8 steps for getting through a tech fail

27th February, 2017

Tech failures are one of life’s unavoidable obstacles, but what do you do when that tech failure affects your customers?

At some point your business will suffer a glitch which will affect the delivery of your product or service to you customers.

Here are eight golden rules for getting through the glitch with reputation intact.

1. Put yourself in your customers’ shoes

The starting point for responding to any tech crisis affecting delivery of service should be to put yourself in your customers’ shoes.

The first thought shouldn’t be ‘how do we get through this?’, but rather ‘how do we help our customers get through this?’.

All actions should be taken with this mindset.

2. Identify which communication channels you have

If your website is down, putting a note on your website probably isn’t going to be the best use of your time.

Instead, identify which channels you’re able to communicate with customers on.

Are you active on social media? Post about the outage and related information.

Or email your clients to let them know what’s happened.

Don’t just hope people won’t notice the outage.

3. Be genuinely remorseful

Be sorry that you’ve inconvenienced your customers; not that the tech headache has created a PR headache for you.

The worst corporate apologies are laced with insincerity, but if you show you are working hard towards a solution you have a better chance of creating a customer empathy – which flows in both directions.

4. Be upfront and specific

People value honesty and open communication with businesses. Gone are the days where you can be a faceless corporate entity.

Be as specific as possible on what the problem is and how long you expect it will last.

If you honestly don’t know how long the outage will be for, tell people that. Don’t just say ‘soon’.

If you leave a vacuum of information, people will fill it with the frustrations and worries which have entered their mind – and may get the impression that the problem is worse than it is.

5. Update often

Try to set an update schedule, every hour.

If things happen within that hour, update as soon as you know. If not, then push out an update saying that you’re tremendously sorry but you’re still not sure when the issue will be resolved.

Three messages of ‘no update’ in three hours is infinitely better than three hours of silence.

Again, it’s about filling the information vacuum instead of having your customers do so.

6. Move abusive people off-channel and onto phones

You’re going to get frustrated customers, and a few of them may be snarky or rude.

If they’re leaving feedback on a ‘public’ channel such as Facebook however, message them and ask them whether they’d like to have a chat on the phone.

If they try to vent on Facebook their messages will be there for all to see, but if they’re venting over the phone it’s hidden from public view.

It’s a tricky balancing act though – a snarky message may contain a pertinent question others want answered.

If it does, answer that question on platform and then seek to gather additional feedback from the poster over the phone.

7. How are your terms of service?

Terms of Service may have specific provisions against being liable for damages in the event of a technical difficulty.

If this is the case for you, you’re legally pretty square as users have accepted these before using the service.

Bring up this point as gently as possible with aggrieved users.

8. Offer reparations anyhow

Your Terms of Service may indicate that you’re not liable for damages, but if the damages are limited and the customer has a bona fide claim, you should consider paying them back anyhow.

If you make clear that your terms of service indicate you don’t have to pay them back for any damage incurred but you’re electing to do so anyhow, you can go a little bit towards getting back some customer satisfaction.

It demonstrates that you’re on the customers’ side, not on the side of minimising the damage to your business.

You can even try to turn it into a positive. When Vodafone had days of data outages in 2014, it moved to offer a data-free weekend to make up for it.

Did it solve the brand damage? No, but it did at least help regain some goodwill eroded by the initial tech fail.