Wednesday morning started with a troubling email: one of our clients had contacted us, letting me know their website was down. We host all of our clients’ websites, so this was definitely a critical issue.
The first step was to check our server. Everything was fine there. A quick assessment of our other client sites revealed that some sites were up and some were not. Talk about stressful!
It was at this point, I sent an email to my wonderful monitoring and support team, Rackaid. They let me know that the sites that were down all had one thing in common: their DNS (Domain Name System) provider. In this case, the DNS provider was Network Solutions.
We’ve Seen This Before
DNS outages are not completely unheard of. Just last year, GoDaddy had similar issues, and that situation impacted many of our clients. I thought that my experience during that outage prepared me for what was going to happen during this outage.
Boy, was I wrong.
The Sound of Silence
Our clients obviously want to know when their sites will be back online. Every minute a website is not working is a minute that my clients are cut off from their customers. They want answers, and that meant I needed accurate information to give them.
Seeking confirmation of what I’d been told by RackAid, I went straight to Twitter. I messaged Network Solutions (@netsolcares) and asked what was going on.
There was no reply.
RackAid came to the rescue again. They sent an email with a link to a Twitter search on the DNS name, worldnic. This let me see that everyone was having the same issues.
Now that I knew, with a reasonable degree of certainty, what was going on, it was my job to identify all my clients using this DNS and inform them too. Communication and trust in business is key.
I only wish that Network Solutions felt the same way.
To Recap The Situation
On July 18, 2013, Network Solutions had outages due to a DDoS Attack, the second issue for Network Solutions in the past 30-days. Just a few weeks ago on June 19th, LinkedIn and thousands of other sites were down due to the same issue.
Network Solutions Crisis Communication Efforts
Do you hear crickets? I know I do. Network Solutions was virtually silent during the outage. There was 1 Facebook posting and nothing on Twitter. After the event, there was a single post on both Facebook and Twitter.
What Do Network Solutions Customers Think?
I think this twitter user said it best; “Really disappointed today with Network Solutions and worldnic support. Moving away from them.”
What Should Have Been Done
Social media has become the default support communication channel, especially during crisis events. We see this during extreme weather events and disasters. We should have seen it during the Network Solutions outage.
My company – and companies like mine – used social media yesterday to tell their customers exactly what was going on. Further along the communications chain, small businesses tweeted to their clients that their sites were down.
Internally, we even reached out to clients we don’t provide hosting services for in case their websites were adversely affected, so they would know what was going on too.
Things can and will go wrong, especially when technology is involved. That’s when your clients will have questions and they need to get answers. Any firm involved in technology should train their social media and customer service employees to relay information. Here are some things people want to know and what you should be prepared for:
- People want to know that you know the problem exists. Not replying to tweets, email or Facebook messages will only make customers more upset! Let people know you’re aware of the issue as soon as you can, especially if it looks like it’ll take some time to resolve it.
- People want to know how long it will take for things to get back to normal. This is a stressful question, but it’s best to be honest. Let customers know you’re working on it but you do not have a timetable yet. When you do have a timetable, be sure to share that with customers so they can plan out their business.
- People want to know you care. It’s humorous to me that Network Solutions twitter handle is @netsolcares because it did not feel that way yesterday. Clients want to know you are in this with them. Show them you care.
- People want to know why. We all ask the “why” question; now more than ever individuals want to know what caused the issue. You may need to explain this after the fact, but make sure you describe why the situation occurred.
- People want to know it won’t happen again. They are looking for reassurance. Explain what you’re doing to eliminate future issues, but when it comes to technology, there are no guarantees.
We all have situations that arise, no matter the size of our businesses, but it’s best to be upfront and honest: communicate. Avoiding the conversation only builds up customer frustration! In the end, staying silent will cost you more than you realize.