RIM confident of winning back customer trust

Embattled BlackBerry vendor RIM is confident that it can win back the trust of its customers following last week’s high profile outage. Stephen Bates, RIM’s UK MD told on Tuesday that the firm will continue to innovate as it looks to make amends for the outage.

“The feedback that we get from customers is that they look to BlackBerry to continue to deliver what they expect, which is a reliable, secure, real-time service that gives us differentiation from the other companies out there.”

He added that the intense competition in the smartphone and tablet space keeps the companies in the industry “fresh and innovative”, but insists that the company is not being complacent and realises it has a huge task on its hands to restore its reputation.

“Every day we take the view that we have to prove ourselves to our customers and today’s no different than before,” said Bates.

“Previously, up until this point, we’ve had amazing reliability – of about 99.97 per cent which is phenomenal for infrastructure.”

“Our focus will be to continue to deliver the best communicaitions experience we can and our infrastructure is a key element of that, to ensure that we not only get that service back to how it was, but that we also work towards building back the trust of our customers on the reliability of what we offer.”

Bates explained that the outage was originally caused by a core switching system failure – this was a failure of an entire system rather than one physical node at a particular location.

The reason that the outage was so widespread and lasted so long is that, normally in such instances, the system would back up to the redundant system, but on this occasion it didn’t work as it previously had, or as tested.

“The RIM infrastructure is quite complex and carries over 22 Petabytes of data per month – so there’s a lot of data to cope with. And the problem is that this was an intermittent fault, so it took a while to figure out what was really happening.  Then, later, we had another challenge which was that there’s a huge backlog of traffic that that to be cleared.”

He added that the reason that it took so long to fix, and even to alert customers of the outage, was because it came as part of the worst outage of RIM’s history and “the scale of it caught the company by surprise”.

RIM is seeking to reimburse customers by offering a selection of premium paid-for apps available to them free of charge. The apps will be available from tomorrow and the offer will run until Christmas.

While that compensation is primarily for the consumer market, business customers that already pay for BlackBerry technical support, will receive an additional month of support free of charge. Also, business customers that do not currently subscribe to the technical support will receive a free one month trial as well.

Bates added that although some operators, such as UAE-based Etisalat and Du, are offering financial compensation to BlackBerry users for the outage, RIM is not relying on its carrier partners to reimburse users and believes the compensation it is currently offering is sufficient.

“This is a problem for BlackBerry rather than our carrier partners, so we’re trying to ensure people go to the BlackBerry website and BlackBerry Twitter and Facebook page for updates,” said Bates.

“We’re not asking carriers to do anything – we believe in the approach that we’re taking; to provide our customers either access to free apps or access to BlackBerry technical support to our business customers.”

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