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“Coronavirus panic caused the online store to crash” – One company’s survival story and what you can learn from it

The load analysis of the online store’s website suddenly looks to be badly in the red. Customers impatiently keep on clicking the payment buttons, but they are not functioning. Sales are not going through. What kind of collaboration do technology and business need to turn the struggles with the online store into a good customer experience and even a reputation gain?

A Finnish online store operator, a company selling various hygiene products, experienced the effect of corona when the epidemic began. Social media messages and instructions about avoiding public places brought people to online stores in large numbers. Hand sanitiser sold like hot cakes and at first the business was booming.

Until Friday afternoon, when automatic server notifications reported a serious system malfunction in the server. The load analysis looked badly red.

When there is a fault, automation helps

An automatic incident ticket was logged from the online store server as high-priority to the service request system and it was addressed to the IT persons specified there. As this happened in the evening, the phone of the on-call employee started beeping an alarm.

The employee on duty was at home watching the TV when he noticed the notifications. He went on to his computer to solve the matter. It was now necessary to quickly find out what was wrong, what affected the error, and what actions it required. No more Saturday evening plans for the employee after this.

This is what the situation looked like through the eyes of the customer

At the same time the consumer, let’s call him John, was shopping in the company’s online store – like so many others. After filling his shopping cart, he moved on to make a payment. However, it did not work. The button for online payment did not respond in any way, no matter how hard he pressed.

The same problem affected other payment methods: no payment options were available, and the website was not working properly in other ways either. The program’s error message soon popped up: The service is temporarily unavailable, contact the company’s service point. Then the program froze completely. John sighed deeply and let out a couple swear words.

Technology works when responsibilities and roles are agreed upon

The company was now working at full effort. The on-call employee had informed  his colleagues about the problem. Now the cause, effects and the extent of the problem were  being investigated at a rapid pace. It had been possible to prepare for this, although no one had hoped it would actually happen, especially during the evening.

As agreed and documented, the company had clear responsibilities and roles for who would handle which area in this crisis situation. In this way, the right people were reached without delay and they knew what was expected of them in the situation.

It was also agreed who would act as a leader in a such crisis and ultimately take overall responsibility and make the necessary decisions. Communication responsibilities were also agreed in advance, as was the method and channels of communication.

In this way, the matter was communicated quickly and in a properly targeted manner to the stakeholders affected. Resources were also saved for receiving direct customer contacts. Frustrated customers approached the company’s service point with phone calls, emails, and chat messages. The messages were answered according to the agreed model and customers were reassured. John also chatted with the company’s support service, in which the chat bot explained the situation and promised to inform John when the problem in the service would be solved.

Business management was kept up to date

The company’s business management was provided with real-time information about the situation without delay. The agreed person in charge immediately and clearly communicated what had happened and how serious the problem appeared to be to the company’s management. He also told what its effects were in economic terms in light of the analyses and forecasts.

Throughout the crisis situation, the business management was kept aware of the progress with the matter. When the interaction was two-way, IT gained the support and insights from the business management to help with its operations and the solutions needed.

The situation is over, but is the customer satisfied?

At 8.30 pm, a message appeared on John’s screen from the company’s chat: The problem had been resolved and the purchase transactions would work again. The message also stated a discount code that would give John a 10 percent discount on his purchases. IT and company management had agreed on these measures with the aim of making the unpleasant customer experience more positive.

John went to make his previously planned purchases in the online store, which was now working again, and used the discount as well. Pleased with the way the company dealt with the problem, John wrote a raving review about the company’s operations and customer attention on his Linkedin profile. A small but timely gesture, decided by business management and implemented by IT, brought positive visibility to the company.

Why did the company succeed?

Because the company’s processes, responsibilities and roles, as well as the operating model for crisis communication, had been planned and agreed in advance, no time was wasted when the crisis hit.

The problem and its effects could be resolved and remedied without delay, and communication with the various stakeholders could begin immediately. The use of automation in both alarms and the customer interface improved and speeded up the handling of the situation.

Of particular importance in the situation was the seamless cooperation between technology and business management. As a result, customers were responded to in a timely manner and the company’s image was saved. Without proactive measures, the story could have had a completely different ending.

About the authors:

The article has been written in collaboration with Sofigate’s experts:

Jussi Hirvonen, Solution Consultant, Business Core Renewal

Marko Ignatius, Customer Executive, Service Management

Liisi Koivu, Senior Advisor, Customer Experience

Johanna Sillanpää, Advisor, Business Technology Academy

Päivi Siponen, Advisor, Service Integration