Yahoo's Cyber Monday mea culpa--and IT management--falls way short

Yahoo's small business merchant systems go down during the peak Cyber Monday shopping season for much of the day and the best the company can do is a lame mea culpa.Memo to Yahoo: Make your customers whole somehow.
Written by Larry Dignan, Contributor

Yahoo's small business merchant systems go down during the peak Cyber Monday shopping season for much of the day and the best the company can do is a lame mea culpa.

Memo to Yahoo: Make your customers whole somehow.

It's naive to think that Yahoo will calculate lost sales and reimburse small businesses. And rest assured Yahoo's SLA--if there is one--isn't promising 99.999 percent reliability. But Yahoo screwed up big time and cost merchants money. The systems that power Yahoo's merchant stores went down at 6 a.m. PT and didn't begin to improve until 1 p.m. PT. By 6 p.m. PT, Yahoo's merchant systems were back to normal.

For those keeping score at home--that's the entire working day--and night--east coast time.

What should Yahoo do?

  • How about a year's service free?
  • How about no Yahoo subscription fees anywhere for a year?
  • How about better project management and a freeze on store features well in advance of Thanksgiving?
  • How about anything beyond a lame promise to do better?

Rich Riley, senior vice president of Yahoo's online channel division, wrote in a Yahoo's corporate blog post:

We deeply regret the inconvenience this caused to both our merchants and their shoppers. Our customers’ expectations were not met, nor were our own. And we are moving mountains inside Yahoo! to find out why and how this happened, and to take steps to try to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

As for the future, rest assured that we are taking the necessary steps to prepare for the peak holiday selling season. We have technical and customer relations staff mobilized and ready to support our partners.

At Yahoo! Small Business, we know that our success and our customers’ success are interdependent, and yesterday’s issue reminds us that we need to continue to work even harder in the future.

Well, Rich here's another reminder: Get a clue. No small business is going to take this mea culpa as anything more than BS.

The moving mountains reference reminds me of one of my old bosses. Whenever there was a problem that needed to be addressed he'd tell me how hard his job was. It was a great deflection that accomplished absolutely nothing. No one cares about Yahoo's mountains and it sure would have been nice if the company was more transparent about the outage as it occurred.

Why weren't Yahoo's systems and customer service teams ready in the first place? It's not like Cyber Monday sneaks up on people.

This commenter on the Yahoo blog says it all:

This outage cost us big time in terms of money, our time and customer goodwill. We had sent out a Cyber Monday discount newsletter early Monday morning and had tons of complaints via our toll-free number of customers trying to place orders. To try to deal with the outage we posted an embarrassing message on our website noting that our server was not working properly and offered free shipping to any customer who would give our toll-free number a call to place an order. We then had to allocate staff members away from their normal jobs to handle the increased call volume. I am very disappointed in Yahoo!. We pay Yahoo! a lot of money each month (when you consider the percentage they get of our sales) and I expect a lot better service. Yahoo! should immediately come up with a plan to compensate merchants for this disruption of service on the most highly publicized day of online shopping. I think that giving a refund of all fees that Yahoo! collected from each store damaged by this outage for the prior six months would be appropriate. These are just my thoughts. If some folks disagree feel free to comment. Craig Clark. Owner. www.PacificPillows.com

The ball is in Yahoo's court if it wants to keep customers. It needs to come up with a better resolution pronto.

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