Customer Service

Using Community as an Outage Board?

This one goes out especially to all the telecom and SaaS community managers, but of course, everyone's input is welcome.


Have you ever used your community as an "Outage Board"? In other words, a certain section of the community is the place to learn about (and then discuss) any services outages, and get status updates.


Any interesting integrations between this and your social media presences?


Challenges getting what can be very technical announcements into customer-friendly language, in an efficient/automated manner?



Message 1 of 14
Community Management

Re: Using Community as an Outage Board?

I think you'll want to be really careful about making your community the center of crisis. In many cases, it is much easier to manage crisis that spill into the community when the official channel of news or updates is external (your website, PR team, etc). Being the person that is "just passing the info along" is a much better position to be in as opposed to being the source of the (potentially bad) news.

Message 2 of 14
Community Management

Re: Using Community as an Outage Board?

Hi @BHall


I personally use community alot for this type of thing, we have a service status page which is used for an ongoing issues with our products or known issues which are known to be driving contacts talktalk community service status page 


As a general rule of thumb and in my experience when anything bad happens consumers take to the internet first which means you're getting blasted on social and your community. I dont like off-domain activity and personally try to funnel customers in-need of support to a platform i control "communty""


Last year we had a crisis the size we'd not seen before and the community was at the heart of our comms out from the business but also the voice of the customer back into the business something that was difficult to do across voice and even social at this point as it was melting down. 


My playbook for any and all crisis and MSO's is to start with community and work out from there! 




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Message 3 of 14
Community Management

Re: Using Community as an Outage Board?



The previous community I managed was a support community for a software company. When we had an outage we definitely tried to funnel as many clients as possible to a message on the forum that was ideally updated every hour. We had messaging to direct customers to the forum on the IVR system when people called, as well as in the livechat queue and in social channels. 


I'm with Stephen in that if you aren't proactive, then customers will try any means possible to contact you, often multiple methods at once which can quickly overwhelm your support resources. We found that funnelling users onto one thread definitely reduced the number of other interactions and we hoped also reduced customer frustration. Some customers will obviously still call or create new threads but these can be quickly and easily answered by directing them to the main outage announcement.




Message 4 of 14
Community Management
Social Media

Re: Using Community as an Outage Board?

Major incident management via community is part of our social media strategy. Agents working on other social channels funnel customers to a central location on community where we post regular updates until the issue is resolved. Any threads created on the community during this period relating to the issue are also merged with the main thread so there is one single source of truth.


Once we are clear the issue has been resolved the thread is locked and after a period of time retired (usually a week or so). This keeps the community clean, customers informed and ensures a strong communication.


I only recommend going down this path if you have the full support of your comms, technical and/or PR teams. IE. whoever it is that will be providing the updated information. Additionally, I would formalise responsibilities for each group so that everyone is clear on what they need to do during an incident.


One final thought from me, post incident report. I advocate these for basically any and every project or issue that occurs or is run on community. Provide a one page document that covers off the key feedback to stakeholders that includes things like traffic trends (with a comparison to BAU traffic), sentiment, etc. Don't forget to link in with any other teams that will be driving traffic you way to get an idea of the bulk they have sent and include this in your report. If done well it can be a really impressive document to highlight how important community is to the overall management of customer experience and help you to reinforce stakeholder relationships within the business.

Message 5 of 14
Community Management

Re: Using Community as an Outage Board?

@DanK Can you clarify what you mean by "retired"? Do you keep a history of incidents that are read only or do you remove threads from public view after a while.


The discussions we had on my previous community revolved around that it could serve as a track record of how transparent you deal with problems, but at the same time a list of outages or problems can be interpreted by some as: "Look! They have problems all the time".

Here's an example of a status page without a community integration: http://heartbeat.skype.com - You can see how this is a one-way street which might help reduce some of the volume as visitors are forced to read only. But part of an outage experienced by customers is usually some venting as well Smiley Wink


And finally here one example that would call out days without incident as well: http://status.lithium.com

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Message 6 of 14
Community Management
Social Media

Re: Using Community as an Outage Board?

When we retire a post it is moved to a hidden board visible only to mods and admins. The same thought process you have had also occurred at my company; do we leave them up for transparency or do we move them to avoid having a list of issues.


Although we only do this for major incidents, which are few and far between, the decision was made to hide the content post event after the first couple of times we used the process. This was because we found many customers were assuming they were affected by a long resolved issue and engaging with us accordingly. They would either try the steps on the thread that helped to resolve the issue for some customers (unsuccessfully) or would provide requested details to us via private message (that we no longer required) and the result was a poor experience.


If the content hadn't been there they would have tried the standard troubleshooting listed in our tKBs, asked a question or engaged with a more recent thread. All of these would have resulted in a far better experience.

Message 7 of 14

Re: Using Community as an Outage Board?

This is a superb thread all around -- good question, concrete examples, and the benefits and risks both addressed. I'd buy a round of beers if I could, but I'm afraid the best I can do is give you all kudos. :-)


The practice of using the community as an outage board was pretty rare until a few years ago, so it's interesting to see the experiences being shared here. I think the first time I noticed it was with Swisscom, which as you can see is still there. Past outages are deleted (or hidden), as we noted before. Anyhow, that's one more example for you. 


Thanks, all!

Message 8 of 14

Re: Using Community as an Outage Board?

An effective and customer focused Incident/outage/crisis communications plan needs to be multi-channel and consistent.


We/decision makers/senior people need to accept the fact we've chosen to operate in digital, always-on, volatile channels which we can't shy away from when we don't like what's being said. Your customers have registered to use your community/forum as they want to engage with you and be kept up-to-date. Do you want to be perceived as the organisation that is ever present and blowing their own whistle when things are going well, but nowhere to be seen (or at least not seen where your customers want to see you) when things don't go so well?


We adopt a proactive approach to planned maintenance/outages and communicate them prior to the event across several channels including social media, Bankwest Forum, website, IVR, online banking, Bankwest App.

For unplanned outages, we have a decision matrix which guides us on when we'll respond reactively to comments about system issues versus when we publish a (coordinated and consistent) proactive announcement across our channels.


Here are a few key points that come to mind.

  1. Keep your customers at the heart of everything you do and the decisions you make, and the response you receive, will be far more easy, effective, and positive.
  2. Updates should be informative and consistent, committing to the time of the next update.
  3. The level of technical detail included in your updates is always up for debate. The large majority of your customers want/need to know what is/isn't working, how it affects them and when it'll be fixed. All the technical jargon/facts generally don't add value to the communication and in fact can cause more confusion, concern, inbound enquiries and even security risks.
  4. You customers should be able to reply to your posts provided they're adhering to your house rules. A read-only approach is not human, it's not helpful and it's not what your customers expect.
  5. Keep as much personality in your posts as you can. Continue to echo your brand's tone of voice (without being perceived as not taking the situation seriously).
  6. Be human. (Decent) people find it harder to attack or be unreasonable toward a human than they do an organisation, so be present, helpful and even vulnerable.
  7. Recognise your brand advocates for helping answer questions and come to your defence.


I'm passionate about and experienced in crisis management so more than happy to answer questions and provide guidance - just shout out.


PS People think I'm a little crazy because I get excited when we (very rarely) have an incident. I enjoy the pressure and I genuinely focus on what matters to our customers so it's a great opportunity to demonstrate that.

Pete @ Bankwest
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Message 9 of 14
Community Management

Re: Using Community as an Outage Board?

Just stumbled over another example for using a community board as a persistent outage board at Foxtel Australia:

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Accept as solution to help others find it faster.
Message 10 of 14