Avoid Getting Flooded By Support Tickets During Downtime
Unplanned downtime can strike at any time. We see instances of our customers having downtime that lasts hours or even days! And it can happen for a myriad of reasons: database failures, DDoS attacks, more database issues, and more database issues. The list goes on.
When your website is down, people are naturally going to want to know why. When you don't have many customers, this isn't a huge problem -- but as your grow and your customer count rises, so will the number of inbound support requests. When this happens, your support team can get completely flooded with tickets regarding the outage. Agents get frustrated by the repetitive requests, customers get mad at long response times...it's a bad situation for everyone involved.
The only way to effectively reduce the burden on your support team when unplanned downtime happens is to have some kind of automated way to answer the questions your customers will inevitably have. You need a status page.
This is a web page specifically dedicated to communicating which parts of your site are/aren't working and the reasons behind it. It should be a publicly accessible site that will keep your customers informed when you're having an unplanned outage.
Here's what Aaron Brongersma, a senior infrastructure engineer at Modulus says about how their status page has affected their support load.
"Our first responders are able to quickly create incidents on our status page, alert our subscribers and quickly move on to solving the critical issues at hand. Having this workflow has also helped to reduce the number of tickets related to previously resolved issues that our support team would receive at the start of our normal support hours."
But you can't just create a status page for your web service and call it a day! Here are a few tips and tricks to successfully use a status page to avoid getting flooded by support tickets during downtime.
Tips For Maximizing The Support Load Reduction
Announce Your Status Page When You Launch It
The first and easiest (yet oft missed) way to teach your customers about your status page is to make a big deal about launching it. You have plenty of touch points with your customers...use them! Write a blog post about it, tweet about it, post about it on Facebook.
If you don't tell your customers you have a status page, how do you expect them to use it when the time comes?
Notify Customers Via Email/SMS During Downtime
One of the best ways to prevent being flooded by support tickets during an unplanned outage is to proactively tell people about it. This is one of the main reasons to use a hosted status page product (like us) instead of just tweeting status updates or rolling your own rudimentary status page. By using our product, your customers will be able to opt-in to get notified via email and SMS whenever you create or update an incident.
You'll want to get these notices out quickly once you realize there's a problem. Incident templates go a long way in helping you get update your status page quickly, accurately, and in the tone that you want to put forth.
Display A Notice In Your Webapp When Something Breaks
Another way to proactively tell people when you're having downtime is to include that information directly in your webapp. A brief description of the incident or notice about the scheduled maintenance in a banner at the top or the footer of your website is a great way to prevent unnecessary support tickets.
StatusPage.io customers have access to a slick JS lib that makes it super easy to embed information from your status page directly in your webapp. You can access the docs for this API by appending "/api" to your status page URL - like this.
Check out this live demo that shows the "top-level status" of our demo page embedded in the footer and the dropdown the says "Click Me".
Here's what Nick Francis, CEO of Help Scout had to say about how embedding real-time status information from their status page directly in their webapp has helped them.
"With StatusPage.io, we're able to notify customers of an issue in-app the moment it comes up. We've found that putting these messages front and center not only delights customers in a critical moment, but it prevents hundreds of support emails that we'd otherwise have to respond to."
And here's a few more examples of how some of our customers are using it.
Embed Your Status Info In Your Error Pages
Sometimes embedding info from your status page in your webapp won't help because you're having major issues and your web servers are just throwing the 500-level error page. That's why it's helpful to embed your status information in your error pages as well!
To make this even easier, we recently launched a mini-site called Better Error Pages that helps you create some well-designed 404, 500 and maintenances pages that automatically embed information from your status page.
If you've never seen it, you should really check out Better Error Pages.
Redirecting The People Who Still Write In
Let's face it, there are always going to be some people who just don't know about your status page that will write in when you're down. Have a template response for those people along the lines of "Hey we know about the problem and you can follow along for updates over there (www.linktostatuspage.com). By the way, go ahead and bookmark that page so you can check there first if you think there's an issue in the future."
It may take a few times for people to learn that they don't have to create a support ticket to inquire about a potential downtime, but they'll get it eventually.
Reduced Support Loads For Other Customers
Jeff Gardner - Intercom
"We've seen that having a solid process (with the right alarms to our team via slack) to update our status page as quickly as possible after we're aware of an issue has significantly impacted both the number of users that get in touch through our support channels but also the number of users that are in touch with us via Twitter."
Florian Motlik - Codeship
"During an outage we love that our support team only gets very customer specific questions and all general questions are answered by our status page. We can focus on resolving issues and still effectively communicate with our customers."
Josh Pigford - Baremetrics
"We use the StatusPage API to integrate service statuses and interruptions directly inside the Baremetrics dashboard. This gives our customers a real-time update on any problems we may be having, which helps them trust us more, along with reducing support tickets asking if something is wrong.”
Dylan Moore - sendwithus
"Sendwithus depends on services like Mailgun and Mailjet. Displaying their status in a component lets us proactively show customers where the downtime is in their email stack and avoid the flood of tickets we used to get."