Optus’ CEO, Kelly Bayer Rosmarin (pictured), has told a Senate inquiry looking into the telco’s major service outage that it would have been “unusual” for her, as the CEO, to be public-facing during the crisis.
Speaking to the Senate Environment and Communications References Committee, Bayer Rosmarin said that during the outage, she was focused on trying to rectify the issue in a series of crisis meetings. When Bayer Rosmarin woke up on the day of the outage, she rushed to the office realising that she had no mobile or internet service.
In those meetings, Bayer Rosmarin was joined by her legal team which apparently offered her no advice on the telco’s customer comms and did not advise the company to not admit fault.
The members of the committee took turns skewering Bayer Rosmarin over her company’s customer communications. The CEO told the committee that because none of its customers could receive updates via SMS or email, the firm prioritised speaking to the media.
South Australian Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young told Bayer Rosmarin that Optus’ comms was “pretty lousy” throughout the affair. New South Wales Senator Hollie Hughes, meanwhile, told Bayer Rosmarin that she should have been “on the phone” with 2GB’s Ben Fordham as soon as she learnt of the outage.
“Crisis comms 101 is being seen to be on the front foot”, added Hughes before telling Bayer Rosmarin that she should have admitted the business had not been able to identify the issue.
Bayer Rosmarin added that the company had a range of pre-approved statements that could be sent out and that its comms strategy was designed to empower the team, rather than wait for Bayer Rosmarin to approve or issue new comms.
She also added that the telco’s 24-hour media hotline had received around 20 calls between 4-6am before the firm issued its first statement at 6.33am. Bayer Rosmarin also added that the telco’s leadership team determined to speak to the media before issuing significant customer comms.
There is, however, a bit of a catch-22 with the entire affair. Optus was unable to communicate with its customers about the outage because of the outage.
Labor Senator Karen Grogan criticised Bayer Rosmarin’s comments before the committee, saying they lacked detail.
“I’m finding a lot of what you’re saying very, very fluffy”, she said.
“It’d be really nice to have some specifics.
“Because we could spend two hours sitting here not actually getting the details that we require”.
This is the second major crisis that Bayer Rosmarin has presided over in her three years at Optus. Last year, the telco suffered a major data breach in September.
Melissa Hopkins, Optus’ chief marketing officer, left the telco earlier this year and moved to Seven West Media. In August, she said that “No one had prepared for” the data breach.
During the outage, some Optus customers were unable to access 000. Bayer Rosmarin revealed that 228 Optus customers tried to contact the emergency services during the outage. The telco said that it performed welfare checks, as mandated by law, on those customers once its services resumed.
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