Rogers (Mostly) Phones In Outage Crisis Comms

Thom Weidlich 07.14.22


On Friday, Toronto-based telecom giant Rogers Communications had an outage across Canada that left millions of customers without mobile and internet service for at least 16 hours and, for many, even longer. The crisis communications haven’t been overly impressive, but contain some reminders about responding to such a situation.

The outage was no joke. It disrupted 911 service, the Interac banking network, some government services and Air Canada’s call center. Last but not least, Canadian singer-songwriter The Weeknd had to postpone his concert at, ironically, the Rogers Centre.

The occurrence has real consequences for the company. A main storyline is that it has thrown into further jeopardy the (currently blocked) antitrust approval it covets for its proposed acquisition of rival Shaw Communications. A related storyline is that the disruption has underscored the downside of the Rogers, Telus and Bell Canada oligopoly.

So Rogers already had a problem going into the crisis: It’s not a loved company. It also had a similar service interruption in April last year, which was blamed on a software issue.

Customer Support

The telco first tweeted about the situation on its @RogersHelps customer-support account at 8:54 a.m. ET on Friday (though, without an internet or cell connection, how were people supposed to see it?). At 11:26 a.m. it admitted the problem was widespread and apologized. It provided further updates throughout the day (seven in all). One said that the company would provide credits to customers for the downed service.

By 7:01 a.m. on Saturday Rogers was reporting that service had been restored to “the vast majority” of its customers. But at 4:57 p.m. Sunday it admitted the full network wasn’t yet restored (issues continued to crop up on Monday).

We have two main criticisms about the communications response: CEO Tony Staffieri took too long to speak out and the company took too long to identify a cause.

Staffieri didn’t put out a statement until 10:37 p.m. Friday. “I take full responsibility for ensuring we at Rogers earn back your full trust, and are once again there to connect you to what matters,” he said. The organization was still trying to find the source of the problem, he added.

‘System Failure’

He issued another statement at 4:09 p.m. Saturday in which he finally revealed what the company thought the explanation to be: “a network system failure following a maintenance update.”

So there you go.

Chloe Luciani-Girouard, Rogers’ head of media relations, told the Toronto Star Monday that understanding the genesis took time. Also Monday, the Canadian government ordered telcos to come up with a plan to assist each other during such emergencies.

At least something positive came out of the debacle.

Photo Credit: JHVEPhoto/Shutterstock

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