Panic sets in when our favourite services break down
Strange, but true. Last week Facebook suffered an “outage” of some kind meaning that it disappeared from the web for a short time. Most of us would not have noticed. But the Los Angeles Sheriff Department had so many calls to its 911 service (the equivalent of 999 in the UK) that they had to resort to Twitter to tell people to stop calling them.
This might not be as extreme as you think. People call the emergency services for all kinds of things. I remember speaking to a family doctor several years ago who was awakened at 3am with a call from one of his patients. “I am writing an urgent letter and I have run out of postage stamps; can you bring one round,” said the caller. “I am not the post office,” said the angry doctor. “I know,” said the patient, “I called you because it is a letter to the hospital.” A true story, I kid you not.
Although the doctor was angry at being woken up for something so trivial, it showed one thing. The patient was so well-connected to the doctor emotionally that she thought he was the answer to her problem. That is the same situation in Los Angeles. The people of LA were so emotionally connected to Facebook that they perceived its failing as a true emergency, something which the police clearly had to deal with.
How emotionally connected are your customers?
It begs the question whether your website visitors would call the police if your site went down for a while? Would anyone miss it? Would your customers start to complain or resort to Twitter, for instance, to see what is going on?
I am not suggesting for one moment that you should recommend the calling of 999 or 911 should a website go down. Rather, I am asking how emotionally connected are your visitors to your website? If they just ignore it when your site is down, it means they can live without it. You haven’t made enough of a connection with your visitors for them to be concerned.
You want, at the very least, for people to Tweet about it, to phone your business or to send you an email asking what is going on. You need your website visitors and your customers to be concerned. If they are not, it suggests you are not making enough of a connection with them.
Be brave – switch off your website
You could try a test. Switch off your website for an hour and see what happens. If people Tweet, email or call, you know you are doing OK. But if no-one notices or mentions it to you, it is time to take a look at the emotional value of your website. Are you truly connecting with your audience. Clearly Facebook is – so much so that people call the police when it is not available. If that happens to you when you website breaks down, then you have “made it”. Until that time, concentrate on emotionally connecting with readers – make your website about them, not you.
Graham Jones is an Internet Psychologist who studies the way people use the online world, in particular how people engage with businesses. He uses this knowledge to help companies improve their online connections to their customers and potential customers and offers consultancy, workshops, masterclasses and webinars. He also speaks regularly at conferences and business events. Graham is an award-winning writer and the author of 32 books, several of which are about various aspects of the Internet. For more information connect with me on Google+