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Giffgaff: What Impact Will the 8 Hour Service Interruption Have on Brand Reputation and Customer Loyalty?

Customer Experience

The giffgaff network: 8 hour service outage

Last Friday (16th) the giffgaff network went down and it stayed down for 8 hours. It is not unusual for a mobile network to go down, it happens and many of us don’t even notice it because the outage last a couple of hours. The giffgaff outage did get noticed – it got noticed by my wife, my son and plenty of other customers. In our case the impact was not earth shattering. Yes, my son who was feeling unwell was left hanging around outside for 50 minutes because he could not reach his mum. As he said, it was annoying to have wait for 50 minutes when you are feeling ill but it’s not a big thing. For me, it is no big deal as I have two phones and had access to a second network that was working fine.

I think about switching until I get this email

The interesting thing is that the service outage did get me wondering as to whether I should switch the family over to say O2. That was until Fri 16/03/2012 21:24 when I got this email:

We’re sorry

You may have experienced loss of service today (Friday 16th March), we’re sorry for the inconvenience this may have caused you.

This was due to a burst water pipe which took out the power at one of our 3rd party suppliers. Engineers have been working on this and have put a fix in place which we are now monitoring for stability. During the period where service is restored you may notice that your service is intermittent.

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We’re continuing to work on this issue and regular updates will be provided in the community Noticeboard. Additional information is also available via our Blog where our CEO Mike Fairman has popped up a quick update.

Once we are sure that full and stable service has been restored for all members we will look at ways to make it up to you.

Again, sorry for the inconvenience.

Regards,

The giffgaff team”

Upon reading this email my reaction was “I’m sticking with giffgaff!” Why? The email struck me as the kind of response that I would expect from a decent and professional human being who had mistake and was now doing everything to make things right. No, that is not enough. It occurred to me that this is the kind of email that can only come from someone who has heart – who cares about doing the right thing. Specifically:

  • The subject header is exactly right -”We’re sorry”. Isn’t that what we expect and what our friends/family say when they have messed up?
  • The cause of the outage is explained;
  • It provides reassurance (we are continuing to work on it) and access to more information (Noticeboard, blog) for those who need it;
  • The line “Once we are sure that full and stable service has been restored for all members we will look at ways to make it up to you.” is a perfect line. giffgaff get that whilst it is important to make it up to their customers, it was even more important at that time to deal with the issues (e.g. number porting) that had piled up (and were impacting) customers.
  • The email doesn’t just start with sorry it also ends with sorry.

What does the customer base think?

I trawled through the comments left by customers and the ratings of the comments. Based on that I’d say that the customer base is split into two camps – polar opposites of each other.

The first camp is not happy with an 8 hour outage and it is best characterised by the following comment:

“I’m with the people who are wondering how this can possibly happen.

We get it, accidents happen, you can’t plan for everything etc… but for one water burst to knock out your entire network is unacceptable. Sure a lot of people just couldn’t text their friends or whatever, but some people might have had an emergency and were without a phone.

I’m glad I had the foresight to buy myself a backup pay as you go orange sim card in case this happened, I would never have done that with any other network…but with giffgaff, I felt it was necessary.

You can’t keep customers with your amazing prices alone, you have to provide a good and reliable service.”

The other segment of customers get that the service outage was a pain and yet give giffgaff full credit what they are about (the value proposition) and how they went about addressing the service outage. This is best captured by the following comment:

“Thank you GiffGaff employees for getting our network back up and running. Was a hell of a pain without service but hey these things happen, maybe it can be classed as a learning curve for the future. I love GiffGaff and won’t leave you because of the occasional hick cup. Im sorry that so many people feel the need to complain, we have all suffered one way or the other because of this, but for god sake people find something to moan about that really is worth moaning about. You get great value from GiffGaff and they work hard for us when things do go wrong. So stop whingeing and give them a cheer and a big thank you for working so hard to fix the issue.

THANK YOU GIFFGAFF AND ALL YOUR EMPOYEES FOR WORKING SO HARD.”

What are the implications for giffgaff?

If I have read the comments correctly then I’d say that giffgaff have not burned their bridges with the bulk of their customer base. To the contrary, most of the comments were positive about giffgaff. Yet giffgaff does have an issue. Why? The phone is not just a device, it is THE device for most people; once customers sign-up with a network they expect it to work perfectly and all the time. They might not notice short service outages, they definitely notice longer service outages: 8 hours is a long, long service outage.

My advice to giffgaff? You have done a good job in the way that you handled the service outage. And that kind of service outage should not have happened. So you should do the following:

  • take this opportunity to learn what needs to change (technology, processes, people….);
  • let your members (customers) know what you are doing to make sure that this kind of outage NEVER happens again;
  • invite (and engage) your members to play their part in what needs to happen – that way it becomes something that we do together, that way the ‘ownership’ of giffgaff continues to be distributed;
  • keep your promise and make it up to them – you can use this as an exercise to build more rapport with your customer base if you go about it in the right way.

Final observation

The impact of the CEO’s post setting out the position (status) and offering an apology is interesting: many customers found that comforting / reassuring and as a result it generated goodwill for giffgaff. That strikes me as being an example of a leader leading.

Comments on this Article: 1

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  1. James says:

    A good article you’ve written here – When you talk about giffgaff having heart, they really do. Some people may not see that, but every single person at giffgaff cares about almost every comment that sets foot on that forum.

    The response to the outage was somewhat pleasing to see the amount of support giffgaff have behind them – You’ll always have far-fetched and negative comments, regardless of how much reputation a brand has. Fact is giffgaff treated us like gold dust that day – The service and updates were second to none.

    One comment on the forum that summarises the whole situation up has reached the ‘Top Kudoed Posts’ board and there’s a reason for that, here it is:

    ‘Many thanks for keeping everyone updated.I’m fed up of this compensation culture and people wanting to claim. When you have a burst water main there’s nothing we can do but grin and bear it.It’s doesn’t help when people keep moaning and clogging the system up!’

    (http://community.giffgaff.com/t5/Blog/Today-s-Service-Outage/bc-p/3432399/highlight/true#M15076)

    This comment is not only true – But the amount of support behind it, just for a comment 3 quarters down a page, is amazing.

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