Internet outage sparks customer outrage, as AT&T lags on updates

It’s crucial to keep consumers informed in a crisis—in part to limit the hand-wringing that arises on social media. Mostly, people wanted an ETA on restoring service. Here are a few takeaways.

In 2018, a day without internet is a catastrophe for some.

AT&T customers in the Dallas area were treated to a day of old-school activities after a lightning strike on a connection hub—and the resulting fire—downed their internet for 12-plus hours, from 9:45 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.

Suffice it to say, customers were unimpressed with AT&T’s response.

When the company failed to provide a timeline for when customers might get their internet and cable service back, users took to Twitter via their mobile phones. (An internet outage will notstop an angry online mob.)

Some exasperated customers resorted to humor:

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Others wanted financial compensation:

Some customers wondered why AT&T’s system had no backup:

Customers used GIFs to air their grievances, too:

AT&T’s customer service team attempted to respond to many Twitter users, all with some variation of the same explanation—but no timeline.

That last bit didn’t sit well:

AT&T might have benefited from a holding statement that it could have shared across its channels to keep customers informed. Although responding to so many Twitter users might have been intended to show that AT&T had a robust response, the lack of new information only made customers angrier.

Here are some elements a holding statement from AT&T should have contained:

1. Sympathy for consumers. Many complaints indicated that customers felt AT&T didn’t understand the hardship the outage was causing. Users felt compelled to explain that they weren’t just bored; in many cases their livelihoods were affected. The company should have expressed an understanding that customers were hurting before outlining how it would fix the problem.

2. A detailed action plan. If the problem is complex, help consumers understand by outlining the steps that must be taken to restore service. AT&T might have gotten away with not offering a timeline by explaining what steps it was taking. If it didn’t want to get specific, an estimated timeline would have done a lot to calm angry customers.

3. Context for the problem. For many customers, a day without internet is an unmitigated disaster. However, with a little context, users can be reminded that such a crisis isn’t so bad; no one’s life is in danger. This is a good time to explain your safety procedures and your track record of responding to crises.

4. Details. AT&T was mostly mum on the details of its service outage—but specifics help customers relax. Instead of explaining the issue, and the restoration efforts, AT&T only acknowledged a fire and for hours offered no updates. A better crisis plan would have offered particulars.

What’s in your crisis response plan, PR Daily readers?

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