A great way to judge a company is what happens when they make a mistake. I say “when” because eventually it always happens.

Some companies have defined themselves by how they handle mistakes, while others have failed.

In the end it comes down to how well you prepare for crisis management.

Recently Google acknowledged the problem with the Google reader and let people know what was happening.
Here is the full blog post:

This afternoon we experienced a brief outage, during which about half our users seemed to lose their subscriptions. This can happen when one of the many complex systems that power Google Reader experiences a glitch. We work hard to avoid problems of any kind, but occasionally something like this happens. The good news is that no data was actually lost, it was just temporarily inaccessible. Google’s systems store data redundantly to minimize the chance of anything becoming permanently lost.

We were able to identify, diagnose, and fix today’s outage within an hour, which is the kind of response time that we strive for. We’ll continue give quick status updates to problems like this in the future so users who have trusted us with their data can feel comfortable doing so.

What is missing?

How about some understanding of the frustration people went through?

As Seth Godin regularly points out on his blog, simply acknowledging someone’s frustration can immediately put an irate customer at ease.

They accomplished almost all of what is necessary when admitting a blunder:

1. Admit the problem
2. Explain what happened
3. Fix the problem
4. Attempt to prevent it in the future

and finally the most important
5. Apologize and acknowledge the frustration the problem caused your customer, user, client.

Google rarely drops the ball when speaking back to customers – but the amount of people affecting by this outage demanded at least some acceptance of blame beyond a “glitch” in the complex systems.

[tags] Seth Godin, Crisis Management, Marketing, Marketing.fm, Google Reader, Outage, service downtime [/tags]