A reliable, user-friendly website is critical to many modern businesses. In fact, at 8.3 percent of GDP, the Internet contributes more to the UK economy than in any other G20 country. Nonetheless, to keep your website running as efficiently as possible, it's sometimes necessary to plan an outage that will allow you to upgrade content and add new features. So how do you do this without alienating your customers? Read more info below.
Affect as few of your customers as possible
It may seem obvious, but the best way to prevent customer complaints is to plan your outage in a way that affects as few of your website users as possible. As such, you should analyse the traffic coming to your site, so you can plan an outage that causes minimal disruption.
Website analytics can help you plan based on your customer demands. For example, it's sometimes better to take down a few pages at a time, so you can keep certain parts of the site working. Conversely, it's often less disruptive to take down the full site during a quieter period. Above all, don't make assumptions about the impact your outage will have. Use historic facts that show what your visitors actually do on the site to help you build a robust outage plan.
Warn your customers
A website outage will probably only annoy your customers if you don't give people enough advanced notice. When you invest time and money to attract people to your website, you have to maintain a constant dialogue, so your customers know what to expect.
Send an email to your customer database. Publish advance notifications on social media, and add an update to any relevant online forums. What's more, if your plans change, make sure you update the information you share with people. Bad communication can turn a slight inconvenience into a major customer complaint.
Make promises you can keep
Good planning and communication will mean nothing if you don't set realistic expectations. If you tell customers the outage will last an hour and the website is down for two days, a lot of your customers won't bother to come back when the development work is complete.
It's better to under-promise and over-deliver. For example, if you think the work will take three hours, advertise a four-hour window. When the outage finishes after three hours, you can delight customers with a shorter outage. If you promise three hours and the work lasts four, you face the opposite reaction.
Offer your customers alternatives
When your website isn't working, it's a good idea to offer customers alternative options. While this isn't always possible for online-only businesses, other organisations should consider temporary measures that can help customers get what they need.
For example, you could extend your contact centre opening hours. This change will give customers somebody to speak to when they need something in a hurry and cannot wait for the outage to finish. Don't forget to invest any extra resources you need. After all, there's no point extending the contact centre opening hours if you don't have enough available agents to meet customer demand.
Create a diversion
Diverting your customers' attention is sometimes a good way to soften an unwelcome blow. If your website users can appreciate the benefit they may get from the outage, your customers are less likely to complain about the downtime.
There are lots of ways to divert customer attention. For example, you can use the outage to launch a new product or a short-term discount. Similarly, talk to your customers about a specific problem that the outage will fix (page loading times in a critical part of the site or better features to help them view and choose your products). As long as customers can see what they can get out of any short-term inconvenience, they'll almost certainly wait patiently for the change to go through.
Planned outages are sometimes necessary to allow businesses to carry out maintenance and develop work on websites. Carefully consider the customer impact of your planned outage, and adapt your plans to make sure the work goes ahead with minimal customer disruption.
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