O2's slogan "We're better connected" has a hollow ring (pun intended) for the tens of thousands of their frustrated customers who lost service yesterday, and are still unconnected. Of course, problems can happen, but the issue here, piling irony on irony, seems to be one of communication.
A spokesman for O2 said last night that he had no information on how many customers were affected, what was causing the outage or when it would be fixed. That's not exactly a helpful statement, even though it may be true. He added “We are currently seeing a problem on our network affecting some of our customers. Those customers affected will have difficulty making or receiving calls, sending texts or using data". That's a great example of non-communication, telling people what they already know.
We're seeing a common theme here with large and complex technology systems, from banks to phone companies. As more features are added to the systems, the likelihood of failure seems to increase, and the number of people who understand how to fix things decreases.
So what's to be done? Clearly, system testing is something that may have been undercooked. In terms of customer service, the performance of O2, Barclays and Nat West has simply not been good enough. Their CEOs should be taking responsibility by making a statement as soon as the problem is identified, reassuring customers that everything is being done to fix the problem, and offering to compensate them for any inconvenience.
Problems can, and will occur. They are made much worse by ignoring the concerns of customers.