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It’s a sad irony that the best time to sell IT services and upgrades to clients is often immediately after a major system failure. Customers don’t tend to realise how valuable and crucial their IT infrastructure is until some or all of it is taken away from them.

It is easy to take IT for granted when everything works correctly, and it can be a source of frustration to many IT professionals that the work that goes on in the background to keep service consistent often goes unnoticed.

Obviously, hoping for major system problems so that customers realize how well things work the rest of the time is an unwise strategy!  However, it does no harm to put plenty of effort into ensuring that customers are truly aware of the impact and cost of downtime.

Imagine just some of the possible implications of a day or two of total system downtime for a small firm:

  1. An ability to access information will annoy customers, have a negative impact on their perception of professionalism and perhaps even result in their taking business elsewhere.
  2. Problems interfacing with internal systems may prevent Web orders or other transactions going through, resulting in loss of sales or delayed deliveries.
  3. Inability to access the network will mean that staff will be unable to do work but will still need to be paid. In addition, it may be necessary to pay them overtime to catch up with their workload once systems are back online.
  4. Loss of access to accounting systems may delay the payment of wages and expenses claims, resulting in friction and personnel issues.

This list of potential issues is really just the tip of the iceberg. IT downtime can cause far-reaching problems unique to each organisation.

Assessing the cost of downtime is not an exact science; after all, it’s impossible to put a figure on metrics such as customer perception. However, you should work with your clients to make sure that they fully consider the implications of downtime and appreciate that even on the best-run systems, occasional outages are likely.

Selling the cost of downtime in this way makes it easier to emphasize the benefit of extra products and services – these can include hardware for resilience and redundancy, disaster recovery consultancy and proactive monitoring services.

With some clients, you are sure to encounter a level of complacency. Customers who have yet to experience a system failure may assume it will never happen to them. Don’t be afraid to manage expectations and make these customers realise that occasional unpredictable system outages happen to some of the biggest companies in the world.

If your clients still fail to appreciate the benefits of taking steps to minimize downtime, they cannot claim not to have been warned when the worst happens!