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Moving forward: Can Optus win public trust again?

Moving forward: Can Optus win public trust again?
Moving forward: Can Optus win public trust again?

A 13-hour-long blackout has left Optus customers in Australia furious, and the storm is not yet over. Even after the departure of its CEO, an apology and a compensation ‘gift’ much more needs to be done to restore public confidence. 

Kelly Bayer Rosmarin appeared before the Senate to account for the disaster. A week ago, she resigned as Optus CEO: “Having now had time for some personal reflection, I have decided that my resignation is in the best interest of Optus moving forward.”

The bigger question now is, how can Optus, or any business in a similar situation, make a comeback to restore public trust? 

ALSO READ: Optus CEO comes under scrutiny

Lessons from three companies 

It’s not the first time Optus has faced public humiliation for its inadequate performance (man-made or not). Exactly a year ago, it received negative publicity for a cyber-attack that left many customers red in the face. Optus now has to make public the findings as per court order.

Companies like Starbucks, Volkswagen, and Toyota have suffered similar public scrutiny and threats of mistrust. 


Toyota faced a series of recalls when the vehicle manufacturing company experienced problems with “unintended acceleration.” Millions of vehicles were recalled in 2010 while the company restructured its quality control processes.


In 2015, Volkswagen’s admission to cheating emissions tests plunged the entire car manufacturing industry in a bad light. It gradually managed to regain public trust by changing leaders and launching an investigation.


Nearly seven years ago, reports emerged of the Galaxy Note 7 smartphones catching fire. Samsung took decisive action, recalled the faulty phones, launched an investigation, and rectified the manufacturing processes. 

Experts weigh in on Optus’ future

Leadership communication trainer Michael Kelly thinks Bayer-Rosmarin’s first words of apology “rang hollow.” He reckons her “quick, breezy, speaking cadence with a jaded, flat, facial expression, matter of fact affect, and offhand vocal tone, were incongruent with her words of apology.”

However, business analyst John McCaw says it was a highly technical issue poorly explained. “No one expects the CEO to be able to give in-depth explanations of a cascading network failure. Or what impact a BGP [Border Gateway Protocol] misconfiguration could have, but they expect the head of Optus to know who to talk to.”

Then, some expected better communication and transparency from the top. Stephen Lukic is the director of payments at C Smart International, and he says regular updates to inform the public are imperative. “Optus would have done themselves and their customers great service by overcommunicating and providing regular updates.”

Lukic says she chose “self-preservation over meeting customer expectations.”

The jury is out on whether Optus will be able to recover from this scandal. Will they “do massive work to make good to existing customers,” as Lukic warns? Or risk losing customers to competitors and failing to attract new ones. 

About the author

Mia is a multi-award-winning journalist. She has more than 14 years of experience in mainstream media. She's covered many historic moments that happened in Africa and internationally. She has a strong focus on human interest stories, to bring her readers and viewers closer to the topics at hand.

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