Systems Offline: A Tale of Two Customers

How do you keep your hard won online leaners/customers happy when you take a system down to make back end improvements?

You can take a cue from the world of business about what works and what doesn’t.

Outsourced complaint lines and troubleshooting trees will calm frayed nerves if they are handled appropriately without huge phone wait times. Tiered support systems with a “we’ll get back to you in two business days” message will increase blood pressure.

No matter what system you employ, how you handle planned outages will make a difference to learner perceptions of whether or not you are listening to them; and can make a huge difference in retention and satisfaction rates.

Let’s take two recent examples of how to deal with outages done with the same goal: Improving customer experience but each producing dramatically different results.

One involves a very big bank with a net banking system and mobile app for its retail customers; the other is a giant Telco, which controls a huge part of the local market.  Both, you would think, would have this kind of automated customer system update down pat.

But that’s not the case.

The bank is often making its improvements to its online system during off-peak hours, which for the majority of its customers works.  A few days before that service is taken off line, an email is sent to its customers who use the online service, warning them that the system will be offline specifying date and time. The message is a large splash screen that you can’t avoid when logging on to net banking.

So, the customer is given fair warning.

In the second instance, the Telco was making improvements to its internet service to home customers. But at the user end of the experience, modems were not connecting to the net.  This resulted in a large volume of calls to the tech support line from customers wanting to know why their modem LED’s said they were connecting but no internet was Callers to the tech support line were getting the infuriating message that started: “Due to long wait times and a high volume of calls…”.

Want to anger a customer quickly? Here was an object lesson.

It turns out that the Telco was actually improving the speed of its internet service and the system was taken offline for a 24-hour period in a local area.  But the beleaguered outsourced Tier 1 support staff were not told of this local outage and did their job:  They used a logical trouble shooting tree to try and solve the problem, which just exacerbated the customer frustration when it didn’t work.

Why didn’t the mother ship tell the outsourced satellite customer team of this improvement to its services?  And why didn’t they have an automated customer information email system set up? And think of all the time that was wasted escalating the supposed “technical issue” to a Tier 2 support level in the home country two days later.

You wonder why stock values go down with response times.

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