Netflix and VMWare on Crisis Management

This is a continuation of our series on how companies use corporate blogs to deal with crises. You may have read my earlier posts on the top 5 Corporate Blog apologies, which included Apple and Google. Adam Engst from Mac News sites, picks up on the meme:

As a writer, I’m struck by how Apple’s statements seem to dance around the matter, and as a parent, I’m reminded instantly of that oft-repeated phrase to misbehaving children told to apologize to another, “Say it so he can hear you, and say it like you mean it.” It may be instructive to compare with several other high-profile outages of late.

Since that happened, there have been two more instances of companies using corporate blogs to deal with crises involving outage and or disruption of their service:

1. The Netflix Outage of 2008

Netflix suffered a shipping and distribution outage that affected nearly 9 million users (including me). Since the outage struck, their community blog (started by my good friend Michael Rubin when he worked there), had nearly 6 blog posts that gave a status update ending with this post last week.

It’s been a long and challenging week, but it ends on a positive note. Today we shipped from all 55 Netflix distribution centers across the U.S. More than three million DVDs went into the mail, including roughly 95 percent of orders backlogged from Tuesday through Thursday. And the balance of backlogged orders will mail on Saturday.

Importantly, all of us at Netflix want to offer special thanks to the scores of members who called, emailed and posted words of support at a tough and humbling moment for our company. Apologies to all once again and thanks for hanging in there with us.

This is a text-book case example of how a company can use a corporate blog to address user concerns and keep them updated on the latest status of a crippling outage. Plus, what’s great is that the posts came from Netflix’s head of operations Andy Rendich.

2. The VMWare disruption of 2008

VMWare’s CEO blogs about a serious bug that had been a hot topic on forums the day before. The blog post from CEO Paul Maritz, described the problem:

The issue was caused by a piece of code that was mistakenly left enabled for the final release of Update 2.  This piece of code was left over from the pre-release versions of Update 2 and was designed to ensure that customers are running on the supported generally available version of Update 2.

the solution

In remedying the situation, we’ve already released an express patch for those customers that have installed/upgraded to ESX or ESXi 3.5 Update 2.  Within the next 24 hours, we also expect to issue a full replacement for Update 2, which should be used by customers who want to perform fresh installs of ESX or ESXi.

what went wrong

We failed in two areas: not disabling the code in the final release of Update 2 and not catching it in our quality assurance process.

and, of course – the apology. Read the other Top 5 Corporate Blog apologies here, including examples from Facebook, Apple, and Google.

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