2012 Finalist

The future’s Orange (with pink bits)

The future’s Orange (with pink bits)

My mobile phone contract is with Orange and has been for three years. Overall I would have to say that I have been pleased with their service. The reception is perfectly adequate, their customer service team are incredibly helpful and friendly and their contracts are competitive. What's more, the bills are easy to understand. 

You could say, therefore, that I am a happy customer and that would be fair. Yet despite their apparently good service and friendly manner I am feeling increasingly fed up because they don't seem to want to tell me about major developments in their business that affect their services.

First it was the announcement of their merger with T-Mobile. Or, in my case at least, their lack of announcement. You see this development potentially had implications for me as a customer yet they didn't feel it necessary to tell me directly. Don't get me wrong, I know there are more important stakeholders than me, but considering they have my mobile number, my postal and email addresses you would think they could have at least mentioned it rather than relying on me finding out through the media. A simple text would have made me feel valued as a customer. Or even a line printed on my next bill. But no - nothing.

Now don't think for a minute that this is something I've had sleepless nights over - far from it, I had forgotten Orange's oversight until a couple of months ago. What reminded me was seeing a T-Mobile poster at a motorway services announcing that T-Mobile users could now share the Orange network by applying online.

This made me stop and think - if T-Mobile users can share Orange, can the reverse also be true? Surely not, I decided, for Orange would have certainly told me of such an exciting and positive development. But alas no. They could spend £4m on an advertising campaign but they couldn't even send me a text.

This irritated me, because I regularly find myself in rural areas with poor reception and having the option of using T-Mobile's network as well would be very useful indeed.

I duly signed up for network sharing and I have to say that I have seen a dramatic improvement in reception in remote locations. Since then I have spotted numerous posters from both T-Mobile and Orange promoting this service but until last week they still hadn't actually told me directly. They have now, I understand, rolled it out automatically to all customers, which is great, but why the delay in communicating directly to the very people that will benefit?

This blog is not intended as a rant at Orange - indeed overall I am very happy to be their customer. What it is intended is to be an example of how an organisation can overlook a stakeholder and cause bad feeling - they can turn good news that should enhance reputation into something that potentially damages it.
Orange could have easily communicated directly and made me feel valued. Instead they launched a great new service and then alienated me by relying on an indirect communication channel for their message.
The lesson here for communicators is simple. Never assume that a stakeholder group isn't interested or will find out 'through the media'. A little effort to communicate directly can transform the effectiveness of a message.

I guess what I am saying is that PR is, sometimes, about sweating the small stuff. It is about thinking about all potential audiences for a message and ensuring that you communicate with them directly in a timely and effective way.

No real harm has been done in this instance and I remain a loyal Orange customer. But you might not be so lucky if you miss an opportunity to communicate directly with a customer or stakeholder… 

Written by Philip at 09:11


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