Fiasco : Humiliating Failure – a total failure, especially a humiliating or ludicrous one
Realestate.com.au had a failure to “several of the email servers” and on Thursday they freed the stuck mail queues without any advice to agents which resulted in agencies around Australia being flooded with old email enquiries.
Because the enquiry emails give very little clue as to the date the buyer actually made the enquiry agents reported following up buyers as though they were fresh enquiries. Understandably buyers reactions ranged significantly. If REA had advised of the email problems immediately much of the embarrassment, humiliation and frustration encountered by agents could have been avoided.
Other than releasing the old email enquiries, not one initiative or announcement was undertaken by REA to advise agents of what had happened and to minimise the damage to agents.
Once the story was made public on this blog REA representatives then started to manage the problem in a reactive way. A notification was put in the account login area and an email was eventually sent to all agents. From reports by REA staff it appears that account representatives were not notified and made aware of the problem until it went public and they began taking calls.
Agents have reported up to 100 emails arriving on the first day and dates on lost emails reported by agents commenting on the original posts range from 6 weeks to 10 weeks ago. REA have advised that the error stems from an upgrade to the mail servers. It is unknown whether this was a hardware or software upgrade, or both.
Effectively the monitoring of the email servers seems to have wholly unsuccessful for a significant amount of time. REA advised on Friday that their Standard Operating Procedures have now been altered so this problem could not be repeated. The speed which these changes were instigated only seems to prove the ease that correct monitoring could have been installed in the first place.
Upgrades generally require heightened monitoring by IT staff immediately following the upgrade as this is often a time when problems occur. This also appears to have been unsuccessful.
Because the failure was not right across all email servers only a percentage of emails were affected. REA has not released what percentage this represents however their “Important Message” forwarded to all agents downplays the incident significantly advising that “and only a small number of customers have been impacted”. This appears to be anything but the case with reports that a significant number of agencies are affected right around Australia.
The emails lost also affected subscribers to the realholidays.com.au portal and whilst nobody has confirmed it is likely subscribers to realcommercial.com.au were also affected.
A number of agents have reported various communication issues to REA technical staff and REA sales staff all of which appears to have fallen on deaf ears. REA confirmed to me that one agent was even told by their technical staff that the problem lay with the clients own server. It was also reported that REA technical staff were blaming third parties for the email delivery problems.
The number of emails affected is not known and REA is unlikely to release this. With emails arriving Thursday and Friday, and REA advising in their email on Friday that emails will still arrive over the following 24 hours, the total number of emails appears to be significant. Several educated guesses have been made ranging from 1 million to 2 million emails. This numbers have not been countered by REA to date.
Reports of buyers openly abusing agents about their lack of professionalism have been reported.
The reports of lost opportunities to salespeople and agencies appears to be significant and the matter of compensation has been raised a number of times. An REA representative advised that compensation is a matter to be discussed with your account reps.