Crisis Control Depends on a Sound Crisis Communication Strategy
Crisis management. No organization should be without plans to respond to and mitigate a crisis. And no crisis response plans should be without communication directives. Crisis communication is the nucleus of effective crisis control. Handled adroitly, communications can strike a memorable, harmonious chord for business and customer relationships. Managed poorly, and they can elicit tones of frustration, mistrust, and ultimately reputation damage that could reverberate for a long time to come.To hit the right notes and preserve your reputation through a crisis, you should prepare your communications with mindfulness and mastery. Much as a conductor commands the tempo, phrasing, and style of an orchestra, you can command your crisis with timely, calculated correspondence.
Enter: social media – it’s no longer for just for marketing. Social media obliges organizations the ability to receive and distribute messages of any kind to billions in the “blink of a byte.” And now, businesses can also wield social media to control a crisis. Here’s how:
Watch Your Back…and Your Facebook
Monitoring your social media accounts and review sites bears a crucial importance to controlling crises or heading them off before they begin. The old, creeping ‘word-of-mouth’ has given way to the modern sweeping ‘word-of-the-Web,’ instantly propagated through the click of a mouse. Scatterings of minor customer frustrations vented online can quickly combust into a reputation-damaging crisis or exacerbate an already incendiary situation.
But attentive social media surveillance and timely responses will help you stay in control of situations as they unfold. Social media can also work as a barometer of how customers response and attitude towards your company as a whole. Paying attention to the ‘good’ can serve as valuable intel when responding to a crisis.
Response time can mean the difference between a dilemma and a disaster. The swifter the response, the more pleased the customer, and the more people who will view it…and perceive that haste as earnest and dedicated.
A European airline weakened its already brittle customer service reputation when it waited eight hours to address a customer’s negative tweet. He paid to promote the tweet…which reached 76,000 users before the airline responded.
Customize Your Communications
Just as many businesses modify their marketing to align with various customer demographics, organizations can also customize communications to better harmonize with each unique crisis and the customers who were affected. A seemingly canned response that doesn’t directly address the crisis will only add to customer frustration and reputation tarnishing. An inappropriate response can be just as bad - or worse - as no response at all.
This is not to say you shouldn’t use pre-written templated communications. In fact, working from a pre-approved base template helps speed up response time and avoid potential mistakes than can occur when in a rush under duress. But much caution should be made to adjust the template appropriately.
One national airline responded to a customer’s complaint of its tweeting habits with: “…Thanks for your support! We look forward to a bright future…”
Empathize Don’t Antagonize
One impulsive restaurant owner elicited a collective internet gasp – and mostly likely the business’s demise – after dishing out an expletive-filled rant via social media, which was targeted at customers who posted a series of negative reviews. This is an extreme example, but one that should be taken to heart. Negativity only returns negativity. Customers want to feel that their concerns and troubles are just as important to you as their money.
Even mildly apathic responses can inflict customer resentment. A well-known online retailer posted a seemingly unsympathetic response to users who experienced purchasing failures when the enterprise’s website went glitchy during a big sale: "Some customers are having difficulty shopping, and we're working to resolve this issue quickly.” It went on to say: "Many are shopping successfully — in the first hour … customers have ordered more items compared to the first hour last year…There are hundreds of thousands of deals to come and more than 34 hours to shop…” Most customers don’t want to hear about the great bargains that others are enjoying when they cannot.
Empathy. Put yourself in your customer’s shoes before you respond.
First Public, Then Private
Make your initial response public, then if possible, offer customers contact information to complete the resolution privately. This grants a more personal feel and keeps resolution details confidential.
Don’t Cause a Crisis
Along with keeping abreast of customer chattering on social media, you should be aware of what’s happening in the world around you. Posting an otherwise-innocent message at the wrong time could spark an unnecessary crisis, like what happened to a multinational British grocer: Just hours after a story broke accusing the retailer of using horse meat in certain frozen meals, the company innocently trotted out the tweet, “It’s sleepy time so we’re off to hit the hay.”
Take Command of Your Crises
Crisis communications can help a business shine or tarnish it indefinitely. Just as a conductor in a symphony, you must direct “the tempo, phrasing, dynamics, and style”1 of your communications skillfully in order to maintain harmony with your customers and preserve your reputation. And social media has evolved into a powerful tool to help you do just that.
And of course, crisis management as a whole is just one vital element of an overall robust business continuity management program.
For additional guidance and examples of social media use to manage a crisis, watch our recorded webinar:
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Written by Angie Longacre
As a writer for Assurance Software, Angie devotes her craft to promoting business continuity and disaster recovery awareness, and trumpeting Assurance Software’s invaluable benefits for both. When she’s not commanding the keyboard, you can find her outside for a run, searching for her next antique treasure, or lost in a good book.