Admit It

I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that most people have at least some awareness about the steroid cloud that has hovered over Major League Baseball for the last ten years or so.  In this whole mess, two guys I have found fascinating are Roger Clemens and Andy Pettite.

After a major investigation, The Mitchel Report included them in a long list of players who used steroids.  When confronted with the news, the two men could not have reacted more differently.  Andy Pettite immediately came out and admitted that he had used steroids, apologized and moved on with his life.  Roger Clemens on the other hand fought the report tooth and nail and was even accused of lying to congress.  He was never convicted but there’s no doubt in my mind he was guilty.  Nonetheless, the Roger Clemens saga was long and drawn out and just plain awful.

One thing most companies face at one time or another is downtime.  We hate it when it happens but people make mistakes, systems fail, it just happens.  I can’t think of any better response to service impairment than transparency. Recently a payroll company, Paylocity had an outage and sent our HR department a nice email explaining what happened.  Here’s what they wrote if you care to read:

We would like to take this opportunity to formally apologize for the recent events you experienced with Web Time, our Time and Attendance system.

We recognize the availability of Web Time earlier this week was completely unacceptable.  We are committed to open communication and we hope that this e-mail fully explains the cause of the issues and the measures that have been taken to eliminate the possibility of reoccurrence.

As you are aware, we installed an upgrade of Web Time on Saturday, November 3.  We performed rigorous quality assurance and user testing prior to the release and during testing we felt very confident about the quality of this upgrade. The hardware and database changes were intended to significantly improve overall system performance.  Unfortunately, the migration of the database from Microsoft SQL Server 2008 to Microsoft SQL Server 2012 was not performed consistently with the installation in our test environment resulting in the issues you experienced on Monday and Tuesday.

We made several fixes Monday including changes to the database configuration such that the system could take advantage of the increased processing speed.  The changes that we made Monday gradually improved our users experience and Web Time was completely optimized by mid-afternoon on Tuesday.

We feel confident you will not experience any further availability issues as a result of this upgrade and going forward you will see the benefit of faster overall page response times from Web Time.   We are also reviewing all of our test procedures to ensure our test environment always mirrors our live production system eliminating any potential for similar problems in future releases.

In hindsight, it is very clear we should have communicated more detail to you on Monday. We felt like the changes we made during the day would resolve the issue, but unfortunately they did not.  As a result, we provided information to you late in the day on Monday that was too optimistic.  We then continued to provide more thorough status updates to you on Tuesday.  We apologize and understand this lack of early communication only added to your frustration.  We are committed to working with you to minimize any potential impact to your organization.

Please feel free to contact me or any member of our management team directly,

Here are key points I see that this company did right in their explanation:

1. Admit the Mistake: There was no cover up.  Paylocity came out and actually admitted to several mistakes.

2. Be Detailed: I firmly believe that detail wins out over being vague.  When companies include detail, it instills confidence that they company knows what they did wrong and thus are that much closer to fixing it.

3. Present a Clear Solution: Furthering my second point, they let the customer know what the issue was and how they were fixing it and preventing it for the future.

By being transparent in difficult situations, you go a long way to build trust with your customers.  Trust is a foundation to a great customer experience.

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  • Wow, go Paylocity for a great email response. This seriously is impressive. They took ownership, admitted the mistakes as well as telling you what they will do to ensure it won’t happen again in the future.

    This is definitely difficult for companies to do, but look at the wonderful things it does for their users!

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