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A Crisis Averted

Quite often, just doing the right thing is enough for crisis management

Last week, Rogers Media found itself at the center of an unexpected crisis. While vacationing in Mexico, cellular customer Matt Buie set his phone to “airplane mode” in order to avoid roaming charges and handed it off to his son, who claimed he just wanted to play some already-downloaded games.

Of course, anyone with a kid in the house is well aware of just how tech-savvy they are, and a few seconds in the settings and 12 hours worth of YouTube videos later the Buie’s had racked up a $22,000 bill.

Stunned at the price, which comes out to about $30 per minute streamed, Buie took his story to the media, where it quickly kicked off a sizzling debate on the fees charged by Canadian cell companies, with Rogers and its subsidiaries as the focus.

In what would prove to be a wise move, Rogers appears to have listened less to its accountants and more to its crisis management advisors, as this quote, from a Globe and Mail article by Tony Wilson, demonstrates:

Fortunately, common sense prevailed. Rogers offered to reduce the account to $2,200, then it offered to reduce it further to $500, and the parties finally settled on $200.

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Although the airwaves lit up for a few days with talk of high cellphone charges and the problem with roaming fees, the account reduction made Rogers look like a responsible corporate citizen “correcting” a bill that, from a public relations perspective, seemed way out of proportion. The company saving itself far more than $22,000 worth of intangible costs such as internal resource time, press interviews that probably couldn’t have been “won,” the risk of lost business from customers who might have chosen a different provider on the basis of the media reports, and overall brand damage.

By doing the right thing and then bowing out, Rogers eliminated the sensation from the story. Within days of the bill being reduced to $200 (the cutoff point for roaming charges used by Rogers competitor Telus) the news media had moved on, and in fact a Google News search for “Rogers Media” today returns only one mention of the crisis on page one, the reasonably complimentary article we quoted above.

It turns out that “Golden Rule” we all learned on the playground really does apply. Treat others the way that you would like to be treated, and watch a stunning number of reputation woes simply disappear.

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