Imagine you’re talking to a friend

If you keep your language relaxed and friendly, customers will have all the more empathy for you if you talk to them like a human being rather than a robot. Of course you want to try and stay professional too; you’re not at a party.

"We apologize… Come on - when you really mean it, you say, "I'm sorry." You don't say, "I apologize." If you spill hot coffee on someone, you say, "I am so, so sorry."

Explain how the customer is affected in real terms

Avoid the temptation to use generic terms such as ‘our service is currently having technical difficulties.’ Always explain how the situation directly affects your customer. “Customers are currently unable to login to their accounts.” This not only helps people understand the problem, but shows that you understand it too.

Set realistic expectations of when the problem will be solved

Of course it’s not always possible to know how long the string is; but as it becomes clearer, always try to give customers a realistic idea of how long it’ll be until things return to normal, even if this is likely to be a while.

Customers who don’t know will sit and wait, becoming increasingly frustrated. Those who learn it’ll be another hour or two before you’re back online will find something else to do with their time.

Suggest work-arounds if possible

If you’re having DNS issues and your API is unavailable, perhaps give customers the direct IP, or an alternative domain they can use in the short-term to access things.

Avoid technical jargon

People probably aren’t too fussed as to whether your database server in Asia is playing up, or that the switch in your west European cluster has gone down; they simply want to know you’re on the case and what you’re doing to fix it.

Keep things short and sweet

There will be plenty of time for a full break-down of events later. For now, keep things short, polite, and informative. Also bear in mind distribution on social media; try and put the most important information in the first 140 characters.


Take Aways

  • Saying anything is better than nothing.
  • Apologise sincerely.
  • Explain the real world effects.
  • Give realistic expectations of when things will be fixed.
  • Keep it all short and sweet.