It’s not been a good few months for Research in Motion Ltd. who own the BlackBerry brand.

First off, the PlayBook tablet failed to sale, with only 500,000 being sold in its first quarter on sale in spring, and only 200,000 in the succeeding quarter.  In the US it is now offering $200 discounts, but those have not been extended to the UK.

To make things worse this week the BlackBerry service failed on and off in Europe, Africa, and the Middle East, and ironically given that RIM spends its days helping people communicate, the company’s own communications during its latest technological hiccups have frustrated customers at a lack of information.

The company’s first comprehensive outlining of the extent of its problems came Wednesday evening.  RIM has followed some of the public relations crisis management playbook – it has apologized, it has reached out to customers, and it has sought to appear transparent. But its actions have been insufficient to calm people’s anger. Customers have flooded Facebook, Twitter, and other social media channels to complain and say they’re dumping their BlackBerrys for iPhones or Android handsets.

On Wednesday afternoon, when the company staged a 3 p.m. teleconference in hopes of providing information about the outage, it sent key reporters an e-mail about the event after its official start time.  Rather than take the conventional approach of having at least one of its co-chief executive officers appear, it offered up its chief technology officer, David Yach.

Asked if the company had communicated as comprehensively as it could, Mr. Yach replied: “Our priority is to get the service up and running because at the end of the day that’s what’s going to make our customers happy, is to have their BlackBerrys working again.”  He later suggested the company had not given any thought to how it might compensate frustrated customers. “At this time, I’m just concentrating on getting the service up and running. I don’t have an answer to that one right now,” he said.

This seems strange given that most large companies have extensive crisis management plans, the corporate equivalent of a fire alarm, that is activated during a potential threat to their reputation.  I would imagine that a foreseeable event like a network outage would almost certainly be part of that plan for RIM.

I am surprised also at how little we’ve heard from the co-chief executives of RIM, Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie.  It’s just the way business works.  The people at the top have to take responsibility.

This has led to one in five BlackBerry smartphone users is thinking of changing to a different brand because of this week’s global connection problems.  Nearly half said they may switch in the future and 8% have already bought a different phone, a survey of more than 1,000 BlackBerry users by price website Kelkoo found.  The launch of the iPhone 4S – already boasting pre-orders of more than one million – has given dissatisfied customers a large temptation.

A study of 3,000 non-BlackBerry users found 70% of those planning to get one are now having second thoughts.

If you’re a BlackBerry owner what did you feel about RIM’s communication, and will you be sticking with your BlackBerry or moving over to an iPhone or Android phone?

Chris
cskidd1983@gmail.com
Married to the amazing Sarah and raising Jakey, Daniel, Amelia, Josh & Jonah in our blended family. Passionate for Jesus, social work & sport.

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