Posts Tagged ‘telecommunications’

What not to say

datePosted on 09:55, February 26th, 2010 by Lew

NZ Herald website’s lead story:

Telecom spokesman Mark Watts says this morning’s 111 emergency calls system failure “shouldn’t have happened” and is “a bad look” after the company’s recent repeated XT failures.

My emphasis. This illustrates that Telecom views the failure of an essential service — the only genuinely essential service they provide — as an image problem rather than a matter of public safety. Don’t get me wrong — it is an image problem, and a colossal one at that, and the fact that this fault was apparently unrelated to the ongoing XT failures underlines the brittleness of the country’s telecommunications infrastructure and undermines Telecom’s brand even more than it already has been. But treating it as an image problem for the company rather than a real problem for the country is the surest way of turning it into an even more serious image problem. You see what people are made of when they come under prolonged duress. Telecom’s senior staff are starting to crack.

Not that NZ Police communications are much better, with Inspector Karen Wilson saying that the Police were “unaware” of any cases where the need for emergency services had gone unmet. Well, they would be unaware, wouldn’t they? Given that the system for making them aware was nonfunctional.

This line (“Police are unaware …”) has become the NatRad bulletin lead, which means Telecom’s PR failure is reflecting on the Police, who bear no blame here. (Though, in fairness to Inspector Wilson, her remarks were a response to a suitably incensed Philippa Tolley, who first used the word “unaware”.) Still, better for the Police to more strongly emphasise the fact that they would be unaware due to Telecom’s failure, but that coping regardless was their responsibility.

It might be worth turning this into an ongoing series. There’s no shortage of material.

Update: By Checkpoint time, Mark Watts had changed his establishing point to “not a good thing”, which is much better, for just one word different. But his talking points were clearly thus:

  • The system works close to 100% of the time (therefore: don’t complain when it doesn’t.) This is a somewhat specious argument, but very necessary given Telecom’s situation, and it’d fly if the general position taken was one of contrition and regret.
  • Nobody was left hanging; everyone who made a call got called back to make sure they were ok. This is good; unfortunately, he refused to answer Mary Wilson’s repeated questions as to how long it took for people to get called back. That leaves the response a bit hollow. He also gets a bit arsey about it.
  • “The systems worked as intended.” WTF? This would be a plausible position if the Police had been informed, but they weren’t, and Telecom has no explanation for why not.

For their part, the Police have their act a bit more together, with Superintendent Andy McGregor emphasising the importance of public confidence in the system and Telecom’s failure to ensure it.

L