Outages happen, whether you want them to or not. And during the stress of an outage, it’s hard to remember that your customers are often in a worse situation. They’re also impacted by the outage, but they have less idea on what on going on.

They’ve also got their own customers asking them for answers. They’re going to want to blame someone, and that someone will probably be you.

That’s why an outage communication strategy is vital. By reducing your customer’s stress and keeping them in the loop, you’ll be preserving your customer relationships in the long term. A little bit of well placed communication can go a long, long way.

Use multiple channels of communication

Email, voicemail, text message and social media. The more channels you alert your customers by, the more chance everyone will get the message.

Have a Status Page

Link to your status page prominently in places like your contact us page, your social media accounts, help documentation, and your initial reach-out.

Document Everything

Not only does this help you once everything is done and you want to see how the incident was handled, written communication is generally higher in quality than spoken communication. They have time to organize their thoughts and reference things people have said earlier in the conversation.

There is also no chance of mishearing someone and sending out the wrong information to your customers.

Don’t Share Everything

Your customers don’t need to know the exact details of how Bob was leaning against the servers and spilled coffee into it. Stick to the information they care about. How severe is the outage? What’s the estimated length? What’s being done? Who is working on it? These are the things they will want to know.

Automate What You Can

If you have the resources, automate updates to your status page and create new outage messages when you receive updates from your technicians. Click the send button and your customers will receive updates almost immediate.

This will make them feel in the lop, increase satisfaction and reduce frustration. It’ll also take the pressure off your phone lines because angry customers won’t be ringing up as often to find out what’s going on.

Tips For Crafting Your Status Updates

  • Acknowledge the issue: Don’t tell them it’s all good when it’s clearly not. By  trying to gaslight their problems, you’ll agitate them further.
  • Empathize: Show you genuinely care about their frustrations and problems. Be specific and honest, don’t use cliches.
  • Be clear on the scope: This is good expectation management. Don’t tell them it’s a small issue when it’s a big one, and let them know if it’s in a specific geographic location or application specific.
  • Focus on customer impact: Don’t talk about the internal cause as much as the impact it’s having on your customers. E.g. “Customers are unable to update their details” instead of “Our server is down.”
  • Got a workaround? Share it: Any alternative options should be shared with your customers so they can work around the problem.
  • Take responsibility: Don’t blame third-party systems, take responsibility for the customer experience.
  • Don’t overpromise: Don’t promise it will be solved in five minutes if it’s not, as badly as you want to tell them things will be okay.
  • Follow up afterwards: Send an ‘all clear’ once the situation is resolved.

Posted by Adam Ipsen

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