Recently a major Australian telco, Telstra, came under hacker attack which caused them to shut down their website and email service to thousands of customers. In addition to this customers had been forced to wait in long phone queues to have their passwords reset and have their services reactivated.

The problem arose at a poor time for Telstra as they were focusing on improving their customer satisfaction as detailed at recent investor updates.

Communications experts have noted that Telstra’s handling of the situation created understanding and empathy from their customers even thought it caused enormous disruption for them.

Let’s have a look at what they did well:

  • They addressed the situation head on, communicated openly and early – this is not always done as companies search for best advice.
  • Put a face to the communication, had one person from the media – regularly done now to humanise the company’s position. Research shows if we put a face to a situation customers will have greater empathy and understanding.
  • Said they were sorry – not often done as companies lock down and focus on the legal implications of saying sorry
  • Explained the situation, why it happened and what they were doing to fix the problem – normally done but as a standalone which has less impact if not support by the previous points
  • Put the situation into perspective by comparing it to a breach in airport security – rarely done well, this approach allows customer to have a different perspective and create rapport with the company and the decisions it needed to make

So could it be this simple when things go wrong?

  1. Act early
  2. Say sorry
  3. Contrast the situation with other examples so customers have perspective
  4. Explain why and what you’re doing