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Don’t wait for a disaster to test your plan

Demand for constant availability of online services shows no signs of slowing, so what must businesses consider now and why? asks Chris Huggett, SVP, EMEA at the IT infrastructure and resilience and response services firm Sungard AS.

With the UK now entering a recession for the first time in over a decade, it’s more crucial than ever for businesses to retain customers. New research we conducted recently with YouGov reveals just how reliant UK consumers have become on the constant availability of online services under lockdown. The results painting a complex picture about the scale of omni-channel pressure brands now face.

As British people flocked to apps and websites as the priority destination to transact with brands due to Covid-19, our findings show a “window of availability” that UK businesses now have before consumer loyalty diminishes.

Our research found that if a brand’s website is down for only 24 hours, a third of consumers would switch provider. Similarly, if a brand’s app is down for 24 hours, 28 per cent would switch provider. Compare these online services with a physical store location being closed for 24 hours, and only a fifth of consumers would switch provider. Clearly a higher lack of tolerance exists when kept waiting digitally.

When it comes to online retailers (excluding grocery retailers) 23 per cent of consumers stated they would switch provider if they couldn’t access online services for only 12 hours, rising to over a third after 24 hours. For financial services and entertainment streaming platforms the outlook isn’t much better. A fifth of respondents would switch provider after just 12 hours, rising to a third after 24 hours.

Findings from the study also highlight that as the nation’s reliance on digital increases, so will expectations towards availability in the future. Over the coming two years, a third of consumers expect online financial services to always be available, rising to 35 per cent for streaming services.

It’s clear that the UK public is reliant on the constant availability of online services, and lockdown has only served to heighten this. What used to be a choice between physical and digital has now firmly accelerated into digital environments across various industries. As online worlds continue to outpace bricks and mortar as the face of businesses, ensuring constant availability and clear communications on any downtime will be key for brands to build trust and loyalty. My advice on how best to prepare is as follows:

IT staff are the most influential part of the management of IT systems, including the Disaster Recovery (DR) plan if it needs to be activated. As a result, they play an integral role in ensuring online services remain functioning as they should. Learning whether a DR plan fits the needs of a business must not be left until a disaster occurs. Organisations may find that the people who set up or manage environments aren’t able to maintain, fix, manage or fail over systems and the data in them when needed. Having a thorough understanding of who does what and where they are located is of vital importance to keep services up and running.

Keep data and systems available for everyone

As important as it is keeping the front of the house running, the data and systems accessed by employees are vital too to keep a business functioning optimally. With an increased amount of employees now working from home, organisations can frequently end up with an increase in configuration problems that need rapid resolutions to avoid significant productivity lapses. This must be accounted for, and appropriate steps be taken to address and fix any issues as soon as possible.

End-user awareness has changed

Customers – commercial or business – that function outside a corporate firewall may need to access data and systems. To avoid a scenario whereby services are down for a significant amount of time, companies need to consider how this will be managed. For example, whole families might be working from home and competing for bandwidth at the same time, causing limitations.

Employee expectations have evolved

Staff have adapted well to remote working in many cases and may not be keen to return to the office for some time yet. But to formally facilitate this for the long term, employees need to be properly equipped and have different working practices, including for continuity and recovery. When it comes to making advanced IT preparations, organisations should now have plans in place for a number of areas including security operations, technology operations, end-user support, incident and problem management.

Building customer trust and loyalty

While lockdown restrictions continue to be eased in the UK for now, a second lockdown remains possible, and remote interactions and transactions will continue to be a way of life for many businesses.

Brands need to ensure the availability of their services so they can adapt and continue to serve customers under any circumstances. Having a resilient mindset, a plan in place, and the technological know-how to weather a myriad of potential disruptions will ensure companies of all sizes can be successful in moving forward – whatever the future may look like.


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