Here’s a great example of how not to communicate:
BrainStorm is a small software publishing business. Its website is hosted by Free Online which, despite the name, is not free. BrainStorm opted for the ‘maximum everything’ business package.
Yesterday, the maximum daily bandwidth was exceeded somewhat dramatically. But, despite the system knowing that the figure was being exceeded, no-one breathed a word to Brainstorm Software.
In the dead of night, UK time, but prime time in California, the account was shut down. Visitors were treated to the 404 Not Found message. No explanation. Nothing.
A warning when the account was nearing, or even at, its limits would have sparked evasive action. We (yes, it’s my website) would have set up mirror sites with automatic redirects away from Free Online.
Okay, so I’m not happy. But it’s not because of the bandwidth limit or because the site was shut down. After all, the service provider has to protect its other users. It’s because no-one breathed a word of warning.
This mirrors the worst of crisis management. Wait until it really hits the fan rather than intervene at early signs of trouble.
Hewlett Packard is a paragon of how to avoid a crisis. Many years ago, a bad batch of rubber meant that the rollers on one of its inkjet range tended to go shiny and fail to pick up paper. It must have seen trouble coming through the support desk, so it invented a little repair kit, announced the problem, listed the serial numbers of the printers affected and offered a kit free of charge to anyone who needed it. Most importantly, it described the kit.
I could see from the description that if I took the roller out and rubbed over it with a plastic pot scourer, the problem would be averted. I did and it was.