Have you ever awakened in the middle of the night with a gasp, covered in a cold sweat, calling out “Hey Google, how do I fix that error code on my washing machine!?”

Okay, maybe it’s not that dramatic.

But the impulse to seek self-service can come at any time. Consumers will Google troubleshooting steps during their morning cup of coffee. They’ll search for knowledge base articles while they’re riding the elevator up to work. Some will even search for self-service support content while they’re sitting on the—

Nevermind.

The point is, the ease and ubiquity of Google have given way to new expectations. A growing majority of consumers expects to be able to self-serve anywhere, any time of day. Yet, this expectation cannot be met when the site or software powering those site experiences is down. This is what makes uptime such an important part of the customer experience.

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What is uptime?

In the world of knowledge management software, uptime measures the availability of various services powered by the platform, including self-service sites. That is: what percentage of a given period of time is a site or group of sites available to users—to customers, support agents, and employees?

Uptime can be affected by planned outages (scheduled maintenance, for example), unplanned outages (hardware failure, for another example), system stability, and resource allocation. Any downtime—planned or unplanned—can diminish the customer experience by making self-service sites unavailable to the users that need them.

How does the uptime of your support site affect customers?

Think about it this way: all those times that a consumer wakes up in a cold sweat, scrambling to ask Google about a washing machine error code? That person is one of many that might be seeking help from that manufacturer in a given moment.

Aside from its internal users, such as customer service agents or employees from other departments, a company’s self-service site might serve partners, customers, and prospects in many different countries and continents, latitudes and longitudes. And any one of those people might attempt to access the support site at any given time of day.

When they do, they expect to quickly find the content they need.

If the self-service site is down, though, how is that person supposed to find what they need? What is a customer service agent supposed to do when they go looking for a KB article to serve a customer only to find that the knowledge base is unavailable? And, finally, what kind of brand impression does a 503 or a 404 message make on a prospective customer looking to cozy up to a vendor by previewing the post-purchase experience?

What is good uptime for a knowledge management system?

Easy: good uptime is as close to 100% as possible. Realistically, anything less than 99.5% uptime makes it difficult for organizations—especially consumer-based companies—to reliably deliver on the 24/7/365 self-service support that customers demand.

Take a look at a quick breakdown from the SLA Uptime Calculator of how even a small percentage difference in downtime translates to minutes, hours, and days of unavailability:

  • 99% uptime = 7 hours 12 minutes of downtime a month
  • 99.3% uptime = 5 hours 2 minutes 24 seconds of downtime a month
  • 99.5% uptime = 3 hours 36 minutes a month

To offer some perspective, in 2018, MindTouch customers enjoyed 99.8% uptime, exceeding the 99.5% uptime stated in the MindTouch Master Subscription Agreement. (P.S. That’s 99.5% uptime with scheduled downtime included.) That means that not only did our customers enjoy 99.8% uptime, but the customers of our customers enjoyed that availability too. This is what makes uptime so important.

RELATED: Check MindTouch system status here.

Prioritize uptime, because the decision to abandon ship happens fast

Organizations, especially consumer-based ones, should hold their knowledge management platforms to similarly high standards. Why? Because anything less than 99.5%+ uptime isn’t good enough for customers. We know, for example, that if a site takes longer than three seconds to load on mobile, more than 50% of users will leave.

Now imagine a page that doesn’t load at all.

For these reasons, organizations should absolutely look at uptime when evaluating knowledge management providers. By and large, most cannot consistently deliver adequate (99.5%+) uptime. Some will plan scheduled maintenance for weekends and other supposedly “off-peak” times. For consumer-based shops, this poses a problem, because there is no off-peak time for consumers who demand 24/7/365 self-service options.

You might not be able to predict exactly when a customer will attempt self-service, true; but if your site is down or degraded when that user does arrive, it’s a missed opportunity to deflect a customer service interaction and deliver the low-effort experience that customers expect.

Additional categories: Customer Experience, Featured Posts, Knowledge Management