An expert has warned the Optus outage could cost the telco up to a billion dollars, while customers are on the fence about staying loyal to the brand.
Optus customers woke on Wednesday morning to find they were unable to access their mobile and home internet services.
The major telecommunications company advised customers it was investigating the issue but remained otherwise silent for much of the morning.
A marketing expert said the outage could do serious reputational damage “far worse than the actual failure itself” in terms of the loss of revenue and the brand’s reputation.
Australian National University marketing expert Andrew Hughes told NCA NewsWire that Optus had lost a billion dollars on their brand valuation, according to a brand finance report.
‘BILLION DOLLAR MISTAKES’
“They’re billion-dollar mistakes, they really are,” Dr Hughes said.
“It is a huge loss … and it is a competitive market so they probably will struggle to get all of it back.”
When Australians were counting their pennies and noticing where every dollar was going, Dr Hughes said they noticed quality of service more.
“It’s got more of an impact because every dollar counts right now, so if we’re paying good money for a phone deal and then they do this to us and they lied to us and we got hacked … it all feels like ‘hey, you know, treat me better, I’m giving you guys good money, why can’t I get good service?’” Dr Hughes said.
The marketing expert predicts Optus will have to prove to its customers through “transparent work” that the company is serious about turning its branding around.
But he thinks customers will struggle to believe it after Optus’ lack of communication on Wednesday.
‘A COMMUNICATIONS FAIL’
“You’re a tech company, you do comms, that’s your bread and butter,” Dr Hughes said.
“It’s a communications fail about a communications fail … you can’t even put out an email?”
Dr Hughes said Optus hadn’t learned any lessons from the past after the telco company suffered a worrying hack last year where millions of customers had their private information stolen.
While people were forgiving after the hack, customers would have felt the outage was a second blow.
“It was like, OK, you haven’t actually learned, you just lied to us,” Dr Hughes said.
“You know that horrible feeling when you’ve been deceived by someone you trusted. That’s the feeling those people had yesterday, that’s why there was so much anger.”
Dr Hughes said the pressure was now on the federal government to step up after it launched an official inquiry on Thursday to look into how it could better assist large telecommunications providers during major disruptions.
‘PEOPLE HAVE HAD ENOUGH’
Finder tech expert Angus Kidman said there has been a major surge in customers comparing other telecommunication brands since Wednesday’s outage.
“Clearly, there are people who have said I’ve had enough, it’s time to look for something else,” he told NCA NewsWire.
While many people will be looking to change, Mr Kidman said others would stick with Optus because they didn’t want to go through the frustration of changing providers.
Mr Kidman agreed that Optus’ messaging to customers is where the most work needs to be done.
“It’s impossible to guarantee that a network is going to be up everywhere all the time because modern software networks are complex … but the lack of communication, the lack of willingness to sort of put any timeframe on it didn’t help those people,” he said.
“The next the next set of communications, the next thing that gets said to customers, that is what’s going to be really crucial. That’s what’s going to make the difference.”
CUSTOMERS ON THE FENCE
Outside the Optus store in Sydney’s CBD, customers were on the fence about whether to stay loyal to the telco.
Eileen Healy, a user of Amaysim – the virtual mobile network operated and owned by Optus – said she would consider other providers given the telco’s recent history of issues.
“Reliability-wise maybe I should switch to Belong or somebody else who is as competitive as Amaysim because this is the second strike for Optus, they had the data breach a while ago,” she said.
“It gave me flashbacks to Vodafail. I was a Vodafone customer at the time when they had that big failure and I haven’t been back.”
On the question of compensation for customers and businesses, Ms Healy said it would come down to the cause of the outage, which remains disputed as a “deep network failure”.
Luca Villaflores was less hesitant about leaving the telco given the outage was the “first time (he) experienced such a thing”.
“It was an inconvenience. I wasn’t able to access my bank, my card, I had to take out cash from an ATM … but I don’t think I would go as extreme as switching to a competitor straight away,” he said.
“I don’t think a company as big as Optus will flop because of something as major as an outbreak where there was no internet for what, like 12 hours, but I think it would take a lot more.”
Miguel Hernandez and Karly Paine were “very tempted” to ditch Optus after they had hired a rental car, lost signal for the entire trip, and returned the car late resulting in an additional day’s worth of charges.
“We had no GPS and I had to guess my whole way back from Newcastle to Sydney – with a crying baby,” Ms Paine said.
“To be compensated would be beautiful because who is going to cover for the car and all the crap we went through last night,” Mr. Hernandez said.
The couple said Optus should “focus more on their customer service aspect and looking after people a bit better instead of just making money,” if it wanted to bounce back from the blackout.
However, another customer, Angie Miller, was unfazed by Wednesday’s drama and insisted she wouldn’t ditch the provider over what could be likened to an electricity or water outage.
“I wouldn’t change because it’s technology and technology could go wrong with any provider… sh*t happens,” she said.