With a nod to Rudyard Kipling, keeping your head when all about you are losing theirs is the key to effective crisis management and an invaluable skill when your business experiences a sudden, unexpected, significant negative event.
Here’s a handy list of 12 guidelines that can help you prepare for and manage a crisis.
- Have a plan. Create a plan that includes objectives and outlines the actions to take in the event of a crisis. The objectives are designed to protect anyone who may be affected by the crisis, ensure that customers are kept informed, and avoid any reactionary decisions.
- Establish a response team. Identify who on your team will handle customer communications during a crisis. It’s important that the message and presentation are consistent with how you portray your brand and business to the public. Once a protocol has been established, communicate your process to all staff members. This way, the moment you are alerted to an issue, you can snap into action.
- Identify a spokesperson. If the crisis impacts the health or well-being of a customer (for instance, if someone was injured by a treatment or class), it may attract local media attention. In this case, you need one person who’s been trained to represent your business who will deliver a clear and consistent message to the press.
- Assess the situation and respond appropriately. If a crisis situation does arise, you need to determine the most appropriate way to respond. Start with a sincere apology that acknowledges the problem. If that doesn’t work, begin one-on-one discussions with the customer to negotiate a resolution.
- Respond quickly and decisively. The most important step when working to resolve crisis is to respond thoughtfully and in a timely manner. The longer an issue goes unresolved, the greater its chances of blossoming into something more serious.
- Be honest and transparent. Nothing fuels the fires of controversy more than dishonesty. So, be as open as possible about the causes of the event and what you’re doing to find a solution. Take responsibility for the situation. Be forthcoming with the facts. Admit to what you don’t know and relay what you do. This straightforward approach can help stop rumors and misinformation from spreading.
- Keep employees informed. Your business can slow up or stop operating smoothly if you staff is too preoccupied with a crisis to focus on their work. Update them regularly, ask them to keep updates confidential (no posting to social media), and engage them in preserving your business’s good name.
- Communicate with customers. Keeping your customers informed—through regular email updates or private messages on social media—is a good way to prevent a negative event from discouraging them from continuing to patronize your services. Avoid words such as always, never, least, most, etc. Don’t let your wish to soften the impact of the event overcome its reality: only say publicly what you can defend factually.
- Update often and accurately. Rumors will fill the conversation void if you don’t communicate often. Doing so also lets you correct any misinformation that may have crept out there while the event was unfolding. Keep any remarks or responses on point. Remember that we live in a 24/7 world, and your crisis plan must do the same.
- Reassure those affected. Your desire to emerge quickly from the maelstrom needs to take a backseat to addressing customers’ concerns. Also, by acknowledging your customer’s frustration, you may be halfway to a positive outcome. Be strategic in your response so the customer feels satisfied and appreciative that their concerns were taken seriously and handled professionally.
- Use social media. Social media is one of the most important channels of communications. Make sure that your response team includes a member devoted to monitoring, posting and reacting to social media activity throughout the crisis.
Begin a plan to rebuild your reputation, if necessary. To preserve the trust of your customers and rebuild confidence, repeat the steps above—especially when it comes to communicating. You can never over-communicate during a crisis.
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