The right way to handle a website outage

Your phone is ringing. It’s 3am, and it’s your boss. Your company website is down, and you have a bunch of ticked off customers. What should you do?

If your answer is anything but “follow your website downtime plan,” you may be in trouble.

As we stated in our article covering ‘5 things to do when your website goes down,’ despite your best efforts, all technology, whether it is a website or a server, will experience downtime or performance problems. By having a plan in place, you can react quickly and efficiently to return to delivering your users the best possible experience.

But we failed to mention a 6th thing you should do during a website downtime event – reach out to your users!

A tale of reaching out to customers during website downtime

The weekend of Black Friday and Cyber Monday is often considered one of the biggest shopping times of the year – both online and offline. In the eyes of many website administrators, marketing, sales, and operations teams the events of this weekend can be incredibly stressful.

With expectations as high as the website traffic numbers, it isn’t surprising that many businesses struggled on Black Friday/Cyber Monday 2014.

ThinkGeek, a purveyor of many great geeky gadgets, and goods, was one of these struggling websites. They had a 98.7% uptime over 4 day period, with 1.21 total hours lost to website downtime. (72.6 minutes) While that might not seem like much time, any amount of downtime can lead to a loss in revenue, and a loss in consumer confidence.

How did ThinkGeek handle their downtime?

But ThinkGeek did something different. They openly (and humorously) communicated with their users, letting them know that they were aware of the downtime and showing understanding and compassion towards those who were frustrated.


In fact, they sent out an apology to their users via email with a coupon to their store. That small token of compassion says volumes to their users! (And could potentially lead to more future sales)


Website downtime is as much a technical issue as a PR issue

How you respond to a website crisis is a two front battle: technical, and social. If you don’t take the social aspects into account, you may find yourself in a deeper hole.

Our advice is to put your best foot forward, and keep your user experience in mind when coming up with an emergency plan for a website downtime event. You’ll find that your users will be appreciative, and much more understanding.

How do you reach out to your customers during website downtime?

Share your techniques with us, by tweeting @UptrendsMonitor!

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