System issues and outages are inevitable, but it is important to consider system outage notification benefits in order to plan for them and respond promptly. Every company or system platform provider should have a strategy in place to address outages and their causes. In addition to this, it is important to have a communication strategy to keep system users informed of downtime issues.
Types of System Outages and Downtimes
There are hundreds of issues that can cause a downtime or system outage. However, these are some of the most common downtime causes:
- Deploying bad code is one of the biggest causes of outages.
- Retry spikes happen when users are denied access and keep trying to access the system.
- Overload happens when service use demand outweighs system capabilities.
- Unfair slowing can happen when users bring spam or bots that slow a service, affecting other users as well.
- Downtime can occur when building a new service or making adjustments.
- Sudden and slowed dependency can cause requests to build up and can lead to downtime.
- Inadequate system maintenance from unmotivated employees or teams can lead to downtime.
- When one shard is busier than another, there is an uneven distribution that slows the system.
- Entire portions of an infrastructure can fail at one time, causing an outage.
- Extended downtime may persist when the system messages differ from the user experience.
Tips for Minimizing Downtime and Outage Issues
Since there is no way to avoid every potential issue that could lead to downtime or an outage, it is important to take steps to minimize risks. These are some ways that maintenance teams can work to mitigate the issues outlined in the previous section:
- Deploy codes using progressive rollouts in modest percentage increases for each phase.
- When dealing with retry spikes, analyze the issue to pinpoint patterns or time frames.
- Monitor the system regularly to ensure that it can keep up with demand.
- Add limits to reduce slowed service due to spam from users.
- To avoid bottlenecking, use sharding to transition in small portions when increasing capacity.
- Use dynamic load shedding and scenario planning to mitigate dependency issues.
- Encourage people who maintain the system to stay engaged and care about it.
- Split shards or use a shard map to avoid uneven sharding.
- To avoid major infrastructure failures, use failure domains as testing sites instead of backup areas.
- Monitor user experience to detect gaps, and use connection errors, RAM and other metrics to pinpoint issues.
Use this information to develop a strategy that meets all points. For example, a strategy may involve steps to increase capacity if the system is frequently overloaded at certain times and there are a lot of retry spikes.
System Outage Notification Benefits
When planning a new system upgrade, maintenance or anything else, it is important to communicate that to users. Today, transparency is a vital part of creating and maintaining good customer relationships. These are some benefits of using notifications:
- Customers are less likely to be upset.
- Keeping customers informed builds trust and reputability.
- Customer service representatives are not overloaded with complaint calls.
- Notifications show that companies understand problems, plan for them and value users enough to keep them informed.
Risks of Not Using System Outage Notifications
Developing a system downtime notification plan is not something that every company prioritizes. It may take some extra time and planning. However, the time and financial investments are worthwhile. These are some risks of not using such a system:
- Customers may lose confidence in the company or system.
- Customers will be upset and may use a competing service instead.
- Customers may leave bad reviews, and this could discourage other potential customers.
- Customers may suspect hacking, loss of data or loss of funds instead of technical issues.
- Excessive complaint calls overload service departments and lead to more unsatisfied customers, longer hold times and other problems.
Tips for Developing a System Outage Notification Plan
One of the most important ideas to remember is to incorporate critical customer service practices. Although these practices may be basic knowledge for customer service teams and managers, they are valuable tenets for any outage notification strategy. These are a few of the top suggestions:
- Acknowledge the issue.
- Empathize with the customer.
- Explain the reason for the issue.
- Briefly describe the plan to solve the issue.
- For planned outages, provide specific times and dates.
- List any benefits that may come from the outage.
- Provide frequent progress updates for unknown issues.
- For unplanned outages, take responsibility instead of laying blame.
- Keep language understandable for all users.
Acknowledging the issue may help build confidence in users. For example, if a service or company does not appear to understand the problem, the customer is likely to lose confidence and choose a competitor. Empathizing is important to show value and care for users as individuals. Explaining the issue in everyday language helps users or customers understand, and it may help calm down some people who are upset.
Providing a solution shows planning skills and helps reinforce confidence or trust. If the outage is due to upgrades, explaining how the upgrades benefit the customer can help. When it comes to unforeseen problems that lead to outages, a company that takes responsibility looks more professional than one that puts blame on another entity. This is true even if the outage is the fault of a third-party service or provider. When they are upset or on the verge of becoming upset, users only want information that is useful to them.
System Outage Notification Templates
Keeping the information from the previous sections in mind, create a customized notification. Here is a planned system outage notification sample for a banking service:
“We understand that you rely on our tools for on-the-go banking, and we apologize for this temporary inconvenience. As a response to increased demand for our services, we are expanding our capacity to provide you with a faster and simpler user experience. To minimize inconveniences, we are planning the outage between 12 a.m. and 6 a.m. on Sunday, December 10.”
Since not all outages are planned, it is also important to develop custom notifications for unplanned events. This is one example for an unplanned outage for a mobile data service:
“We are investigating customer reports of service interruption for our mobile data users in Northern California. We apologize for any inconvenience and are working to resolve the issue as quickly as possible. Our team will post updates on this issue every hour.”
Another tip to remember is to make the system outage notification match the brand’s voice or appeal to the target market. For example, if the users are older professionals, a professional tone is better. If the users are young adults or teens, a trendier approach to wording may be better. As technologies or platforms advance, revisit the outage notification strategy to update it as needed and remember that system outage notification benefits customers and your company.