Southwest Airlines’ Website Downtime: What They Did Wrong and What They Did Right

Oftentimes a sale can bring a website crashing down, especially if the deals being offered are as tempting as the $49 airfare sale that was being offered by Southwest Airlines over the past few days. As Southwest Airlines found out, a huge surge in traffic during such a sale can bring a website crashing down. Not only does this type of website downtime mean lost profits, it means frustrated customers who aren’t able to get in on the deal while it is being offered. In looking at this particular instance of website downtime, there are two things we must ask. What did Southwest do wrong? Better yet, what did they do right?

Where Southwest Failed

When you are offering your customers deep discounts during a limited time offer, you need to prepare for a surge in traffic and ensure your site’s servers are up to the challenge. You also need to monitor your servers during the sale, ensuring they aren’t overloaded. If performance issues begin to emerge, downtime is sure to follow. When you see this happening, it is time to beef up your server capabilities. Southwest did indeed fail in this regard. Rather than ramping up the site’s ability to handle the increase in traffic, the site kept going down. As a result, customers could not take advantage of the special being offered by the airline.

What Southwest Did to Redeem Itself

In a situation such as this one, many customers would be crying foul, insisting that the site was down because the company didn’t really want to hold its end of the $49 bargain offer. With that being said, Southwest proved this wasn’t the case by extending the sale. By extending the sale, Southwest allowed customers who weren’t able to get online during the website downtime to purchase airfare at the sale price, even after the sale was supposed to have ended.

What We Can Learn from Southwest

As we all know, even in the age of the Internet, no person or website is perfect. Mistakes will be made and website downtime is going to happen. What will make the difference in how the public reacts to your website downtime is how you handle yourself during and after the outage. If your site goes down during a limited time sale, consider extending the sale after the downtime issues have been resolved, ensuring that all of your customers can get in on the deal and no one feels cheated. While the website downtime will still create frustration when it happens, at least your customers won’t feel cheated if they aren’t able to get in on the offer due to the unplanned downtime of your site. Bottom line… Try to ensure that your site can handle an influx of traffic when you are holding a sale or limited time offer. If your site does go down during such an event, make sure you extend the offer to compensate for the downtime and advertise the fact that you are doing so, ensuring no customers lose out on the deal. Not only will this appease those who were not able to get online during the scheduled event, it will also ensure that you can make up for some of the sales that were lost due to your site being inaccessible during the time of the sale.