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Guidelines to help you communicate with your customers during service interruptions and outages
Service interruptions, product issues, and outages are inevitable situations that every customer support agent faces. While such times are considered to be tough times, they are great opportunities for support agents to make a positive impact on the customer.
More than the customer support agents, these are stressful times for the customers as they are the ones impacted by the situation. Customers are stressed because they didn’t see an outage coming, and they do not know what to do.
This is exactly when support agents can up their game by helping the customers with the right information at the right time. More importantly, be accessible across communication channels as much possible. The last thing a customer wants is to reach out to the support team during an outage and not get a response.
When you communicate to the customer during an outage, you need to keep in mind that you need to a) inform the customer of what exactly is happening and how will it impact them b) let them know that the issue is being taken seriously and is in the process of being fixed.
As much informing the customer and providing a resolution is important, it shouldn’t be a reactive measure. You don’t want your customers to be caught by surprise when the outage happens. Customer support teams need to be proactive in reaching out to the customer and updating them on the outage much before the customers discover it themselves.
Proactive communication needs to happen across primary support channels. For example, send out emails to key stakeholders and admins for each customer organization, push notifications on chat, etc.
When you reach out to customers to communicate about the outages, it is advisable to do it in a scalable way. For example, you can write down content for emailing your customers, and then condense it to a smaller version for notifying via chat, similarly for status updates and so on. Here are some key factors to remember while communicating to your customers.
It is important to communicate factually, especially when you know the impact of the outage on your customers. Take responsibility, even if you know that the outage is due to a third party. Your customer experience is your responsibility.
Show empathy in your communication and let them know what you genuinely understand. Avoid cliches such as “We regret the inconvenience caused” and keep it as specific as possible to the situation. Let them understand the exact impact on them and share what exactly is being fixed.
Let your customers know the scope of the outage, for example, if it’s limited to a specific feature of your product, or integration with a specific product or a geographic location, etc.
You can reduce the number of tickets or requests raised with respect to the outage, if you set clear expectations with clear ETAs about the resolution. Also, let them know if there are workarounds that they can use in the meantime. Keep the communication as simple as possible and according to the technical level of the customer.
While it is tempting to say “we should be up in 15 minutes”, it is more important to be credible. Do not promise an ETA unless your technical team confirms it. Proactively follow up once in a while, and let the customer know that the team is still working on it.
Next topic - Best practices for SaaS customer support
Are you a customer support ninja?
Prospects tend to have multiple touchpoints with your brand before they decide to become your customer. Each of these touchpoints are potential opportunities for you to build a relationship with the customer. Having a chat tool on your website, makes it easier for them to start a conversation with you than having to look for a contact email or phone number to connect with you.
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