If you’re at all involved in the gaming community, you’ve probably caught wind of Sony’s latest fiasco, but in case you aren’t up to speed, the Playstation Network, Sony’s online component to their console ecosphere, has been down for seven days and counting. Initial reports began to circulate, purely on speculation, that this was the work of internet “hacktivists” Anonymous. However, Anonymous has publicly denied any responsibility for the attacks. Several days after the initial shut down of the service, Sony finally came forward and admitted that the downtime was a voluntary move on their part in response to an attack from an unknown source. The initial response to this unfortunate bit of news was dread and concern over the loss of private information. Sony maintains roughly 60 million PSN accounts with credit cards and personal information within their system. However, Sony opted to not make any public statements regarding whether or not any of this information was compromised. That is, until day six of the debacle, when Sony finally announced that they have concluded that some members’ personal information may have been hijacked during the initial attack. We’re into day seven of the outage, and Sony still hasn’t said a whole lot to effectively assure their customers that competent people are on the job working to rectify the matter. Furthermore, they have yet to offer a concrete relaunch day for the network. The most they’ve been able to offer is, “it could be up inside of a week“. If you’re reading this and aren’t feeling confident about that tidbit of information, rest assured, it is only because you are sane, and you still have a pulse.
The shockwave of this outage doesn’t solely radiate towards just users. Services dependent upon the PSN, such as Netflix are also inaccessible to Playstation users. Furthermore, game developers like Ubisoft who released their highly anticipated game, “Outland” over the Playstation Network this past Tuesday, were forced to accept that their game would receive absolutely no revenue on launch day due to the outage. This can only be considered unacceptable from any standpoint.
The greater takeaway from this entire disaster is a lesson in effective communication. Communicating with your customers or clients is imperative even in times of crisis. Attempting to recover fast enough, in hopes no one will notice, is an absurd practice that will only backfire in the long run. Honesty and integrity are the foundation of any successful company, and a sheer refusal to do so much as tell your customers that a major aspect of your product offering will be offline for an undisclosed period of time is a tactic I can only refer to as, “completely mad”.
Your customers’ satisfaction should be top priority and being able to admit, even in times of crisis, when problems arise on your end, is still an effective way to build solid relationships with your clients. It takes the biggest kind of person to admit they’re wrong; the same applies, if not more so, to business. Had Sony come out on day zero saying, “We’ve experienced a severe attack on our online systems. In response we will be taking the PSN network down for an unknown period of time starting on x date to tighten security and increase performance in the system. We apologize for any inconvenience.” The public lashing wouldn’t be even remotely as severe.
Microsoft experienced a similar incursion back in 2007, when their Xbox Live service was taken down, but people seldom remember this, simply because of how Microsoft chose to handle the situation. There was a constant flow of status updates from the Xbox camp about when the service would relaunch, steps Microsoft was taking to ensure their customers’ data was still safe, and they even threw in a free game download at the end of the whole mess. This is what responsible companies do, and yes, I just called Microsoft responsible.
I’m not a Playstation user anymore. I lost faith in Sony’s ability to effectively participate in the gaming sphere almost a decade ago. Their sheer inability to innovate and spur new developments in the industry had left me wanting back when I actually did own an original Playstation. That aside, I can’t fault a company for being reasonable. However, it seems that Sony isn’t up to task. Your business should be different. Even we as vendors and developers should take heed of the warnings inherent in this incident. Effective communication with your customers is tantamount to whatever cultural arrogance your company has instilled. Being honest can be difficult at times, but your customers will thank you for it later.