How to Handle Website Downtime (Hint: Use Twitter) [Study]

If your website goes down, you’d better jump on Twitter. At least, that’s the lesson of a recent study prepared by Microsoft Learning and Psychster Inc.

The study was pretty unique in its methods: it presented video scenarios of different companies responding in different ways to a website outage, and judge the audience’s reaction to these videos. It was looking for best practices for reassuring customers during an outage, and how tweeting affects brand perception and call center demand.

Half of the respondents in the study’s sample said they would consult Twitter if a company’s website was down. And, any and all tweets that a business sent out during downtime increased the respondent’s perception that “the responsible company cares” – a perception that any business would want to flourish.

Broadly, businesses have two takeaways from this study:

  • Acknowledging a website outage on Twitter is a good thing, and will result in positive feelings towards your brand.
  • Giving an explanation for the tweet reduces the likelihood that customers will contact customer support directly (but only when tweeted by employees, as opposed to the company or execs).

It’s pretty clear that Twitter users expect a level of customer care that’s both immediate and direct. They want to hear about website downtime as it happens, and they want an explanation from someone who understands the situation, not simply a catch-all corporate account.

Tom Moran, Director of Microsoft Operations Customer & Partner Experience has this to say about the study:

“Companies are often encouraged to ‘join the conversation’ on Twitter, but there is still very little guidance as to what they should say. The Psychster study will help us stay connected with our customers and partners by acknowledging their experience, reassuring them, and informing them what their options are in the most relevant and useful way.”