Google E-Mail Outage – A Great Example Of Good Customer Service

Around 12:30PM PST yesterday Google had a pretty significant e-mail outage that lasted a little over an hour and a half.

For a heavily utilized service like Google, this is HUGE. There’s many businesses small and large that rely on Google e-mail to be functioning in order to get business done.

So now you may be wondering…How is this a great example of good customer service?

Stay with me for a sec on this…

Later in the day Ben Treynor, VP Engineering and Site Reliability Czar for Google added  a post to the Gmail blog. In the post they not only accepted full responsibility for what happenned, but outlined what happenned (in the least techie way possible) and let people know what they were going to do to help keep it from happenning in the future.

It seems like so often tech companies and even non-tech companies skirt around issues and fail to accept responsibility for what they did or didn’t do. Then they fail to learn from their mistakes and repeat incidents, again not accepting responsibility or truly addressing what the core issues are.

Technology is hard to manage and hard to keep up. In my 16+ years in the tech field I experienced some of the same things as Google did yesterday – just on a smaller scale. Routine maintenance or procedures would lead to a major outage, even with lots of careful planning and back-up plans.

So the lesson for all businesses (both tech and non-tech) to learn from Google’s issue and Google’s response…

1. Plan, plan, plan and then plan some more – Try to avoid over analyzing things, but always remember that anything can and often will happen, especially when you’re least prepared for it.

2. Work the problem…not the people – Focus on getting things working and back to normal, don’t start pointing fingers. If it’s up to one group or person to resolve then work with them. Offer them your help, support and encouragement. When I was in I.T. my immediate supervisor Tim Johnson and our OPs group VP Rick Shumacher were great about just letting me work the problem. They stood back and let me do what I needed to do, the whole time letting me know they were there if I needed them.

3. Keep people up-to-date – You don’t need to overwhelm people with status updates, but don’t keep silent. Nothing induces more fear or uncertainty and  lack of confidence than not knowing what’s going on.

4. Let the dust settle – Once the issue has been taken care of, let things settle, let people get some sleep and then debrief on what happenned. Sometimes the situation may not even be totally over and some additional things need to be addressed before a really good debrief can happen.

5. Work the problem…not the people – No, this isn’t a mistype, or a cut and paste mistake. When you debrief focus on what happened and what can be done to prevent future issues – not who did what and how idiotic it may be.

  • Mistake Makers – If you made a mistake then admit your fault and let people know what you learned from it to avoid doing it again. Admitting to mistakes will carry far more weight than trying to hide a mistake you made. Trust me, eventually people will find out.
  • Mistake Maker Managers/Supervisors – Work with your staff to help them avoid making the same mistake. Remember what it feels like to make a mistake and the courage it takes to admit you made one. This is a learning experience for everyone.

6. Final update – Update everyone and assume group responsibility for what happened as well as what steps are being taken in the future to avoid the same issue. DO NOT LAY BLAME ON AN INDIVIDUAL – this is the biggest way to kill someone’s drive and determination to do better.

7. Put it into practice – Take everything you’ve learned and actually put it into place. Nothing looks worse than having the same issue happen again because no one bothered to implement what was learned.

For my REALTOR® readers –
All of this can apply to all of your transactions as well. In fact the one thing that’s most important is keeping your client apprised as to what’s going on. The one thing we keep hearing that is important to buyers and sellers is that they’re kept up to date, even if there is no new news.

When you have issues learn from what happened and apply them to your future transactions. Maybe you’ll need to switch vendors, maybe you’ll need to change how your staff interact with customers, maybe you’ll need to change how you do things.  Don’t let bad transactions fall by the wayside…there’s a lesson to be learned in all of them.

As far as Google goes I have even more confidence in them, their services and their products. I love how they handeled everything and while it was in inconvenience, this stuff happens. What matters is how they handled the situation and what they’re doing to avoid future problems.  GO GOOGLE!!!!

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