You’re settling down for the evening – maybe to watch your favorite show or surf on your favorite website, but no luck. You receive notice that there’s a system outage and your patience is a bit short that night.
It’s helpful for companies to put themselves in this position so they understand customer frustration when providing support around an outage. Whatever your method of support: online, phone, or email, you have to be quick and proactive when communicating with your customers.
Here are some practical steps customer support can use to respond to an outage:
Don’t wait around for the problem to fix itself, hoping customers will not notice. They will notice! Get a message out immediately that you are aware of the issue and provide any information about what you are doing to address the problem. Don’t wait for customers to contact you!
Communicate through multiple channels
Not everyone is on Twitter. Although I often go there when there is a system outage for a vendor, other customers may not be Twitter users and using that as your only method of online support may annoy some. So do use Twitter and maybe a prerecorded message on your phone as well as a maintenance page your website. When you are proactive in communicating the problem with your customers through multiple channels, you also cut down on the number of requests sent to your support team.
Post where people hang out
There are other places where customers hang out to talk about you besides your company owned channels. DownDetector.com is one popular site with information about downtime and is one I’ve used several times for Netflix issues. Are there other sites where your customer base spends time?
Give an estimate
In most cases, you can’t say the problem will be fixed in exactly 3 hours, 17 minutes, and 42 seconds. But even so, people still want an estimate. Should they check back in an hour? In a day? Provide a rough idea of when people can expect full restoration of services.
If it takes longer, make sure you update people on that too. If you said it would be an hour, but realize it’s looking more like two hours, update that estimated time to two hours before that hour passes. And definitely, give yourself some wiggle room. Underpromise and overdeliver.
Provide relevant information
This isn’t the time to give pertinent details about every individual feature of your service. Instead, provide information that is relevant to the customer. Do you expect to be back up in an hour in the southeast, but expect a longer times for other areas of the country? Will only be part of the service being working again? Is it due to horrific weather conditions? Give the customer some information about the problem.
Ah… finally. The problem is solved and you are back online. But don’t stop there. Yes, you can thank customers for their patience, but how will you prevent this in the future? Of course, there are some things you can’t control, such as mother nature, but what are some pieces you can control? Let them know any internal changes that may be made as a result of this problem to prevent a reoccurrence. You want to keep those existing customers and open communication is a key part of doing that.