T-Mobile Does Crisis Management the “Un-carrier” Way

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    Crisis communications in line with stakeholder expectations help mitigate the early impact of a data breach crisis

    Oftentimes the crises you’ll encounter are a result of something totally beyond your control. This was the case for T-Mobile when a data breach at Experian, which processes credit applications for the cell provider, exposed the data of some 15 million customers.

    Now, T-Mobile has been setting some serious expectations with its position as “the un-carrier”. In this case that meant not coming out with a stuffy statement full of corporate jargon, but something relatable and real. CEO John Legere stepped up to the plate for this one, and absolutely knocked it out of the park:

    I’ve always said that part of being the Un-carrier means telling it like it is. Whether it’s good news or bad, I’m going to be direct, transparent and honest.

    We have been notified by Experian, a vendor that processes our credit applications, that they have experienced a data breach. The investigation is ongoing, but what we know right now is that the hacker acquired the records of approximately 15 million people, including new applicants requiring a credit check for service or device financing from September 1, 2013 through September 16, 2015. These records include information such as name, address and birthdate as well as encrypted fields with Social Security number and ID number (such as driver’s license or passport number), and additional information used in T-Mobile’s own credit assessment. Experian has determined that this encryption may have been compromised. We are working with Experian to take protective steps for all of these consumers as quickly as possible.

    Obviously I am incredibly angry about this data breach and we will institute a thorough review of our relationship with Experian, but right now my top concern and first focus is assisting any and all consumers affected. I take our customer and prospective customer privacy VERY seriously. This is no small issue for us. I do want to assure our customers that neither T-Mobile’s systems nor network were part of this intrusion and this did not involve any payment card numbers or bank account information.

    Experian has assured us that they have taken aggressive steps to improve the protection of their system and of our data.

    Anyone concerned that they may have been impacted by Experian’s data breach can sign up for two years of FREE credit monitoring and identity resolution services at www.protectmyID.com/securityincident. Additionally, Experian issued a press release that you can read here, and you can view their Q&A at Experian.com/T-MobileFacts.

    T-Mobile’s team is also here and ready to help you in any way we can. We have posted our own Q&A here to keep you as informed as possible throughout this issue.

    At T-Mobile, privacy and security is of utmost importance, so I will stay very close to this issue and I will do everything possible to continue to earn your trust every day.

    John Legere

    This isn’t the right response for everyone, but it was the perfect reinforcement of the image T-Mobile has been trying to present and as a result it came across as 100% genuine. There’s bound to be some negative press in any situation of this kind, but as long as T-Mobile continues on the course it’s set we wouldn’t expect any significant impact.

    Too often the entire tone of an organization changes when it comes time for crisis management. Although things do need to become a bit more serious, completely moving away from what your stakeholders have come to expect is not inspiring confidence by any means. Remember the expectations you’ve set, remember the relationships you’ve forged, and respect that in your crisis communications.

    For more resources, see the Free Management Library topic: Crisis Management

    [Jonathan Bernstein is president of Bernstein Crisis Management, Inc., an international crisis management consultancy, author of Manager’s Guide to Crisis Management and Keeping the Wolves at Bay – Media Training. Erik Bernstein is vice president for the firm, and also editor of its newsletter, Crisis Manager]

    – See more at: https://management.org/blogs/crisis-management/2015/09/24/infographic-the-impact-of-food-recalls/#sthash.1j9zurV8.dpuf