Transparency and Humility: The Key to Crisis Management and Customer Satisfaction
You are not in the software business if your company has not gone through a product downtime, slowness, or other customer experience issue. Cloud-shmoud. Software-based solutions will always crash or slow down. It is inevitable. It is the nature of software.
There are two ways of conducting crisis management and handling extreme customer dissatisfaction due to product failure:
Opacity and Arrogance
Turn off the lights while your dev team works on solving the problem. When the issue is fixed, turn the lights back on and downplay what happened. Avoid propagating the news about the issue, especially on the social channels. Avoid engaging complaints on social channels to minimize propagation. In other words, hide your head in the sand, and keep the customer guessing while your development team solves the problem. Send out a series of updates that don’t say much and avoid answering the phones for a while. Don’t acknowledge that you screwed up. Don’t show weakness and don’t be sympathetic to your customers’ pain. My cable company is exceptionally good at this.
Transparency and Humility
Confront the issue head on. Acknowledge it publicly through all your marketing and support communication channels. Explain it, and explain it often. Update the world frequently on our progress in solving the issue. Acknowledge your mistakes and own up to them. Be empathetic to your customers’ pain and acknowledge that pain. Be sorry and show it. But never promise that it won’t happen again.
Last week, one of our portfolio companies went through a tough day. Instructure had to make changes to its infrastructure in anticipation of increasing loads on its servers corresponding with the start of semesters across its education institution customers. Those changes caused page load and downtime issues throughout that day.
It didn’t take long for Instructure to acknowledge the issue on its support page, and it didn’t take long for its CEO Josh Coates to publicly acknowledge the issue with transparency and humility (posted on Instructure’s blog as well as via Twitter and Facebook).
A good lesson in software crisis management.