Communication is key to issue management, Vodafone

vodafone-limitedserviceTrouble in the UK for mobile operator Vodafone this Monday morning as thousands if not millions of customers across the UK have no cellular or mobile broadband service at all. I’m one of those.

As I write this post, there is still no service in my area in the UK almost four hours after I first noticed the loss of service. As much of the mainstream media has begun reporting over the past few hours, it appears to be the result of a break-in at a data centre and subsequent vandalism of equipment.

Understanding what’s going on is a critical element of managing an issue. From that perspective, this is precisely that – an issue for Vodafone to manager. It’s not a crisis but it could soon turn into one if there’s no timely and effective communication from Vodafone. Issuing a statement via the user support forum – and one very light on any meaningful-for-the-customer detail –  is hardly the most effective channel, and I find the forum website intermittently crashing every time I visit. Anyone looking for information online will go to the primary website. Why no announcement or link to one there, Vodafone?

As you’d expect these days, Twitter has been lit up all morning with comment and opinion about this outage. Just look at the timeline spike in tweets this morning in this screenshot:


You can also use a service such as Seekatweet to get visual clarity on a Google map as to where conversations are happening:


Note that all of this communication – chit-chat, opinion and commentary – is largely being conducted by and between customers. There are thousands of tweets about this outage, for instance – just check the #Vodafone hashtag. Other than the forum message I mentioned and the (probably now beleaguered) Vodafone Twitter handle, finding anything from Vodafone is hard.

News (good or bad) travels online at lightning speed these days. You have no time to waste. You do not have the luxury of taking a breath. If you, as the focus of conversation, are not there actively participating, events will move along at that lightning speed without you. And with your voice not present in any meaningful way, you have the instant recipe for a full-blown crisis to potentially develop.

Here’s hoping things get connected again before that, Vodafone.

[Update 1.45pm] My Vodafone service is now back. A 2-bar signal strength only, but at least it’s back.

It would be good to know exactly what happened and how to be sure that Vodafone has taken steps to prevent this in the future. As ComputerWorld UK noted in its report on the matter, referring to the earlier statement from Vodafone in the user support forum:

[…] The company’s statement will raise concern among its enterprise users that the network operator does not have sufficient failover capacity and that is backup and disaster recovery procedures are not sufficiently robust.

Another factor in the matter of timely and effective communication.

[Update 5.30pm] Some media reporting is now coming with details on what happened today, eg:

  • Bloomberg BusinessWeek: Vodafone U.K. Service Crippled After Network Equipment Theft. Additional element: “Some users of Research in Motion Ltd. BlackBerry devices on Vodafone were unable to access e-mail service this morning, while other users appeared unaffected.”
  • TechWatch: Vodafone burglary causes outage for many thousands. Love their conclusion: “[…] The network operator also stated that the site was protected by a “high level” security system. But evidently he fell asleep after his cheese sandwich and Horlicks. In all seriousness, Vodafone is reviewing its security in conjunction with the police as a result of the incident.”

Neville Hobson

Social Strategist, Communicator, Writer, and Podcaster with a curiosity for tech and how people use it. Believer in an Internet for everyone. Early adopter (and leaver) and experimenter with social media. Occasional test pilot of shiny new objects. Avid tea drinker.

  1. Armin

    It was all over BBC Berkshire (Andrew Peach show) this morning as well, from what I understand they didn’t bother to get back to them either despite repeated requests. All they had was Twitter, listeners calling in and the message posted on the forum.

    I seem to get intermittent service now, but it keeps dropping and the data service doesn’t seem to pull any data.

    Interestingly enough some other Vodafone countries seem to have “outage/network status pages” for those kind of events, but not Vodafone UK. They only have the rather slow and difficult to find forum.

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