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BlackBerry eyes brand overhaul after service blues

Company forced to refocus on its core product after four-day service outage

BlackBerry eyes brand overhaul after service blues
Research In Motion has been forced to rethink its communications strategy following the four-day BlackBerry services outage last month.

Research in Motion plans to overhaul its communications strategy in a bid to rebuild its brand equity after a service blackout last month left millions of BlackBerry customers without email or instant messages, a senior official said.

The smartphone maker's sluggish response to customer complaints during the crisis spurred a slew of criticism that sent RIM's share price tumbling, forcing the company to refocus on its core product, said Rory O'Neill, vice president for software and services.

"What's really important to us is [our] reputation for secure reliable communications and quite frankly we failed to deliver on that promise," he said. "Not only are we sorry for it but we want to repair our reputation and loyalty with our customers.

"We have 70 million customers in 174 countries and we need to have a communications structure that enables us to talk to them and work with our carrier partners to worldwide to give them real time information."

BlackBerry subscribers across most parts of the world lost data services for four days after a network failure halted messaging and web browsing - the worst since an outage swept North America two years ago.

Thousands of users took to Twitter to complain over the blackout, which began in Europe and the Middle East and spread later to North America, RIM's largest market.

Analysts warned the company faced irreparable damage to its brand and would need to look at changes in its communication strategy.

"The reputation of RIM was damaged, not helped by the lack of clear, timely communication from RIM during the disruption," said Chris Jones, vice president and principle analyst at Canalys. "RIM must do everything in its power to stop such a long service disruption from happening again and it needs a much improved damage limitation communication process."

In compensation for the outage, RIM offered subscribers more than $100 worth of games and productivity tools until the end of the year. Business customers were offered a free month of technical support.

RIM would not confirm how many customers had downloaded the free software.

"There is no compensation for being without a BlackBerry service for three days. It was never our intention for compensation; it is more of a thank you for being a BlackBerry customer," said O'Neill. 

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