Almost every company, at some time, will have to manage a crisis. Of course the term ‘crisis’ is subjective, but if your crisis could damage your business, reputation, staff morale – or all three – then it’s a crisis that needs to be managed. Handled badly, a crisis can quickly destroy a company. Managed well, a crisis can improve its profitability and the affection customers have for the company. How do you get it right?
1. If it’s on social media get the “conversation” offline as quickly as possible. The last thing you may want to do is to contact the person who has complained but if you can, then you avoid having a public discussion and spreading the story further. (i.e. “Yes I used that company and the staff were rubbish”.) Remember though, they may record the conversation.
2. Don’t ignore the complaint or rush to respond with a denial. The hashtag #toxicclient won’t do you any favours in the long run. But a tweet saying you’re looking into the incident probably will. Just make sure you are looking into it, and take responsibility for the problem.
3. Treat the complaint as an opportunity to improve your business. Do your research and find out what has actually happened and why. Talk to the staff involved. Find out the context. How can you avoid the issue happening again? Most people won’t bother to complain; they will simply stop being a customer and tell others to avoid you, which will quickly put you out of business. This is your chance to put things right.
4. Don’t exaggerate or lie in your response. In any crisis, one of the things that is damaged most is the reputation of the company. The key to successfully handling a crisis is to rebuild trust. That won’t happen if the company are found to lie – and lies are very easily found out.
5. Apologise, without admitting fault and demonstrate that you’re taking action, for example, saying “I’m sorry you’re upset//felt you didn’t get the service you should have. We are investigating the incident thoroughly as a matter of urgency and will get back to you as soon as possible”. Good lawyers understand that a carefully worded, prompt, apology can stop a complaint becoming a crisis. All too often, when you see a court case reported, the person who prompted the action will come out and say something on the lines of; “I’m not interested in the money, I just wanted an apology and to make sure no-one else suffers like I did.”
6. Turn the complainer into an advocate for your business. Even if the complaint is found to be a result of their misunderstanding, thank them for helping you improve your business (and mean it as they have. You now know that you’re not managing customers’ expectations). Offer the complainer something tangible for their trouble and as a way of saying sorry.
Onyx has international experience at managing crises for some of the most challenging sectors. We’ve worked with the public sector, public corporations and start-ups. With existing clients, our expertise avoids a crisis ever happening, but we are brought in, sometimes at midnight, to take control of an escalating situation, or we can simply give you advice. Onyx’s team include an ex-investigative broadsheet journalist and a broadcast journalist. Get in touch if you need our help.