How Not To Deal With IT Service Failure

I need to make this brief; the failure of the lump of plastic that used to be my BlackBerry has made me very time-poor today …

It has been an interesting year for RIM and for the BlackBerry. RIM has seen the erosion of its corporate mobile-email dominance (as employees prefer the usability of iPhones and Android devices), its brand was adversely affected by the BlackBerry Messaging Service being "the weapon of choice" for the thugs involved in the London riots, its tablet play has limped into the iPad's market, and now we have the prolonged service outage ... Sorry service OUTAGES.

The extent of the outage has been and continues to be shocking (there is no way it should have been this severe). But to me, in my capacity as an analyst, and observer and advisor on IT service management best practice, the real issue here is how RIM has handled the situation.

In managing the outage, RIM has acted like an old-fashioned technology vendor rather than a modern-day service provider; while we talk about BlackBerry devices we are really buying into the BlackBerry service. And we expect that service to be consistently delivered relative to service promises and our expectations thereof.

While we would prefer there not to be an interruption to service, most of us appreciate that "stuff" happens. When there is a service-affecting issue, we have a set of minimum requirements as customers that need to be catered for:

  • Firstly, we want early notification and a speedy resolution or a work around. As a minimum, that the service provider is visibly seen to be applying significant and varied efforts to the resolution of the issue. We want to see that the service provider cares.
  • Secondly, we want our expectations to be managed. Communications should keep us informed and be honest about when we should expect service resumption.
  • Thirdly, we expect the service provider to "feel our pain," to appreciate the business or personal impact of its failure.
  • Finally, we expect the service provider to explain what has happened and provide assurances that it won't happen again.

With all of these provided with the strong emphasis on good customer service.

So how did RIM do?

I think that real post mortem has still to be undertaken but my initial answer would be "extremely poorly." In fact, it has been a lesson in how not to do things. Communications have been lacking and one could argue that their tone has been terse – a far cry from customer-focused.

Surely the modern service-savvy customer, whether corporate or not, is not prepared to be treated in this way. In many ways, RIM has not only now fully opened the front door to its competitors it has also invited them in and provided them with a pipe and slippers.

Finally, I feel for I&O support teams globally, they don't need this on top of day-to-day IT issues.


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