The Scoop: Most recent AT&T outage puts brand at risk

Plus, Chipotle denies giving smaller portion sizes; Spotify’s prices go up again.

If AT&T is your cell phone carrier, you might have had trouble making calls yesterday afternoon. That’s because a large-scale outage impacted customers for hours, inhibiting communication and leading to frustration.

If social media is any indication, the telecom carrier’s customers were none too happy about the outage.

According to a report by CNN, smaller outages of a few minutes aren’t uncommon on such a large network, but when they take longer than 15 minutes to fix, it’s cause for concern. The outage reports began in the early afternoon and were largely resolved by the early evening.

Tuesday’s outage follows a similar incident that happened in February in which customers also lost the ability to make calls, send texts or get in touch with emergency services for several hours. In that situation, AT&T did apologize and offered a $5 credit to impacted customers.

Why it matters: When you’re a cellphone carrier and your technical issues prevent people from using their phones, that’s a pretty easy to way break down trust with your customers. Between the two outages this year and a data breach in March, AT&T is actively at risk of eroding customer trust in its brand.

Social media was ablaze yesterday with criticism of AT&T’s lack of reliability, with some users even threatening to defect to rival phone carriers. In a statement yesterday afternoon, AT&T put out a very brief statement, simply saying “Nationwide 9-1-1 Services are operating normally at this time and our customers are not affected.” There was no apology from the CEO as in the February outage, and no credit was offered. Just a sentence stating the facts. Sure, a more detailed and conciliatory statement might be coming, but this was pretty bare bones on the heels of a nationally recognized crisis.

If customers feel they aren’t they might seek to bring their business elsewhere, unless you do some major cleanup work in the public eye. That’s why crisis response is so critically important, and AT&T should already have a plan in place to approach this most recent issue.

Editor’s Top Reads:

  • Think your Chipotle servings are too small? Some social media users have resorted to filming their orders being made at the fast-casual Mexican chain and have proceeded to walk out if they feel the sizes are too small. A few social users even report getting larger portion sizes while filming. According to a report by Forbes, Chipotle has denied giving out smaller portion sizes and said customers can ask for more or less of items at the restaurant, and it’s gone as far as to poke fun at the situation on TikTok. If you find yourself at the center of an online debate or viral trend, it’s a good idea to approach the situation like Chipotle did. But having a sense of humor about it is also a good way to endear yourself to the public.
  • For the second time in a year, Spotify is raising prices for premium subscribers. According to Variety, subscribers will receive an email about the price hikes over the next month. “As we continue to grow our platform, we are updating our Premium prices so that we can keep innovating in changing market conditions. “These updates will help us continue delivering value to fans,” the company said in a statement. But this move and statement come after Spotify CEO Daniel Ek angered music fans by claiming the cost of creating content was “close to zero” and then authorized a price hike. Despite the hike, Spotify has some of the highest subscription retention rates around, meaning they might just have the brand recognition and loyalty to weather any potential blowback from the price hike. When making moves that might be unpopular with some people, it’s worth considering the calculus of whether or not your brand can withstand the heat.
  • Krispy Kreme is known for two things — great doughnuts and popular promotions. For National Doughnut Day on June 7, the chain is giving away free doughnuts to all customers, no strings attached. This isn’t the first time Krispy Kreme has done a popular promo to get customers excited — during the rollout of the COVID vaccine, the chain gave free doughnuts to anyone who showed a vaccine card. Right now, it’s even running a collaborative promotion with Dolly Parton. Getting people excited about your product or service is the first step to drumming up business. But keeping the excitement rolling through giveaways, promos, and celebrity collabs is an effective way to keep your name in the conversation too.

Sean Devlin is an editor at Ragan Communications. In his spare time he enjoys Philly sports and hosting trivia.


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