All technology-based services (cloud software, online games, cell phones) suffer unplanned outages from time to time. While there are always plans in place to avoid such issues, when it happens, you want to make sure your brand-to-customer conversations continue to shine.
When catastrophe happens, your blog and social media accounts are great at pushing out status updates to your followers, but a community can play an important part of your outage management strategy too. Here are just a few of ways a community can help you and your company out:
1- Let customers compare notes on service availability Your community will be able to provide confirmation to a customer that they are not alone. It can be calming to affected users to know they are not alone (and therefore know that the problem is being worked on with great urgency). It's also easier to chat with other customers suffering the same fate than polluting one's personal social media stream about a service their friends might not use.
2- Deflect the influx of support tickets. A community allows users to share steps they tried to fix the issue, and even share if they had already contacted support. If the outage happens when you are sleeping, your community and it's members are up, supporting one another. A community can also help alleviate the burden to your support. Many times one person or a few people become "community representatives" going to support for answers. It is very common in this scenario that they will share the information of a call to your customer service or an email that they have received with others. This should reduce the calls/emails into your support team.
3- Your team can also jump into the community and respond to many people at once about the issue. If your team is aware of the issue, they can add a message or a sticky to the forum. It also makes it easy to support those applying a fix, and those wanting to talk about others' problems. Social networks can become a jumbled mess in these situations making it hard for your staff to help out the right people on the right issue; or worse yet, miss someone who needs help. Also by having control over the platform settings, you are not restricted by character or file restrictions. For example, if you need to post complex instructions that require more than 140 characters or need downloads or multiple images, your community is much more flexible.
4- There's a silver lining. It's a chance to get staff and customers bonding with each other. As users share from your community, it increases membership/reach to users who will now "discover" your community. With this membership information you can reach out to them personally with an email or with a rebate for the inconvenience in serious situations. Their positive experience with you and your company in a bad situation can actually turn them into brand ambassadors.
Quick thing to note: When making the community a part of your outage contingency plan, it only works if your community is up when your service is down. Make sure it's a hosted service or running on a server that won't be impacted when your product or service is down. In short, a community can be a great channel for support and if you don't have one yet, it's definitely something to consider before some bad things happen.
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