servererror

It’s a fact that the market for Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) applications is growing dramatically.  An April 2013 Saugatuck Technology survey of 218 IT executives revealed that more than half of those survived expect to have at least 50% of their application portfolios in the cloud by 2015.  Great news for SaaS vendors!

But one of the biggest barriers throttling further adoption of mission critical SaaS solutions is concern over a software outage.  What happens if the software becomes unavailable?  We all know that there is no such thing as infallible software.  All software has its issues and everyone experiences application downtime at some point.

As a Marketing Professional who has spent most of my career marketing SaaS solutions, application outages scare the crap out of me.  I know how hard it is to build a positive brand and how much work it takes to fuel viral spread of word of mouth to perpetuate brand awareness.  And, all of this hard work can be severely damaged with a single software outage – if the outage isn’t handled properly.

The effective handling of a software outage to prevent brand damage requires IT and Marketing to work together.  Remember, the creation and preservation of a viable brand isn’t just the job of Marketing – it’s the job of every member of the organization.  The teaming of IT and Marketing to transform what could be a marketing disaster into a brand building opportunity is possible – with the following:

  • Customer Trust – To win deals and minimize customer attrition you must be successful at building a trusting relationship with prospects and clients.  With trust comes credibility and this leads to higher levels of customer loyalty.  And, trust is all about communication.  To build trust you must communicate openly and honestly – don’t close your eyes and cross your fingers and hope everything will be better tomorrow.  Believe it or not, this appears to be the modus operandi for many – even some of the big guys.  Just take a look at the recent Yahoo email outages and the way in which Yahoo handled this situation.  Their communication with their user base did little to build trust.
  • Proactive, Ongoing Communication – If you learn about a software outage from your customers then you have an issue.  If you learn of an outage and you keep it quite and hope you can fix it before your clients find out – you have an issue.  If you learn about an outage and tell your customers it was planned or some other made up story – you have an issue.  The best way to build a trusting relationship with your clients is to communicate with them open and honestly about the issues you are experiencing.  Your customers are people – just like you – and they understand that no one is flawless.  They expect to know what’s going on and that you’ll quickly address any issues that arise – while keeping them in the loop all along the way.  Don’t lie!
  • The Right Systems & Processes – Ongoing, proactive, informative communication with your clients about a software outage is an opportunity for you to shine and demonstrate to your clients that you are trustworthy.   But to do so you need the right systems and processes in place.  There are lots of applications that are used by internal IT to automatically alert them when there is a technical issue but these applications aren’t appropriate for external communication with your customers.  So, many companies try to manage external communication regarding software outages and planned maintenance with emails, Twitter and Facebook.  This can be a major hassle that is ripe for communication failures – not an effective way to build trust – but good try!  Instead, take a look at a new product called Uptime.ly.  This application is specifically for communicating software outages and planned maintenance with your customers – and much of the communication can be done automatically!  They also have a pretty good best practices whitepaper.