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You never know what you’ve got till it’s gone

Every morning I walk my dog about 6:30am and bury my face in my smart phone to catch up on all the news that has happened in my various worlds—travel news, world news, local news, and humor.  Friday started out like any other day, until a flurry of email alerts filled my inbox.  Email is not unusual. Email at 6:45am was. Initially I feared that there was something major happening–flashbacks to the Concordia incident anyone? And upon reading the first one, I saw that Friday was going to be an awful lot like a bad Monday.  Now certainly this was not a Concordia-like crisis; but, the TRO Community was offline.

The community was not only offline, but it seemed to be wiped out. Thankfully, some geek somewhere was able to tell us exactly what was wrong:

“Fatal error: Call to undefined function mysql_connect() in C:\inetpub\vhosts\travelresearchonline.com\httpdocs\members\troforums\includes\class_core.php on line 311”

Well, that was humor. This message is as useful as the blue screen of death (which I do not miss now that I have switched to a Mac), but the word “fatal” put a pit in my stomach. After all, we have more than 8,000 professional travel agents who rely on our community for information and camaraderie. And at 6:45am, 17 of them were letting me know.

As soon as I got back to the office and fed the pooch, I tried to get into the back end to see if we could rebuild the database (usually a good method to clean up some contaminated files), but was unable to access any part of the forum. After a brief email volley with Richard Earls, it was determined that the problem was on the server side and likely had to do with an overnight upgrade that went a bit haywire.  The real techs were on the job, but we realized that it was going to take a day to get it back online. In the meantime, emails and Facebook messages continued to arrive.

Without access to the database, we could not notify everyone. We did keep people posted on the TRO Facebook page (and really, you ought to give that page a “like”) as best we could.

It was late on Friday when the community finally came back online and we began the task of making sure it still worked. It was sort of like getting a car back from the shop—you run it through its paces and look under the hood to be sure your mechanic knew what he was doing.  It looked good. And once again, all seemed right with the world.

Shortly after coming back online, a thread appeared about the outage and it quickly filled with comments like this one:

Yesterday felt so disconnected when I couldn’t get on TRO. Never thought I would miss my daily dose so much!

While the downtime and the inconvenience was regrettable, comments like that really made me feel good–as we approach Valentine’s Day you could say they warmed my heart. TRO has built something pretty special for more than 8,000 professionals.  If these agents were travel clients, they would definitely be on my VIP list. I personally need more madly loyal clients!

So, what is the takeaway here? Understand that sometimes things will go wrong. When they do–own the problem. And keep your customers informed as best you can through whatever means possible. Keeping these tips in mind will not help you avoid any disasters, but it will minimize the impact of any disruption.

And to our loyal members—thank you for your patience and see you in the TRO Community–once again!

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