Most of your ... are not ... sort of people. They ... that problems crop up and mistakes do happen. I don't know about you, but I know that I am a MUCH more ... customer
Most of your customers are not unreasonable sort of people. They understand that problems crop up and mistakes do happen. I don't know about you, but I know that I am a MUCH more reasonable customer when the company I am purchasing services or products from promptly communicates any problems that arise.
The web is all about communication, so you would assume that any company that makes web hosting its primary business should really understand this and put measures into place that allows for the most reliable and uninterrupted communication with their customers. We talked about this a bit in our last article and promised to give you some tips about methods we have implemented to increase our ability to communicate with our customers during emergencies.
Let's face it, there isn't a web host out there who hasn't experienced times where the server that their company web site is on has gone down. Sometimes only for a few minutes, but sometimes those minutes can turn into hours - or even days if a major piece of hardware has gone belly up on you. And in most cases, you don't dedicate an entire server to your domain - you have customers who also share that server. Customers who now are not only unable to gain access to THEIR domain, but can not reach yours either. They are effectively cut off from electronic communication with you. So what do they do? How can they find out what is going on with their web site, and more importantly, when it will be back online?
Some hosts, like AlphaOne Technology, have emergency support available by telephone. In that case, (if they can remember the phone number since they can not access your website to find the number), they begin calling. And calling. And calling. Usually there are over 100-200 customers hosted on a single server. Do you or your staff really have the time to be fielding that many phone calls when you are in the middle of a crisis and need to devote your time to fixing the problem and getting the server operational? Probably not. Nor do your customers want to spend time on hold or dealing with busy signals. Every minute on hold, or every call that results in a busy signal, leaves a bad impression with that customer. They want to know WHY they are down and they want to know NOW.
If you are large enough to have multiple incoming lines & an automated voice mail system, a simple solution is to immediately record a server status alert, along with an honest assessment of what has happened and, if you know it, an estimated time that the server will be operational again. This will allow customers calling about their site being down to get the information they need without having to talk to a live technician. The customer is happy to be informed, (even if they are VERY unhappy about having their site down), and you have saved yourself time and money and can focus on the important problem at hand.
In your recorded status alert, let the customer know how often the status will be updated. We recommend that if a server is down longer than 90 minutes, updated information should be made available every 30-45 minutes.
If you are a smaller host with only one incoming line, you probably don't have enough customers that busy signals will become a major irritant, but keep the message very short and to the point.
By now many of you are saying "what about those of us who don't HAVE a tech support number to call?" Good question since a recent survey shows that over 75% of web hosting companies do NOT publish a tech support number. Fear not, there are a couple of other ways that we will discuss in upcoming articles. Our next article will talk about using Voice Over IP service and Instant Messaging.
This article may freely be reprinted on your web site or BLOG as long as all links and author information are not altered or disabled.
Toby Wolf was one of the online pioneers, beginning consulting in 1990 & has done work for companies like Dell, AOL, SBC & Amoco. Toby is the founder of AlphaOne Technology, & has designed, managed, or provided search engine optimization for over 200 web sites since 1997. E-Mail Toby