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How O2 avoided an online PR crisis

Back in the day, life was that little bit simpler: You only had one phone number per friend to remember, there was never the threat of ugly pictures of yourself popping up on the Internet (you didn’t have the Internet!) and what’s more a customer complaint stayed between the company and the customer.

Then came along the digital revolution, and the rest is history. Now, if a customer needs to complain they have a choice of soapboxes to stand on. Customers are not only making the business aware of their issues but thanks to the multiple public platforms available to them, they are also broadcasting their complaint to other members of the public. It’s very interesting to see how a company chooses to respond to these very public complaints, in my opinion it could be exactly what makes then or breaks them.

So, when O2 services went down last week it was only natural that O2 customers turned to Twitter to vent their frustration. O2’s response? They replied humorously:

How O2 avoided an online PR crisis

Now this was either very clever of them or very stupid, and I suspect for the first hour everyone was holding their breath. But after responding to hundreds of angry tweets in this manner, others started noticing and joining in the fun.  However, there was still a tiny bit of resentment on the customers’ part:

How O2 avoided an online PR crisis

The risk paid off, turning their company crisis into a great PR opportunity. The O2 Twitter account soon became a must watch online with the bitter anger the customers held a day before now turning into ‘love’:

How O2 avoided an online PR crisis

With followers even trying to help them trend for the right reasons, not the hostile signal failing ones:

How O2 avoided an online PR crisis

You might be wondering how an earth did this work in their favour? And here is my theory, the customers sending in angry messages were expecting to hear back the usual pitch about contacting customer services, which in most peoples experience doesn’t get you anywhere. When O2 replied with the random humorous (but argumentative) messages, it threw people off course; they didn’t know how to respond. We all know what it’s like when you are trying to be angry with someone but they keep making you laugh…you’re not angry for long, are you?

 

So, there you have it – how to dodge a potentially fatal company crisis with humour. Brilliant.

 

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