BlackBerry: The sound of silence

October 21, 2011

Communication is the key to a healthy relationship. While most apply this to their personal lives, it is equally applicable to brands and their clients.

A look at recent corporate brand behavior will have you convinced.

Firstly, Bank Of America

A few weeks ago BofA’s website was inoperable, leaving users stranded and frustrated. The bank neglected to acknowledge the issue for several days. Many customers declared that their loyalties no longer lay with BofA, and that this had been the last straw. With other recent negative BofA brand experiences, such as notices of debit fees and checking accounts that are no longer free, customers are left wondering how could they trust their hard-earned money to a bank that didn’t allow them access to their account, nor provide a reason why?

Secondly, Netflix

Recently, Netflix announced a major change in both movie rental operation and billing — also without explanation. The lack of communication made clients assume that Netflix was more concerned with the dollar than keeping a faithful, long-term member. After finally apologizing and sending individualized letters to email inboxes, Netflix attempted to justify the decision by explaining that their contracts with suppliers was up, and needed renegotiating. Nonetheless, the damage had been done: numerous users discontinued membership. There are too many players in the instant-streaming and rental-by-mail fields for this type of behavior. Though consumers may be willing to pay a premium to a brand that they can identity with, this lack of communication was a clear signifier that Netflix was out-of-touch. In this case, the customer voice regarding their disappointment with the Netflix brand resulted in Netflix rethinking their strategy in order to keep the customer happy.

Finally, BlackBerry

One would think that Research In Motion would have learned from these mistakes, but last week BlackBerry went silent. For at least three days BlackBerry users, primarily in Europe and the Middle East, but also in the United States, were without service. There is a reason why they call it the “crackberry,” and being without service for this long was inexcusable. The fact that RIM offered no initial explanation made users think twice. With Blackberry losing market share to Android and iPhone, this was a bad time to keep mum. In fact, some even joked “isn’t it nice that Blackberry kept days of silence in honor of Steve Jobs.” Eventually, RIM announced that BlackBerry experienced a core failure, along with a failure of the back-up systems. By then it was too late, their silence had spoken volumes, and many users jumped ship. BlackBerry has yet to know the extent of the damage their lack of communication caused. Let us hope that other corporate brands will be more vocal in future, and therefore maintain a healthy client relationship.

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