The Only Thing Worse Than Yahoo’s Latest Email Problem Is Its PR Response

Yahoo's Marissa Mayer (Image: Associated Press)

After Marissa Mayer was named Yahoo CEO in July 2012, the perception of the Internet giant suddenly changed. No longer was Yahoo looked upon as technology relic from the 1990s, unable to keep up with the pace of change. Putting Mayer—a female developer with experience creating new online products—in the top job in a male-dominated industry was brilliant public relations. But, a year and a half later, the pixie dust around Yahoo is fading fast.

The company’s most recent PR debacle involves consistent problems with of one of its mainstays—Yahoo Mail.

Starting around November 25, users began experiencing outages on Yahoo Mail, which used to be the most used in the world. The service, which was redesigned in October to the vexation of many users, was not allowing users to log in, send or receive mail. As of today, the mail client is still not functioning properly.

Perhaps worse than the performance of its mail service, though, was Yahoo’s response to the furor over the redesign and, more recently, the widespread outages.

On November 8, Yahoo senior VP of communications products, Jeff Bonforte, addressed the company’s weekly FYI meeting regarding complaints about the redesign of its email program.

According to reports, Bonforte admitted that many customer were upset with the redesigned product, but he jokingly went on to say that Yahoo would need to “kick the users hard” in a certain body part to get them to ditch Yahoo Mail.

Toss in a leaked internal email later that same month from Bonforte and CIO Randy Roumillat, explaining that only 25 percent of Yahoo’s own employees used the service for their corporate email, and you have the makings of bona fide PR problem.

On Monday, nearly three weeks after the first users reported outages, Yahoo finally took to Twitter to address the email problems. Yesterday, Bonforte released a statement on the outages, explaining that the problem has been “harder to fix than we originally expected.”

In the digital age, a 15-minute email outage is too long for most users. A 15-plus-day outage, without so much as a tweet to address the problem, is out of the question if a company like Yahoo plans to keep its users happy and customers in tow. Calling the PR doctor.

Follow Brian Greene: @bwilliamgreene