Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Advice for Rackspace on communicating status updates

To the hard working employees of Rackspace:

Your hosting rocks, your customer service is consistently impressive, and your colleagues are extremely talented. Here's my concern. If I'm a customer, and I'm seeing issues with my Rackspace servers/apps/cloud, I have to quickly determine which of the the following places will tell me what's going on:
I presume there is a rational explanation for this. I even see a hint of method to this madness. Unfortunately when your customers are in a rush to figure out why their website is collapsing, they won't be in the mood to think about this rationally. Rackspace may be one of the the most experienced companies on the planet when it comes to dealing with frantic people. I would suggest taking some of that experience and putting it to work in raising the bar industry-wide for communicating status updates to your customers. To get you started, here are some ideas:

Suggestions to get you started
  1. Consolidate all of your status updates at a single destination. Possibly at http://status.rackspace.com/? If nothing else, have a page there that points visitors to the best place to get updates for their specific service. Link customers to this page from your front page, support portals, and blogs.
  2. Work to get Google/Yahoo/Bing/etc to point to this page for searches such as "rackspace status", "rackspace cloud status", "rackspace health", "rackspace uptime".
  3. You're going in the right direction with the the Email & Apps System Status Page. I would follow this model for your entire service suite (versus the simple blog style).
  4. If you want to differentiate from your competition, you have a number of options. Read this, this, and this.
  5. Continue tweeting, blogging, and Scobleizing. The more communication channels and approaches the better. Just don't make people have to hunt around in a time of need.
You guys are doing all of the hard parts well. You are also in a unique position to understand the benefits of transparency and communication. With a little bit of work, you have the opportunity to create more fans, reduce support costs, and push the industry forward in an important area.

Update: Within 5 minutes of posting this, Robert Scoble pointed me to a Twitter list merging all of the Rackspace twitter accounts:


A great resource, though clearly not something that would be easy to find quickly.

6 comments:

  1. We already have consolidated all of our Twitter accounts into one place: http://twitter.com/Rackspace/official-accounts this is how we'll officially communicate any status updates in real time (and we'll point out when major status updates are done elsewhere here).

    Unofficially I've combined all those accounts with about 300 Rackspace employees here: http://twitter.com/scobleizer/rackspace

    Hope that helps you find more information from inside Rackspace in real time.

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  2. Thanks for the pointers Robert. Rackspace is certainly getting the info out. The problem that still needs to be solved is making it easy for your customers to find that information when they need it. Could be a simple as pointing http://status.rackspace.com/ to http://twitter.com/Rackspace/official-accounts, in the short term.

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  3. Lenny - thank you for your constructive feedback. Being available and transparent and easy to find are essential for us. I am definitely reviewing your suggestions with the rest of our internal teams involved in relating status updates to our customers (and theirs!). Stay tuned :)

    Robert Taylor
    Sr Sys Engineer
    Realtime Customer Intervention
    Rackspace Hosting
    robert.taylor@rackspace.com

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  4. I'm really happy to hear that Robert, can't wait to see what you guys come up with!

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  5. Lenny

    Wonderful suggestion. I agree with your comments about Scoble's suggestion; that is a great resource but quickly getting to the answer to your question may be a challange. A clean, concise dashboard that shows the status along with a link to details (if you want details).

    Regards,

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