From website malfunctions to a viral post by an irate customer over service gone horribly wrong, or worse, to a government regulation which effectively sounds the death-knell for your business, there comes a time when something goes terribly wrong for every company.
In those crucial moments, everyone’s eyes will be upon how you respond to a crisis.
While your first instinct is to have a knee-jerk reaction, and jump on to your favourite social media platform and post an incoherent diatribe, don’t do it.
While immediacy is not a bad thing, you should not rush to craft a statement or make promises you might not be able to fulfil later. Do not rush and abandon all rational thought just because you want to broadcast your thoughts on social media.
With the going gets tough, the tough gets going, and where you should go is straight to your communications team and PR agency to whip up an effective action plan. Here’s what you should keep in mind:
KEEP CALM, AND CARRY ON (PANIC PRIVATELY, IF YOU MUST)
It would be unreasonable to expect you to not panic – in fact, you will most likely panic. However – do it internally. Do not allow your feelings to spill onto social media, or a press release, and definitely not in front of reporters. It would be the worst time to have a meltdown in front of the world. When responding, be sure to be calm, collected and measured.
After having taken a breath and hydrating yourself, activate your crisis team – executives, your communications department, PR agency – and put out a holding statement until you have had time to craft a proper response.
Once you have gotten over the initial emotions of shock, anger or sadness (or maybe, all three at the same time) have passed, you will need to sit down with your team and investigate the incident and what it means for your business.
Comb over the entire incident in great detail, so you can easily work through it. Once you’ve considered exactly what this crisis means for your company, then you can begin to determine the company’s stance.
UNDERSTAND WHAT YOUR CUSTOMERS NEED TO HEAR
Before putting a statement together, you’ll need to consider what your customers expect. Depending on the situation, they may want refunds, big discounts or special codes for future use – but what they need and expect to hear is a genuine apology and reassurance that action is being taken so that this crisis never occurs again.
Put yourself in their shoes and think about how you would feel if a business you loved breached your trust, or wound up in a dangerous situation
FIND THE MIDDLE GROUND
With both the business thinking and customer thinking in mind, work to find the middle ground. Consider what sort of solution is the appropriate course of action for your business. Once your positioning and solution have been determined, it’s time to start writing a statement in earnest.
COMPOSE YOUR STATEMENTS – AND NOTIFY EVERYONE ELSE
Once you know the channels through which you’re responding, then make sure to draft, edit and polish suitably.
To confront this crisis and take control of the narrative, you will need to consider the types of statements. This could be a press conference, a press release, posts across social media channels, emails to your customers, app notifications – it will likely be a mixture of all of these options, depending on the severity of the situation.
Once you are ready, to give a heads-up to the rest of your employees before sending out any statements. After all, your frontline staff (customer service agents, storefront employees) will have to bear the brunt of disgruntled customers, and their response to the situation should reflect the official statement released by you and your team.
After you’ve put your statement out into the public, use media monitoring tools to keep track of how your solutions are being received by the public. Fingers crossed that people are reacting favourably, but if the conversation takes an ugly turn, address all concerns before attempting to move on from the issue.
Though no business ever wants to have a crisis on its hands, in the event that you walk into the office and find yourself in the middle of one, it’s important to have a plan for what happens in crisis mode. With enough deep breaths, facts and level-headed thinking, your company can weather this and emerge from it stronger – and even in a way that may win you new customers. It is possible – so long as you don’t panic.
No business wants to have a crisis on its hands. However, in the event that you find yourself fully embroiled in one, you should always have a plan which can be deployed during catastrophic times. With deep breaths, facts, and a clear, coherent head, you and your company can emerge relatively unscathed from it – and even win over new customers in the process. Everything is possible as long as you don’t panic.
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