Archives for posts with tag: online

Down for maintenance

The other day I was in a hurry to check the status of a flight I was taking later that week. I needed to know if I could fit in an appointment before leaving for the airport. When I went onto the website this is what I got.

For a company of this stature, and for a company that transacts online at this kind of scale, I find this flabbergasting. Such a website shouldn’t ever be down, certainly not at peak hours. This was 17:00 on a week day.

When I worked in the cyber-security business, the standard service level agreement for a cloud-based service was what they call ‘five nines’, or 99.999% availability. In some quarters, four nines wasn’t seen as sufficient for an enterprise’s mission-critical systems. To put this in perspective, five nines availability allows for total unscheduled downtime – assuming uptime is calculated on a 24/7/365 basis – of just six minutes, for the entire year, if my calculations are correct.

Which leads me to conclude either that this is one of those moments of unforeseen torture for a company that sets itself the highest standards of transactional availability, or that the company is in fact a bit sloppy or laissez faire with its customers’ goodwill.

In the time it’s taken me to write this post, I checked back on the site and it was back up, so perhaps we can give Ryanair the benefit of the doubt on this occasion.

As a consumer, you want to be able to consume conveniently, easily, quickly and painlessly. This applies in both the offline and online world.

The other day I was planning to take a punt on the Euromillions, since the jackpot had done that thing it does every few months where it gets up to a ridiculous amount and draws in punters like moths to a flame. It was the middle of the day so I told myself I’d do it later. After all, there was an invitation to play in my webmail inbox.

I got tied up with work for the rest of the day and was glancing through my webmail after work when I saw the lottery email. It was about 27 minutes past 7pm, and the cutoff for the draw was 7:30pm the same day.

I went onto the site, and selected Euromillions. There was 2 minutes and 15 seconds left in which to play for that evening’s draw. I logged in, picked a line of random numbers, confirmed it and paid. The transaction took 30 seconds. I could have waited another minute and 45 seconds and still would have beaten the deadline.

Now that’s slick, in my book. Mind you, with millions of euros coming in every hour through the site on busy days, you would have expected them to get the process perfect. And it is, in my view.

Sadly, my numbers weren’t perfect. Not even close to perfect.

When it comes to experiencing things, there are two kinds of people. The first type is those who, if they can’t actively follow something live, they follow it online while they’re doing something else. For example, getting updates on the Wimbledon semi-finals while you’re at work. The second type is those who, if they can’t experience all of it live, they want to shut the world away and experience it later, recorded, and have their own ‘private live’ – albeit somewhat delayed. The example of this is someone who doesn’t want to be disturbed with any updates on an event, and who rushes home unmolested by real-time devices or intrusions to watch or listen to the recording.

I belong to the former group. I can’t see the point of experiencing an event in a sterile environment that’s live only to you. It’s asocial rather than anti-social. Being off the grid – and staying off the grid, which some people prefer to do – is pretty hard to do, especially in this connected world we inhabit. If we haven’t bothered to configure our settings, our laptops and mobile devices get pinged all the time by social media updates. Our instinct is to check the ping, even if we’re on silent – I’d better check, it might be important – and before we know it, our concentration drops for a moment, we read the update unwittingly, and the surprise is gone.

From a sales and marketing point of view, we have customers and prospects who embrace always-on technology, and some that don’t. We also have customers and prospects who are the first kind of people and some that are the second kind. As sales and marketing professionals, we need to try to allow customers to interact with us by whichever means they prefer, which might be exclusively one, or both.

Ask yourself this question: if I work in a predominantly digital environment how should I serve my customers and prospects who prefer to be off the grid, who respond to traditional rather than digital forms of communication, who don’t want to be contactable sometimes? Do I actually want to serve them at all?