Blackberry users are angry. RIM’s Blackberry data network was out for three days. And instead of focusing on their customers, they focused on their image.

Where’d they go wrong?

As much as I support RIM, someone in that company really needs to think carefully about how to keep people informed during major outages.

1. It took them several days to give any insight into what was actually going on.

People like transparency. They hate being in the dark.

Instead, RIM should have provided info as soon as they had it (barring, of course, any way that would have made them vulnerable to attack) and been clear that they didn’t know how long the issue might occur.

4 days no communication from RIM and now they record some stupid video to apologize?

2. They focused on slickness instead of humanity.

Their video apology had nice words, but the level of quality was too good. The words were too rehearsed. It sounded like a guy trying to save his job, not actually trying to inform his customers. Pro tip: if you say “can’t” in real life, don’t say “cannot” in your video.

Instead, RIM should have done quick, unscripted videos with team members in their work environment. These would have provided more insight and shown the actual emotion of the staff regarding the issue…which, honestly, probably was sincere.

I wanna believe #RIM, but you are so difficult to support at times. #myblackberryisdown

3. They turned it into a transactional relationship.

Blackberry users are clearly very loyal, as seen in the tweets above. They have plenty of more popular options, but they stick with RIM. But instead of treating these loyal customers like family – cementing that emotional relationship – RIM’s apology was decidedly transactional: “a selection of premium apps worth a total value of more than US $100 will be offered free of charge to subscribers as an expression of appreciation for their patience during the recent service disruptions”.  This language tells people that their three days of outage were worth $100 in crappy apps. That’s not going to breed loyalty.

Instead, RIM should have been overly generous and focused less on the monetary amount and more on what they’re doing to improve things, since that’s the most important.

What happened to RIM could happen to any company. The difference between a disaster and an outage? Those with an outage are transparent, honest, and put their customers – not “public relations” – above all else.