Your IT team is great at many things, but crafting a timely ‘server down’ notice in lieu of the default error message just isn’t in their wheelhouse. Nor is it something they should be wasting their time on when they could be working on resolving the actual technical issue! But your customers deserve some notification of what’s going on, and you want that notification to promote you at the same time it informs them.
Every provider experiences application downtime. For most SaaS applications, this represents less than 1% of the total time the product is live.
However, if part of that 1% occurs when your end users desperately need to access your tool or risk missing opportunities and/or risk failing to meet deadlines, it just became the biggest, ugliest fraction of a percent you’ve ever seen.
In the mind of the customer, it’s now your company’s fault that they missed those opportunities and those deadlines. You need to change that perception, which we’ll call Server Down Denunciation—and let’s face it: a standard error message isn’t going to do that for you.
From Error Message to Reliability Reminder
Each interaction your end users have with your company (including using your product, or being unable to use your product) is another opportunity for them to shape their opinion about you – the opinion that drives their satisfaction level, that makes its way into their conversations with peers over lunch and email and social media, and that ultimately leads to them, in Net Promoter Score (NPS) terms, being a Promoter or a Detractor of your business.
When you provide customers with access to an application status page with real-time, dashboard-style reports that tells them the current status of your application, with a friendly and helpful reminder of all the ongoing time that your product hasn’t been a source of Server Down Denunciation, you invite them to remember more than just their current frustrations and mitigate their slipping to Detractor status.
An error message is the equivalent of no one answering the phones in customer service—it leaves your customers feeling even more frustrated and abandoned, their questions unanswered. Your customers want answers and they want them from someone they know, they trust and they like. Oh also, they want them NOW!!!
Turning Server Down Denunciation into a Conversation about Confidence
Ok so what’s so magical about an application status page?
Well for starters, an application status page is more than a cute puppy image! A professional application status page will note historical downtime, anticipated downtime (e.g. for scheduled maintenance or disaster recovery testing), and provide opportunities for other messaging to remind your customers of all the great things your product, your company and its staff have done for them! More sophisticated application status tools will also push alerts and updates to subscribing end users, so they can find out the minute you’re back online. It goes without saying that these tools integrate fully with an application monitoring system, like New Relic or Pingdom.
This transparent, prompt communication goes a long way in smoothing things over with customers. It shows them that they can trust you to admit when there’s a problem and get them back up and running as quickly as possible, taking much of the bite away from Server Down Denunciation.
You can’t deliver on a promise that your product will never go down (even the wizards at Google have been known to have major service outages on their products). However, what you can promise is that you will provide a means of prompt communication with your customers when it does happen (in instances like the Target credit card data breach, customers were just as mad about the communications issues as they were about the data breach itself).
Let your prompt, transparent communication to your end users be a positive differentiator for your company, without being an additional burden on your IT and/or Customer Service teams. Show your customers they deserve more than an error message and they’ll show you more than Server Down Denunciation!
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