Case Study: How “Goodwill Gesture” Can Kill Your Brand
Feb 2014 23

M1 Left Subscribers Stranded Again

Last January, it lasted for 4 days and as a result of that incident, M1 was fine $1.5 million by the Infocomm Development Authority (IDA).
Almost 11 months later, it happened again – this time, M1 was down for a single day on 2 Dec 2013.
Earlier this month, it happened…… again……

M1 Mobile, the smallest of three Telcos in Singapore, left Subscribers stranded, without access to the mobile network for approximately 5 hours on 4 February 2014.
On the same day, a media statement was released on the incident:

SINGAPORE, 4 February 2014 – At about 7:00am today, our customers began experiencing difficulties making voice calls on our mobile network. Some customers were also unable to send and receive SMS or access mobile data, intermittently.
We immediately focused our efforts to restore services expeditiously. However, the complexity of the network required us to troubleshoot the numerous interlinked network entities. This systematic process was necessary to ensure effective restoration of services. Full service was restored at 12:15pm.
M1 has recently made significant investments to upgrade our mobile network by incorporating several new network entities and advanced software features. This has increased the complexity of the mobile network.
Our preliminary investigations suggest that a call processing software issue had unexpectedly prevented our customers’ devices from registering on the mobile network. A full investigation will be performed to determine the root cause of the incident.
“We are sorry for the inconvenience caused to our customers. We take this incident very seriously, and in addition to our own investigation, we will be appointing an independent expert to conduct a network architecture and connectivity review,” said Ms Karen Kooi, Chief Executive Officer, M1 Limited.
Ms Kooi added: “We appreciate our customers’ understanding, patience and support, and we would like to offer our customers one day of free local mobile calls, local SMS and MMS this Sunday as a goodwill gesture.”

In the media statement, M1 offered its customers one day of free local mobile calls, local SMS and MMS as a goodwill gesture.

What I am unsure about, is whether you call the above offer a goodwill gesture or a compensation?

Difference Between “Goodwill Gestures” And “Compensations”

According to Macmillan dictionary, the word “goodwill” have the following definition:

  • a feeling of wanting to be friendly and helpful to someone

While “compensation” have the following definitions:

  • money that someone receives because something bad has happened to them
  • something that changes or removes the bad result of something
  • behaviour that is intended to reduce the effects of a personal fault

Obviously “Goodwill gestures” have a more positive ring to it while “compensations” sounds a tad more associated with passive negative connotations.

M1 – Goodwill Gestures or Compensation?

So is this a goodwill gesture from M1 or a compensation for the service disruption?

First we need to understand who’s responsible for the maintenance of the service and what cause the disruption.
It’s undeniable that M1 is responsible for the maintenance of the service and according to M1, it seems that “a call processing software issue” is the cause of the disruption.
Since this an internal glitch, the onus goes to M1.
As a mobile service provider, the very least a subscriber would expect from M1, is a stable network that allows them to communicate (and I am talking about the most basic form of mobile communication – to have a tele-conversation).

M1 failed in the deliverance of the fundamental value that they are expected to provide, not once or twice, but three times in recent times.
In baseball terms, three times equate to a strike.
M1, you are out of the game.

Game Over

Since M1 caused the disruption, what justified the so called “goodwill gesture”? It is definitely a “compensation” and not a “goodwill gesture”.

Sometimes Less Is More

“Sometimes less is more” and you can see why.

Imagine you are an affected customer and you came across the sentence below:

“We appreciate our customers’ understanding, patience and support, and we would like to offer our customers one day of free local mobile calls, local SMS and MMS this Sunday as a goodwill gesture.”

Now try reading the sentence again, with the words “as a goodwill gesture” omitted:

“We appreciate our customers’ understanding, patience and support, and we would like to offer our customers one day of free local mobile calls, local SMS and MMS this Sunday.”

Doesn’t it makes you feel better? That the brand ain’t trying to take you for a good ride in the amusement park?

No media statement will ever please everyone but at the very least, do not allow your media statement to add on any unnecessary negative sentiment, worsening the situation than what it already was.

Indeed “sometimes less is more”.

Lack Of A Digital Crisis Management Plan

Social Media – M1’s Facebook Page

M1 Facebook Comments

I manually went through almost 3000 comments on M1’s Facebook Page (the above image ain’t mine. At the time of research, there were 3867 comments).
Below are some of my observations:
– M1 utilized social media as an outlet of one-way communication, mostly in the form of official announcements.
– There wasn’t any two-way communications, they are usually one-way, either from M1 to the customers or the customers to M1.
– Lack of recovery action of any kind from M1. Such presence was ZERO in most of the relevant posts.
– There were at least three user complaints of comments deleted by M1.
– M1’s hotline was down as well with calls not pick up.
What M1 should had done:
– M1 need to manage their community and they should hire a competent community manager (if they do not already have 1). If you want to have social media presence, then deal with the social media channel like you would to an offline channel. Otherwise it’s really better not to have any presence at all. Remember less is sometimes more.
– Social media is not made for one-way communication. Social media is all about conversations and conversations are two-way, not one.
– Social media is an excellent platform for service recovery and crisis management. Buffer was hacked last Oct, the way they handled the security breach became a classic case study in social media crisis management. They not only brilliantly managed the crisis but at the same time, also managed to retain the confidence (and subscription fees) of many subscribers for their accountability, responsibility, transparency and urgency on the matter.
– Never ever delete any comments by the users, be it complaints or negative comments, unless you are dead sure they are spams. Otherwise man up and handle them like how you would attend to any matters over the customer service counters. Consumers always appreciate businesses that are transparent.
– Finally on the hotline, ain’t it time to open up more lines to keep up with the volume? Otherwise, drop an announcement somewhere and update everyone on what’s happening and apologize that due to the expected high volume of calls, their calls might not be answered.

Search Engine

Nothing to talk about as M1 ain’t there.
M1 might wanna take a look at what SingTel did when Mio TV had intermittent displays and learn from them.
Otherwise, they might want to read up on what Anton Casey should had done and learn a thing or two on search engine crisis management.

In Conclusion

Remember the difference between “goodwill gesture” and “compensation”.
You offer a “goodwill gesture” when it ain’t the fault of your organization but your organization empathize with the user’s situation and decided to offer it to the user regardless of causation.
You don’t offer “goodwill gestures” when it’s your fault.
You “compensate” when it’s your fault.
You don’t “compensate” when it ain’t your fault.
Offering goodwill gestures when it’s your fault draws to your brand a negative sentiment and can essentially damage it.
It can also negatively impact the consumers’ perception to your brand.
Indeed “goodwill gestures” can kill.

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