Now What, O2?

11:55 AM -- With so much talk about customer satisfaction and customer experience management (CEM) strategies these days, I'm waiting to see what the fallout will be from the major service disruption experienced by British mobile operator Telefónica UK Ltd. , which is better known by its O2 brand. (See Outage Strikes O2 UK.)

According to O2, all 2G and 3G services are now back up and running, having been restored after an outage that lasted about 20 hours for some customers. The response from many users, especially on Twitter, was sarcastic, hinting at a mixture of annoyance and bemusement. See some examples of those responses in this message board post and in this one.

Now that the network issue is resolved -- all signs point to a home location register (HLR) crash -- O2 faces a bigger test: placating its customers, especially those that have missed out on work opportunities because they were cut off from the communications network.

The company has been apologizing online and on Twitter: CEO Ronan Dunne tweeted, "To all our affected customers - I'm very sorry. The network is back. My focus now is restoring your confidence and trust in O2." At least the company is using effective means to get to a large part of its customer base. (See Socializing CRM.)

But that's just step one. Now it needs to be proactive.

A similar outage was experienced by Orange France customers less than a week ago. Customers there received a text with an apology and were directed to the company's website, where details of the compensation package, including a day's free service and a free ticket to the cinema (I notice that 'premium 3D movies' are excluded...).

But is that enough? Perhaps not. Even after one week and the offer of compensation, Orange France customers are still seething. "It was very annoying -- all Friday evening I had no access whatsoever," says Light Reading correspondent Anne Morris, who lives in Nice, France.

Morris details her frustrations in this message board post. More feedback from Orange would have been good, she notes.

So what will O2 do? Let's see what happens in the next 48 hours. The U.K. is a very competitive market -- O2 will have Vodafone UK , EE , Three UK and Virgin Mobile all looking to grab its customers -- and the service provider will have to react quickly and noisily if it is to avoid a lot of costly pain.

Orange France believes its compensation will cost it tens of millions of euros, but that's better (and cheaper in the long term) than losing customers and gaining a reputation for bad customer service.

— Ray Le Maistre, International Managing Editor, Light Reading

mrblobby 12/5/2012 | 5:28:04 PM
re: Now What, O2?

Today is Thursday July 12th. The Orange France outage occurred on Friday July July 6th. That's not only less than 2 weeks ago, it's less than 1 week ago.

vishal87 12/5/2012 | 5:28:04 PM
re: Now What, O2?


Great point about Customer Experience Management - which is something (all) operators certainly need to focus on more.

However, what you seem to hint at is post-facto "management" if you will - which, I'll grant, is something operators need to do to inculcate the (almost lost) art of invoking customer delight! (Of course, they have to have mechanisms in place to ensure that customer's have a good experience -- from service, to billing, to the call center.)

But, more seriously, what needs to preceed Customer Experience Management (or perhaps underpin it; and Gabriel hinted at that in his post here http://www.lightreading.com/blog.asp?blog_sectionid=414&doc_id=222803&piddl_msgid=348667#msg_348667 when he mentioned how much the O2 operational staff does care about uptime and quality) is Network Performance Management & Monitoring -- cause good network performance monintoring can obviate the need for too much post-facto customer "experience management," although free movie tickets are always good (but, as you observe, Madagascar 3 in 3D would be nice!).

And, in that context, I cannot not mention :-) a unique, on-line, international panel on precisely this subject that's this coming Tuesday, July 17th, on the subject of

 "Smart Monitoring & Performance Management for Operational Efficiency"

and this initiative has contributions from a dozen+ leading players from the carrier eco-system including (you guessed it!) Twitter, TELUS, TATA, AOL, CTS Telecom, Linked In, Cisco, InfoVista, Opnet, Packet Design, ADVA, Juniper, Amartus, Adtran, and others ... Folks interested can register at http://bit.ly/LknqIs (it's free, but spots are limited to preserve interactivity) 


PS: The unique aspect is the learning we're sharing from Roundtables and discussions leading up to the panel, and will share post panel too. The learnings in question are available starting here http://bit.ly/O3SAqe (by looking at the role of data center operators in performance management and, by extension, customer experience management).

digits 12/5/2012 | 5:28:03 PM
re: Now What, O2?

Doesn't time fly?

While obviously "less than two weeks" was accurate, I might as well have said "less than a month/year", so I have amended the article to note that the Orange France outage was indeed less than one week before the O2 disruption.

My thanks to mrblobby, who is clearly more on top of his calendar than I am.

I blame the British weather for my temporal fug.... when the sun hasn't appeared for so long you tend to lose track of time... roll on winter time when we might all get a tan!  


adamtarshis 12/5/2012 | 5:28:02 PM
re: Now What, O2?

I totally agree on the importance of Performance Management and Monitoring. Diagnostic investigation is the key to understanding the problem and either fixing it before customers are affected or reducing the time to restore service.

Since day one of GSM, HLRs have been duplicated and geographically seperated systems. The network is designed so that there is absolutely no impact on service with a total failure of one HLR. The chances of two HLRs failing at the same time are very very small. There are many other potential causes of this problem. A good end-to-end call trace running on captured signalling data from the first seconds of the problem should lead to a quick and correct diagnosis. All leading monitoring systems should have this as core functionality.

vishal87 12/5/2012 | 5:28:02 PM
re: Now What, O2?

Adam et al,

Thanks for your observations, and glad to see you agree!

Indeed doing "application performance analysis" of some sort (with the "application" here being the signalling data you refer to), can be valuable to discern issues (although setting thresholds for assessing "degradation" could be tricky?). But, it can certainly help in post-facto root-cause analysis.

You point about HLR redundancy is important too - so, we potentially had a double failure, in two networks, just about a week apart to produce similar issues -- seems interesting. And, if this is a systemic issue, I wonder if there might be more outages in the coming weeks/months in other large networks?

I'm also thinking what happens in 4G/LTE systems, when signaling isn't as separated (at least physical infrastructure wise) as it has been so far in cellular systems? Seems the peformance management and diagnostics would be an even bigger issue! (Not to mention the performance monitoring needed to handle all of the applications running on the mobile broadband infrastructure!).


PS: The interplay of applications and networks is one of the key issues the on-line, panel on Performance Management & Monitoring this coming Tuesday will focus on http://bit.ly/LknqIs.

digits 12/5/2012 | 5:27:53 PM
re: Now What, O2?

It is the end of the working day in the UK and there has been no direct contact from O2 to its UK customers about last week's service disruption.


What are they waiting for? Not even a text??


Meanwhile, a market research company has undertaken a survey of O2 UK users and found that while '57% believe that there was a lack of communication during the outage... 71% believe O2 is a good network despite the outage."

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