Microsoft has teamed up with Psychster, a research firm that apparently specializes in “the psychology of social media”, to study how companies should use Twitter to address a site outage, unscheduled downtime or interrupted service. Provided Twitter is available, I might add.
Anyway, you can download the whitepaper here (PDF).
According to the collaborative study, people are increasingly turning to Twitter in the case of an online service outage, while companies often don’t know what to say, who should say it, and what the impact of all that ‘joining the conversation’ will be.
Microsoft Learning and Psychster conducted a multivariate scenario study (see survey) to explore how best to reassure users during an outage, and how tweets affect brand perception and support call center demand.
The results showed that half of the (120) respondents in the sample would consult a Twitter feed to get information about an outage, and that negative feelings about the downtime would reduce if they find out the responsible company seemingly cares enough to tweet about it.
According to the study, acknowledging an outage and giving an explanation also reduces users’ likelihood to contact support – but only when the tweets were posted by an employee/social media manager rather than ‘the company’ or its executives.
What also helps reduce call center demand during outages: informing users about the breadth of the impact rather than stating whether it was a frequent or expected occurrence.