What Could Have Prevented the Super Bowl Blackout Backlash?
Author: Kristin Amico
As a utility company, when 13,000 lights go out all at once, you hope it goes unnoticed. Unfortunately, when it happens during the Super Bowl you’re out of luck. For 34 minutes in the NFL title game, the Superdome was plunged into darkness, and the Ravens, 49ers, officials and millions of fans around the world were engulfed in confusion.
CBS sideline reporter Steve Tasker diagnosed the issue as a “click of the lights.” CBS NFL Today anchor James Brown attributed it to a power surge. Neither was completely correct but that is hardly their fault.
The Superdome probably wished it had been able to attach its electric supply to Twitter, which lit up with enough activity to power four Super Bowls. 231,500 tweets were sent every minute of the delay, not one of them describing what was going on.
After the game, Entergy, the electricity supplier, and SMG, the company that manages the Superdome, explained that a piece of equipment designed to monitor electrical load sensed an abnormality in the system. The sensing equipment operated as designed and opened a breaker that partially cut the power being supplied to the Superdome.
There is still no clear description of what caused the outage. What is clear is that in moments of crisis, service providers need an effective communication strategy and tools that enable direct access to the network, each other and the public. As service providers, there will be many times when issues occur with your service that are outside of your control or not caused as a result of something your company did. What separates great service companies from the rest is how you react in these situations. It is critical to provide support to customers and mitigate mistakes within moments of any disaster, whether that’s a power outage that disrupts a football game, or one caused by a natural disaster.
With more immediate guidance from the electricity company or on site communication, TV announcers would have been able to give audiences a more detailed description of the situation. If anything more than two Facebook posts and a tweet from Entergy were communicated, the online onslaught directed at SMG, the Superdome, and themselves, could have been kept at bay.
Customers understand that complications arise, but they also expect to be informed and supported when they do. That way, when 13,000 lights go out all at once, they aren’t afraid of the dark.
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