For most businesses, a major system outage can cause a huge drain on their bottom line. Aside from safety concerns, outages mean lost customers, lost productivity, and lost time, which all lead to lower revenue. Meanwhile, IT companies have their own way of dealing with power outages in the workplace. They invest in UPS systems for server rooms to ensure an uninterruptible power supply.
But for companies focused on selling essential products and services, unplanned outages pave the way for calls from frustrated customers. In this article, we’ll talk about appropriate communications strategies during system outages and how to handle frustrated customers.
How outage communications affect customer satisfaction
For most businesses, the best outage communications strategy is vital for long-term customer satisfaction. Many customers expect a proactive response during an unplanned outage. For utility companies, customers are more likely to respond to outage communication compared with other types of utility announcements.
Companies that send outage alerts to their customers during an outage are more likely to experience higher satisfaction rates than those that do not send any information at all. Proactive communications, delivered primarily through digital platforms, such as social media post, email, or text message, generates a dramatic positive impact on customer satisfaction.
Power outages are part of doing business. The more dedicated you are in clearly conveying information about the leading cause, utility repair, and anticipated period of the interruption, the more satisfied your customers will be with your overall service.
Best practices in outage communication
Crafting business updates during weather disasters or any major incident can be nerve-wracking for your communications team. They’re working under pressure, equipped with limited information, and communicating to justifiably upset customers.
This is why any business owner needs to prepare for future surprises: you have to plan for possible disruptions to your operations and create a sample status update for each situation.
Make sure to create multiple versions of each update to match the type of digital channel you plan to use. A great tip is to combine all digital channels, such as your official website, email, Facebook, and Twitter. When drafting a status update for an unplanned power outage, a few factors must be considered.
Acknowledge the problem
First, it’s important to acknowledge the problem. If the outage affects a large number of customers, make sure the message gets out immediately before customers start to speculate. A simple update on how you’re handling the situation significantly boosts customers’ confidence even if a major problem is occurring.
Practice emphatic communication
Empathy is an important skill in business communications. During adverse situations, your employees should learn to emphasize with affected customers. This means you have to show genuine understanding for customers who are heavily influenced by the outage. Avoid using cliches, such as “we’re sorry for the inconvenience”; instead, be transparent and specific.
Define the extent of the issue and customer impact
Although it’s difficult to determine the scope of a power outage, it’s crucial to define which customers are affected and the extent of the problem. This way, it’s easy for customers to understand the issue and how they will respond to it.
At the same time, it’s crucial to describe the issue in detail instead of explaining the internal cause. In other words, you have to focus on the customer impact. So instead of saying, “The payment gateway isn’t working,” you can say, “Customers won’t be able to complete transactions.”
If you have a backup plan or an alternative available, make these known. But make sure to regularly check in with your backup options to make sure they work. Inform customers to take advantage of these alternatives until things return to normal.
Even if a third-party system causes the problem, take responsibility for the customers’ experience. But it’s important to give them the entire context by mentioning the third party. This will serve as helpful information to help customers understand what happened and how it will affect them.
Send regular follow-ups
Give customers peace of mind by sending regular updates until the system restores. Consistently updating affected customers will let them know you’re currently working on the problem and they’re not forgotten. More importantly, don’t make false promises because it can backfire on your business.
Unexpected outages are stressful both for the employees and patrons of your business. While you have no control over it, there are a few steps you can take to minimize the impact. The steps above are some well-thought-out strategies to help you handle outages easier. At the end of the day, customers appreciate businesses that know how to communicate effectively even if the issue itself can’t be easily fixed.