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Are You Prepared For A Crisis? Here’s the 3-Step Guide You Need

Be prepared for something to go wrong.
by Sarah Moriarty | Mar 10 2015
Here’s what you need to know to manage any crisis.

Be prepared for something to go wrong

In today’s information age, we’re bombarded with headlines that run the gamut of crises. Financial scandals, photo leaks, oil leaks, political flubs – you name it, it’s probably out there. But unless you’re the CEO of a Fortune 500 company, a philandering politician, or a high-profile actor, you probably aren’t thinking about crises happening to you.

The truth is, a crisis can happen to anyone or any company, no matter how big or small. Crises aren’t necessarily defined at a national scale. They can be as hyperlocal as an upset customer telling a friend about a bad experience with your service, or as seemingly innocuous as a snarky message on your business’s Facebook page.

Simply defined, a crisis is an event in which trust in you is lost.

So, now that you know crises can happen to anyone, you’re probably wondering about the best ways to mitigate them. In Masters of Disaster, damage control experts Christopher Lehane and Mark Fabiani – in tandem with Oscar-winning director Bill Guttentag – give us a pretty straightforward process to tackling a crisis.

Here are three steps that’ll help both you and your customers breathe easier when trouble first arises.

Step 1: Don’t react immediately.

A knee-jerk reaction to negative feedback or scandal can worsen already disastrous consequences. You’ve seen it happen before, when a business responds in the public eye without having given the situation much thought. It might be along the lines of, “The customer should have been more specific with his needs, and this wouldn’t have happened,” or, “My email account was hacked by a colleague who then sent the inappropriate photo to the customer.”

Responses that downplay or lay blame make anyone look squirmy and avoidant, so stay far away from them!

Step 2: Respond carefully.

It’s a good idea to have a response plan in place before a crisis happens. That way, you’ll have done your homework about how to restore credibility. Brainstorm all the possible ways in which trust may be lost in your business, and then consider the options for overcoming them.

If you’re in retail or the service industry, it’s likely that at some point you’ll have an unhappy customer (maybe even an irate one). What would you do to placate that customer? Put one person in charge of crisis mitigation, and make sure they always stick to the planned response you’ve come up with.

Step 3: Set the right expectations.

Now it’s time to think about the lasting power of your response and what customers expect from you after it’s been delivered. If you’re making a promise never to screw things up again, will you be able to follow through? Make sure that the expectations you create are manageable for you.

In short, you’ll want to make sure not to overpromise and underdeliver. You can think of restoring credibility as a marathon instead of a sprint, so as long as you’re making strides in the right direction, you’re effectively managing the crisis. For example, instead of promising perfect service to everyone from here on out, you can let customers know that you’re sending staff members on a training course. Customers will appreciate your efforts toward improvement, even if they’re short of perfection.

Read more about tackling crises in the information age by picking up Masters of Disaster by Christopher Lehane, Mark Fabiani, and Bill Guttentag. You can also read the summary in blinks!

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