Summiting the peak of peak performance 

Tony Allen – CTO, Recurly

It’s no longer controversial to say we live in a digital world – it’s a fact. Each year technology becomes more and more sophisticated, and businesses are at the forefront of that innovation. And yet in 2024 the impact of software failures and service outages on businesses seems to have been greater than ever, with perhaps one major brand a week announcing a fault in their digital operations. 

NatWest’s banking app capabilities suffered a failure in May, leaving users unable to access their savings. Sainsbury’s was hit by a fault that meant it could not process payments – it’s the second such digital meltdown this year. March saw McDonald’s fall victim to a central server issue that prevented restaurants from opening in three different continents. 

For established businesses like these the damage can often be dealt with. But what about the smaller businesses for which a single failure of service can ruin a reputation in an instant? 

Recurly’s owned research from global analyst firm Forrester found that only 7% of businesses think they can deliver a great payment experience – and a poor payment experience can be the make or break of a customer for life. 

Building resilience into your digital systems is an essential part of the process, not a nice-to-have or an afterthought. Investing in resilience is not a free process, but it is crucial to providing continuous good quality service. While you might calculate the loss of income caused by system downtime by estimating your sales per hour and the length of outage, this doesn’t take into account the psychology of your users. Seeming to be unreliable or inconsistent can be detrimental to your reputation, and winning customers back can take years. 

Peak performance at peak times 

Established industries and industry players are well aware of peak times in their work. For transport companies, every morning and evening is punctuated by rush hours. Restaurateurs are accustomed to the swell of diners both at midday and after work.  

But as sectors evolve and new players emerge, there are new considerations to be made. Live sport is a prime example of this. Streaming companies have made a habit of winning the blockbuster contracts, leaving traditional broadcasters in their wake. However, this transition unsurprisingly comes with its own set of teething problems. 

If a small live sports firm wins the rights to broadcast, it best be prepared for the sudden influx of subscribers and the strain these new customers put on their streaming infrastructure. First-movers in this space are often well aware of the consequences. In 2021 increased demand on the servers of a major online streaming platform rendered multiple Italian football matches unwatchable on their app. While the company has since recovered from this snag, the damage to their reputation was significant and likely set them back years in progress. 

Subscribe to a subscription strategy

Subscription-based services make a strong case for the need for tech stack resilience, but also a strong opportunity to solve some common challenges. 

Downtime in subscription-based services is infuriating for consumers. To the average subscriber, not being able to access content or services that you have already paid for is a non-starter, irrespective of the circumstances. This is especially true in a global world where some of your customer base is always awake. Even if it’s 2am and maintenance is required, you need to operate a minimum level of service or there will be consequences – both in the public eye and in terms of revenue. 

But this aspect of a recurring billing model is also a strength. At peak times in supermarkets payments have to be processed continuously or else the whole shopping experience grinds to a halt. With recurring billing you can spread out this process as needed – throughout a day, a week or a month – providing only the base level of stress on your payment systems as required. For smaller businesses especially, this can be the difference between a major system outage and a smooth operation. 

A brighter payment future 

Summer has arrived at our doorstep, and with it peak season for many industries – travel, transport and hospitality to name a few. This year’s season of sunshine also features some of the largest sporting events on the calendar, including the UEFA Euros, Wimbledon and the Paris Olympics and Paralympic Games. businesses and services have an opportunity to showcase their value to consumers in the carefree summer months of increased spending. But if they want to transform fleeing customers into loyal fans, high-quality service is required – service that is reliable, well performing and not impacted by peak seasons. 

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