Is 02's Twitter banter with angry customers' tweets a clever way of dealing with trolling or an irresponsible approach to service?
The O2 service failure has left customers outraged. After a 24-hour blackout last Wednesday, many of its 8m customers were unable to receive or send calls and texts or access data. The network was eventually restored the following afternoon - but by that time angry customers had flocked to Twitter to let O2 know exactly what they thought of the service failure and the brand.
However, bombarded with hateful tweets, the in-house social media team behind the O2 Twitter account has responded in a very interesting fashion. Rather than the usual straightjacketed corporate tone typically doled out in crisis communications, the O2 account is attempting to get through the nightmare with some light humour and personality.
And O2 was subjected to some some truly shocking tweets (look away now if you are easily offended!):
And some people were really, really angry:
But humour was doled out to lighten the mood:
Which went down well with some of the network's customers:
O2 was reluctant to name (and potentially shame - depending on your view) the man behind the mask and instead told MyCustomer.com: "Clearly we're not happy that we've disappointed our customers over the last 24 hours, but it's good to hear that some have enjoyed our tweets!"
But had it struck the right tone to respond to frustrated customers in a crisis like this or is it only going to provoke them further?
One advocate for O2's response strategy is Julian Heerdegen, CRM Evangelist at SugarCRM, who argued that a politically correct and sober message of crisis communication might make you look somewhat hapless.
He said: "Is it the right tone to respond to a service failure? No. Is it risky? Yes. Does it work? Yes!
"O2 took an unconventional and flexible approach to gain back some control over the conversation – and the online sphere so far gives them credit for doing so."
Kelda Wallis, new business manager at Tempero, believes that although the network chose a potentially risqué path, it paid off and showed they were taking the matter seriously.
She said: "Risqué tweets aside, O2 did a really great job of showing their human side, by crafting unique rather than the standard ‘copy & paste’ responses. At times, they were definitely pushing the boundaries, but they clearly understand the platform and thought it was worth taking the risk."
Even Twitter's own UK Director, Bruce Daisley, came out in support of O2 with a tweet that read: "Wonderful day's work from O2's Twitter account yesterday. Wrote the rule book."
But not all are convinced that it is the best approach.
PR consultant Sean Fleming argued that although initially a clever move from the mobile network, they took the entertainment too far.
Harriet Clarke, who sits on the Internet Advertising Bureau's social media council, believes humanisation is a key word that should run through all marketers social strategies.
She said: "Talking to a customer as a human, being transparent and responding in a timely manner is crucial for any brands social media success and reputation.