In 1999 and 2000 I worked as Tier 3 UNIX Support for a colocation company. One of our largest customers had recently moved in so much new equipment, there wasn’t enough power in one rack. In what was to be a temporary solution, a power cord was left running across the aisle about two feet off the floor.

 

One day as I was going into the data center with one of our Tier 2 folks, the inevitable happened – his foot caught the cord as he stepped over it, pulling it free and crashing the customer’s server. He scrambled to plug it back in as quickly as possible, but I stopped him and instead had us find a longer cord which we then ran underneath the raised floor.

 

The outage triggered an automatic trouble ticket, which was assigned to me. My manager advised me to list the root cause as “momentary loss of power”. This in turn triggered a series of daily 8:30AM “post mortem” meetings as the customer – quite reasonably – wanted to know why it had taken so long to get the server back on line. I was instructed to not say anything that could make it appear that the outage was our fault in any way.

 

After six weeks, I couldn't take it anymore and, with my manager waving me off, I said, “I tripped over your power cord.” I then proceeded to tell the customer what had happened, making it sound like I had been alone in the data center.

 

The customer’s first response was, “Oh. You should have just said so in the first place.”

 

With the explanation that we had set things up so no one could trip over the cord again, the customer was satisfied with the resolution.

 

This incident led me to determine the three things any customer wants to know when there’s an incident:

  1. What happened.
  2. What you did to fix it.
  3. What you’re doing to make sure it doesn't happen again.

 

If you can provide (and follow through on) these three things, you’ll have satisfied customers nearly every time.

 

What are the key things you do to ensure your customers are happy with the resolution of their problems?