Ah, yet another week, yet another apology from Vodafone Australia to its still remaining customer base.
After months of continuing network troubles caused by unstable software that constrained its network capacity and a software upgrade that significantly degraded network performance, and an apology in December of last year by Vodafone Australia CEO Nigel Dews for letting its customers down, CEO Dews decided it was time to apologize once more.
CEO Dews said in a video released this week on the Vodafone web site that the company was "truly sorry" that many of its customers have experienced problems that "... include dropped calls, delayed SMS and voicemails, slow data speeds, inconsistent coverage, and long waits when you called us."
The reason, CEO Dews explained, was that Vodafone grew too quickly last year ("growing pains") and "and when some problems arose we responded too slowly."
Why CEO Dews felt he needed to apologize again this week may have been the Privacy Commissioner Timothy Pilgrim determining (see PDF here) last week that Vodafone had breached privacy laws when it didn't secure access to customer data properly (see here and here), as well as yet another highly embarrassing system glitch, this time with its prepaid recharge system, that served to undercut the claim that performance at Vodafone was improving.
According to this article in the Sydney Morning Herald, last Thursday morning at about 1030 AEST Vodafone customers found that they "were unable to recharge [their prepaid cards] using phone, Internet or in-store systems." A quick fix didn't look likely, so Vodafone decided to allow everyone who was affected free calls and text messages until the glitch was fixed, which it was the next morning at about 1130 AEST.
One would think that its decision would garner Vodafone some good will. Unfortunately, the Herald reported that many of those Vodafone prepaid card customers affected found that they weren't able to make calls or send text messages as promised, which made yet another group of Vodafone customers very, very angry.
One other reason for this latest apology may be that the law firm Piper Alderman has announced that more than 22,000 Vodafone customers have signed up for a class action lawsuit against the telecom, the Herald also reported. In early January, the number was about 9,000.
I suspect that many Vodafone customers are heartily agreeing with CEO Nigel Dews when he says, "We are truly sorry for this," but probably not in the way he intends.
Robert N. Charette is a Contributing Editor to IEEE Spectrum and an acknowledged international authority on information technology and systems risk management. A self-described “risk ecologist,” he is interested in the intersections of business, political, technological, and societal risks. Charette is an award-winning author of multiple books and numerous articles on the subjects of risk management, project and program management, innovation, and entrepreneurship. A Life Senior Member of the IEEE, Charette was a recipient of the IEEE Computer Society’s Golden Core Award in 2008.