Facing the music in business – how to turn mistakes around

by Jacob Firuta @ April 25, 2012

What to do in a crisis situation

Being prepared for all kinds of situations and events is definitely a quality that every online marketer should aim to acquire. It’s easy when there are no complaints, when your customers are satisfied and when you are making nothing but good decisions.

When things go sideways however, you should be ready, prepared to act swiftly to dismantle the situation. This is important due to a couple of reasons. Here are some points you should consider when a mistake on your part occurs.

Be quick

If you don’t stay on your toes and act fast, you may very easily lose the hard earned trust you worked to build up through the years. Funny thing about trust, it often takes small mistakes on your part – accidental overcharge, delay in delivery, temporary lack of access to your service and your customer may feel completely let down and betrayed. Do whatever in your power to resolve the problem and prove that you are trustworthy.

Toyota lost a lot of clients due to losing their trust. They decided that common acceleration malfunctions were not a just reason for a decent trade-in and wanted to make money on their own mistake – they took one year cars bought for $20,000, offered only $10,000 for the trade-in while selling the very same used cars for around $17,900.

Transparency earns trust

Don’t try denying your mistakes. They will come up sooner or later anyways, leaving you in a bad light. You have to be transparent, describe things how they really are. If your delivery system had some kind of malfunction, describe the problem to your customers. If some part of your stock was damaged, don’t try to blame it on the buyer. Your customers deserve to know what’s happening, especially when they are worried. Don’t let them stay in the black!

In the fallout of recent hacker attack on Zappos, the customers were notified right away about the possible leak of their personal information but that’s not all what Zappos decided to do. They redeployed all their support reps and temporarily disabled their phone lines to answer all the emails they were receiving. That’s a good example of how such situations can be handled. Turning off phone lines may seem like a bad idea, however, in a situation where you receive thousands of emails, answering phone calls takes way too much time. They decided it is better to temporarily answer only email inquiries and restore the phone lines after the crisis has been averted than to leave thousands of clients in the dark.

FedEx and their package-over-the-fence crisis is also a good and well known example of how to react in difficult situations. PR experts hailed it as very good way of dealing with company mistakes. The crisis revolved around a FedEx delivery man that was caught red-handed when “delivering” the package to a client in a rather unusual way. In a video that circulated the Internet like wildfire, he is seen throwing the package, which was a new monitor, over the recipients fence. FedEx responded to this with a long and sincere apology video. They didn’t stop at that though. Apart from apologizing, they also informed the public that something is actually done to prevent such cases in the future, i.e. used this case in employee training as an example of how precious cargo should not be treated.

Don’t leave mistakes unattended

Don’t wait. Act. Doing nothing can be your biggest vice in crisis situations. Nothing says “We don’t care about our customers” more like posts, comments and tweets without your replies. Try to answer any questions about existing problems as soon as possible, even if you don’t have a solution, or it is very simple to implement, it is crucial that you keep your social media channels monitored and handled.

This was the problem Sony made when after their Playstation Network got hacked and they were hesitant to inform its users about possible identity and credit card information theft, Jason Schreier, writer and media junkie from Wired Magazine informs. Such actions only lead to more confusion, and eventually, instill fear in customers.

The Red Cross didn’t made the same mistake as Sony did. Due to smart management, they handled their rouge tweet matter quick and without unnecessary delay. A simple, yet possibly volatile tweet appeared on their company Twitter feed when one of the employees mistakingly posted with the company account instead of his own. The employee tweeted about a beer party that is about to happen, involving some Dogfish beer. The Red Cross dismantled the faux pas quickly, deleting the accidental tweet and making a short and funny statement that assured its followers that “The Red Cross is sober and we’ve confiscated the keys”. The whole situation ended rather positively when Dogfish joined the discussion and encouraged donations. A possibly dangerous situation turned good, thanks to a correct response.

Good PR by The Red Cross

A few things to remember

Difficult situations like these can ruin years of trust building efforts in mere hours and you have to be quick to dismantle those ticking time bombs. You should follow these guidelines to resolve such situations:

  • Respond as soon as possible to a situation, you social media channels should never go silent to your customers questions and worries
  • Don’t wait for your customers to start making complaints; make the first move
  • Don’t neglect any problems, even if they don’t seem like much
  • Monitor your social media feeds for any unsatisfied customers
  • Work on your communication flow; make sure that in case of emergency the right people are notified and ready for action
  • If you happen to upset your customers, you should make all efforts to make it up to them

Remember that social media channels shouldn’t just serve to this purpose alone. There is much untapped power wasting in them if they are used only to patch your relations with your clients. Utilize that power and create stronger and better relations with your clients that will last, even if you happen to slip from time to time. Trust building starts right here!

Photo courtesy of Pierre Beteille.