Resilience Series 4: Be Open and Honest With Customers and Employees
It’s human nature to want to present an upbeat, everything’s-great image. But during a crisis, your company can be more successful and generate goodwill by being transparent and prepared. A solid crisis communications plan can head off disaster after a disaster, and can potentially win you fans and customers.
Just ask Frank Jadhavji, founder of JustDeals.com, a flash-deal site specializing in consumer electronics and appliances. When he started the company, nearly 1,000 cameras disappeared from his warehouse soon after they arrived. To make matters worse, most of the stolen cameras were sold, and customers were waiting for them.
But Jadhavji didn’t hide the fact. His team contacted the affected customers and explained the situation, offering discounts and coupons as well as negotiating with vendors to find replacement products. Because of the high level of service, the company lost few customers.
Lesson: Be clear and open in communicating with your own staff and customers, finding quick solutions to show your good faith.
Most companies don’t think about dealing with the media and public until they’re in the midst of dealing with a problem. A crisis communications plan isn’t something only large companies need, but nearly half of all companies don’t have one, according to a 2016 Nasdaq Public Relations Services survey.
Alison Podworski, owner of Alison May Public Relations, says small businesses should have a designated spokesperson for the media and public – often the owner – and direct all employees to funnel inquirers to that person. “If there are details that can not be released to the public yet, only those involved on the crisis team should know the information,” she says. “The company should tell most of their employees the same thing that they are saying to the public.”
Craft a pre-written statement, focused on your company’s history, values and commitment to the community and employees. Your company can tweak the statement based on the exact circumstance. Make sure that your statement emphasizes the main two or three points you want to communicate. Saying too much can be as bad as a cringe-inducing, “no comment.”
“The public despises dishonesty or a company that refuses to comment,” Podworski says. “A company should be as open as possible about the crisis. Ignoring or hiding the facts won’t change things. The company should always present a solution when explaining the issue.”
Turning a problem into a solution
Consider Buffer, a social media technology company, which suffered a security breach resulting in thousands of accounts posting spam messages to Facebook. Instead of passing blame, the company immediately apologized and published updates on their blog, explaining the problem. The post updated 10 times throughout the day, as more information was uncovered.
Their rapid, transparent response had people responding with Twitter comments like: “Proof positive that full transparency and openness is the only way to go when situations like this occur. Kudos to Buffer. I am not currently a user but will seriously look at your solution now.”
Imagine suffering a security breach and winning more customers because of the way in which you handle it! While no company wants to encounter a crisis, problems are inevitable. If you are prepared, establish the proper tone, and treat customers and employees with respect so they can provide a chance to shine.
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