer experience across an organisation, who can work across divisions and not under one department. For example, computer giant Dell has created a social media Listening Command Centre that operates 24 hours a day.
The centre monitors and interprets online content, such as Twitter messages and forum conversations, analyses the feedback and reports on public sentiment.
Many companies collect data about their customers but fail to listen, react and implement changes that may improve the customer experience, adds Browne.
‘If you are not geared up to respond to [a poor customer experience] then it can all potentially blow up in your face,’ he concludes.