I'm Michael Suodenjoki - a software engineer living in Kgs. Lyngby, north of Copenhagen, Denmark. This is my personal site containing my blog, photos, articles and main interests.

Updated 2012.05.20 22:53 +0200


Best Practices in PR Information Level Management during maintenance or outage

Disclaimer: I'm not in an official PR position myself and I may not know the correct terms to use, but I hope you understand my blogpost anyway. That said, I would argue that we all are in a PR scenario ourselves. You have to deal with the information you're giving - to friends, family, colleagues, customers etc.

Imagine that you're offering some sort of service to your customers. All companies do this. Otherwise it wouldn't be a company ;-). When your service is discrupted either planned or unplanned, you (hopefully) would like to give information to your customers. Treating customers good is the best way that they stay as customers or comes back to you as a customer; aka. customer loyalty. It is much cheaper to keep current customers than trying to get new customers.

When you plan for a maintenance or an outage of some sort in your service you'll need to give information (in good time) to your customers. But what kind of information should you give for satisfying your customers? I've compiled the below best practices - just on top of my head. Someone in a real PR postion would hopefully be able to express these more specific and clear. Maybe with time I will update them for just that.

Best Practices for PR information statements during maintenance/outage:

  1. Give information in time - so that customers have time to react. Better sooner than later (proactively). Better later than never.
  2. Tell what the reason/cause is for the maintenance/outage. Do not just call it regular/exceptional maintenance. There is always a reason. If you do not know about the reason, then tell it and say you're investigating. Describe the reason/cause in laymans terms so that customers can understand the reason/cause of the maintenance. Customers are not studpid. If the cause of the outage is an human error, then say so and make an apology. It is human to failure. Everybody understands that.
  3. Tell your plans for what you're doing to solve (remedy the situation) during the maintenance/outage. If you're working on it - then tell it. Be specific - but not too specific (don't be technical. use general terms).
    Rationale: Customers knowing that you're working on it feel much more sure that you're dealing with the problem (so is your colleagues, boss and the rest of the company). Otherwise they may think you are ignoring the problem - or ignoring them.
  4. Tell when you have planned to do it. Plan your maintenance time/outage carefully (if you can). Choose a timeframe that limits the impact on customers. Describe contengigency plans and what customers can/should do to follow these.
  5. Give a planned ETA (estimated time of arrival) for when the maintenance/outage is fixed and systems are up-and-running again. Point out that ETA is an estimate. It may take shorter - it may take longer - but it is the best current estimate. If you have a hard time giving an ETA, then you'll have to state that you're working on it and will come back as soon as you know more. You can always give a new time for when you will give new information.
  6. Give customers a place in where they can get information about the maintenance/outage. This place is by itself a service so please keep the same rules for that place. I.e. do not ignore it and ensure to keep it up-to-date.
  7. Give information about how (where/when) customers can contact you if they have questions in relation to the maintenance/outage.
  8. Prefer no information over incorrect information. There is nothing more devastating than giving incorrect information that you either have to react to and deal with later or it causes you  a PR nightmare scenario.
  9. Be friendly. Be sorry (of the inconvenience). Be frank.
  10. After the maintenance/outage, follow up on your plans and update them with improvements. You should asks yourself and your customers what you can do better.

Examples of bad PR information level management:

  1. DSB's (Danish Railways) statements to passengers when trains are late or have problems. Over the years they have improved, but they still make lots of mistakes.
  2. Blizzards handling in server maintenance of Diablo III (May 2012).

Customer Service Facts

I found these floating around on the internet. More for fun than anything. They are probably correct. At least they do have sources included.