8 Customer Service Tips For Surviving An Outage


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foldershare-downtimeIf you work for a tech company, it’s never a matter of whether or not you will have an outage– it’s a matter of when.  Technology is awesome.  It enables us to do so much more than we could otherwise accomplish, but just like the human beings that build, maintain, support and use it, it fails from time to time.

In customer service we all know the dreaded feeling when either the call queue, or the chat queue, or both are suddenly inundated with customers.  That’s a surefire indicator that something is wrong and it’s impacting the bulk of your customers.  Here are some ways to survive and even thrive in customer service under these adverse circumstances:

  1. Keep Your Cool- Tensions run high when outages occur.  A contest will ensue between coworkers and customers to see who is more offended, inconvenienced and angered.  You will not think clearly if you are angry and frustrated.  While these are natural emotions, they must be kept in check.  These situations require clear, concise thinking.
  2. Turn Up The Empathy- Customers will tell you how the outage is ruining their business and how much it is costing them.  You have no visibility into their business to know whether it’s true or exaggerated, so assume it’s true.  Choose to listen, apologize and reassure wherever possible.  Everyone is in a rough spot and getting defensive can only cause further damage.
  3. Take Your Breaks- Everyone closely tied to the situation needs to get out of their chair and take their breaks.  We’re not looking for heroes, just awesome customer service representatives.  This situation can easily run you over, which is why it is all the more critical to take time to recharge your batteries.  Sending someone on a “comfort food” run is not a bad idea.
  4. Dial Up The Communication- There’s no better time to work as a team than during an outage.  Talk with your teammates about what you are observing and learning from customers.  You may learn of a workaround or perhaps a better way to communicate about the situation.  The sense of going through this together also has extreme power to pull the team closer together.
  5. Be Proactive And Transparent- The more proactive you can be in your communication with customers, the better.  To know that a friendly, concerned customer service professional is walking with them goes a long way to ease the pain.  Seek to be as candid with the customer as you can possibly be.  They don’t want to hear a bunch of corporate speak.  They want to have a genuine dialog with another human being.
  6. Listen to Customers- Your customers are the folks using your service.  Listen to them.  Listen to their feedback.  They will tell you what’s wrong.  If you work for good management and ownership, they will want to know what customers are saying too.
  7. Learn For Next Time- There is no better time to learn from the outage than immediately following.  Ask your customers and customer service team what worked and what didn’t work.  How can we handle customers and communicate better next time?  We have a multi-page document that is our plan to get through an outage in the most organized fashion.  We are constantly adding to and improving upon that plan.
  8. Say Thank You- When service is restored, take a moment to thank the engineers that restored it, the customer service representatives that supported it and the customers that endured.  Chances are they were under immense pressure and probably didn’t take their breaks.  Let them know you appreciate their work.

Being in the midst of an outage is never fun.  If you have never considered quitting your job in those moments, you may not be human.  In those moments, I choose to think of the people in my life that I love and who love me, and I remind myself that the sun will rise again tomorrow.  If you maintain that perspective and remember these eight points, you will get through just fine– maybe even better!

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Jeremy Watkin
Jeremy Watkin is the Director of Customer Support and CX at NumberBarn. He has more than 20 years of experience as a contact center professional leading highly engaged customer service teams. Jeremy is frequently recognized as a thought leader for his writing and speaking on a variety of topics including quality management, outsourcing, customer experience, contact center technology, and more. When not working he's spending quality time with his wife Alicia and their three boys, running with his dog, or dreaming of native trout rising for a size 16 elk hair caddis.


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