Just after July 4 weekend, the hosting service experienced a brief downtime caused by a faulty "bus duct," whatever that is. The point is that a significant number of users were incapacitated by the crash.
Rackspace went into immediate action using what I would call the social media playbook, if there were actually such a thing. They used there blog, having Eric Johnson a senior web developer explain clearly what had happened, what the company was doing about it and apologizing for the inconvenience. Meanwhile via FriendFeed and Twitter Scoble was doing what he does best and he was doing it with equal transparency. Rackspace customers chimed in, nearly unanimously expressing loyalty and faith in their hosting company.
Of course major competitors noticed. When a hosting service goes down, there are obvious opportunities. There are unhappy and frightened customers. One competitor, Online Tech of Minneapolis took two days until it posted a blog intended to hijack Rackspace customers with an "easy transition plan" from Rackspace to them. The company boasted that unlike Rackspace, it had never experienced customer downtime. It brought the message into Twitterville and posted a couple of follow blogs.
That is a predictable approach. It comes from a traditional marketing approach based on military strategies. When you see your opponent has a weakness, attack it with extreme prejudice. Take more ground.
But the day before Online Tech posted its blog assault, another competitor ServInt posted this blog by Reed Caldwell, CEO , which takes an entirely different approach, one I find better-suited for the new conversational marketplace rather than the commercial gladiator approach used Online Tech.
Caldwell, stated that his competitor had been "communicative, forthright and responsive to its customers. He said ServInt stands behind Rackspace and advised customers to do the same.
The conversations heated up in Twitterville, and Friendfeed where Scoble pointed to most of the blog posts and dozens of hosting service customers had joined in. The sentiment was nearly unanimous for Rackspace and particularly ServInt, whose CEO revealed himself to be a class act leading a classy culture.
There may have been a defection or two to Online Tech, but I could find no reports of it. But in the court of Twitterville opinion, the were the clear losers.
ServInt's approach falls into something that I call in Twitterville, lethal generosity. The companies that are most generous to their marketplaces--including competitors--become thought leaders. Those that take more combative approaches become thought followers. Which would you prefer as your vendor?
There are other twists. A tech company should never, NEVER, boast that it hasn't suffered downtime. When one does, it is as sure as the night follows the day, that company will stumble, because in the end all parts break. When it happens to Online Tech, it will have few friends. ServInt conversely will have friends and credibility going for it.
Times have changed. Companies who learn to put their markets before themselves, and happy users before themselves are likely to profit greatly from that generosity. It is one of those difficult to measure issues--but there is an ROI on generosity and Servint is likely to enjoy that return in coming months and perhaps years.