From internal IT to big-brand tech services, outages and service failures happen on a daily basis, and always at the wrong moment for some. The key to keeping those colleagues or customers happy is to operate highly visible support and crisis management services that keep people informed without then needing to dig for information or clog up vital phone lines.
Across the world, not a day goes by when some big service goes down. Perhaps one that affects us all like Gmail or Netflix, or your mobile service or a critical business cloud tool. You can use a site like DownDetector to see recent examples, and the spikes caused in traffic when people aren’t happy.
You might also think this won’t happen to your company, but as digital products and services become more reliant on technology, the chance of a major failure grows. Be it something as simple as a power failure somewhere on a network, upgrade issues, or the increasing risk of major problems with fire, flood or hacking.
Preparing for a disaster or a backlash
One thing that is clear after any outage is that the business should have made what was happening clearer. Microsoft Office 365’s recent outage was promptly dealt with, but for millions of workers, Twitter was the only way to find out what was going on – it looks like common users don’t have privileges to view the actual status page. Deploying a bot on the front end that could field the simple questions would have been one way to solve the problem.
Somewhat further down the scale of business importance, but still a sorry example is the popular online game Fortnite. A recently-disabled in-game item called a Bandage Bazooka that all players (in the 10s of millions) needed to complete certain tasks.
The developers, Epic, tweeted and blogged about all the cool new features in the recent updates, but did not make a single comment about the one thing that was annoying millions of players since it was taken out of the game. Here’s the Google search spike and the company’s Twitter remains flooded with increasingly irate requests.
The game wasn’t the issue, the company’s response was. Their social media literate audience was getting frustrated and some intense digging in the mire of comments required people to find one tweet with a possible solution. “The bandage bazooka issue is confirmed to be resolved and re-enabled with the next #Fortnite patch (Likely v11.20). This is confirmed on the Fortnite issues Trello board.”
Who would have thought (or even know of the existence of or even have access to a Trello board for a game?) A chatbot on the game’s front page or website would have been easy ways to mitigate growing frustration.
Doing problem resolution well
Showing slightly more mature response to a bigger issue, Sky Broadband recently went down for several million UK customers, leading to many press articles and general angst on social media.
The issue was solved quickly, with timely response found on Sky’s community service and community pages with links from social media, with minuted updates and a regular stream of information. But hours after the resolution, the stories about the outage were still higher profile than the fix.
Those recent customers and those not on social media or familiar with status or forum pages would not know where to look. Also, Sky had scrapped its live chat service, so there was no obvious help on the home page, beyond the general support links. One chatbot could have replaced the live chat and saved the company a barrage of queries.
Finally, there are the outages that get resolved but you never hear about the root cause until way later. Is almost a year too long to find out what went wrong, especially if you rely on a company’s tech or infrastructure?
How would your business cope?
Looking at these examples and the history of outages, it is clear that some businesses could do a lot more, and others (especially consumer-facing businesses) tend to think in a herd. This creates an opportunity for differentiation with your business. Planning for what you need to do when something goes wrong needs to start on day one, with the plan covering everything from a total failure to feature issues, downtime lack of service, bugs and external factors.
Building the bot from day one that supports the product or service will get people going to it first, rather than moaning about it on social media. And when the bot delivers useful information in the event of a problem, users will be less likely to fly off the handle when they see something is being done, and their questions are being answered.
Beyond bots, it is always useful to have a blog post diagnosing any issue, what went wrong and how you fixed it. These demonstrate openness and it never hurts to say sorry.
Chatbots are easy and quick to deploy, low-cost and always there when there’s trouble with your business. It can take minutes to add in some answers and details about a current issue and that will help deflect a lot of the angst or anger people feel when they can’t get an answer.
Interaction with the bot is better than a blanket message on a status page, and infinitely better than a company that won’t respond to a flurry of tweets or emails, or simply can’t due to the deluge.
Any pragmatic business should learn to mitigate these issues long before they happen. A chatbot is one of the most effective ways to deal with it, alongside a functioning and accessible status board, plus a willing attitude to talk about a problem and not ignore customers until it is fixed.
Those all-too-common complaints about train or plane delays when no one ever gets told anything are even worse in a digital environment when it is easy to share information. Every company should be aware of that, and consider how they would feel if they were a customer.
Chris Knight writes about where technology will take us next, from the power of neural networks, artificial intelligence and chatbots, to the endless worlds promised by augmented and virtual reality. From the latest in gadgets and hardware to how digital businesses can use technology to grow, Chris makes the future clear and understandable to all.