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Article 3 min read

Don't panic: 6 steps for dealing with service disruptions

Last updated March 15, 2024

Service disruptions have an enormous impact on customers, so it’s best to have a plan in place before they happen.

1. ID the service disruption?
A service disruption will generally come to our attention in one of two ways:

Customers begin to call, Tweet, or email about the same issue, in which case your support team will initiate a red alert.


Your operations team, who actively monitors your system, see some kind of failure. In this scenario, they will kick off a red alert.

Once it is established that there is a service disruption, your communications team should communicate immediately with your customers. For example, we Tweet that we are aware of the issue and then we create a forum topic about it. This helps reach a wide audience. Those who follow our Ops Twitter handle, and those who subscribe to our Announcement forum are immediately “in the know”.

2. Get all of the key players on the job
The operational lead (incident lead) and communications lead (usually someone in support), and any executives involved should converge into an online collaboration room (we use Flowdock), some call it a war room, we call it the Zencident room.

Before Flowdock,  this step was carried out via email and individual chats. However it is much more efficient to get everyone in a “room” for real time conversation.

It’s also all an all hands on deck situation for incoming tickets and phone calls at this point. All of our Support team can follow along in our Zencident room to stay up to date on our investigation and resolution of any performance issues.

3. Diagnose the issue
No matter how many people are involved in this situation, the only active participants in this stage should be those involved in communications and those actually fixing the problem. This will alleviate the confusion that arises from too many people speaking at once. They will then collaborate on identifying and fixing the issue.

4. Communication
Create a post in your forums – one that you’ll consistently update until the problem is solved. Let your customers know what the problem is and regularly provide status updates. We try to update our forum post every 10-15 minutes. Sometimes, we inform customers we are still investigating – even when we don’t have a specific update or change in status. It’s important to let your customers know you are actively working on the issue, and not allow too much radio silence. And always be prepared to receive calls from angry customers.

We also post a link to the forum topic in Yammer (or use whatever tool you use for internal collaboration) link so everyone inside of the company can stay up to date.

Also, consider creating targeted communications, such as proactive tickets for larger customers that are more heavily invested.

5. Remedy the issue
The operations team fixes the issue

6. Follow up with post mortem and corrective action
Once the issue is fixed, update all of the above mentioned channels. Provide an incident report and post mortem, including what was learned and if appropriate, the corrective action.

The most important thing is internal and external communication. Make sure everyone is up to date throughout all stages of this process. And be transparent through the process. It’s a new age for customer/business relationships and transparency is key.

At the Helm is a series for anyone who manages customer service professionals. These tips, best practices, and philosophies are designed to help you manage a team that is primed to give your customers the best possible service.

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