Crisis Management & Customer Service

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    Strong customer service creates valuable crisis management opportunities

    In an article from my most recent Crisis Manager newsletter, friend and reputation management consultant Jeff Chatterton wrote about the significance of customer service in crisis management and the negative results that quickly come from ignoring said customers. On the heels of that came a posting by my colleague in the UK, Jonathan Hemus, on his Insignia Talks blog, that provided even more proof of this principle. First, the Tweet that inspired his post:

    Earlier today BBC presenter Clare Balding posted the following tweet:

    Sat next to nice woman who’d been on Qantas flight when engine blew up. She said pilot was amazing. He spent 2 hours talking to passengers afterwards and gave them his mobile number if they had questions or problems. She said Qantas were amazing.

    Unless you make the effort to be there for your customers, such helpful word of mouth would never be generated. How do you do it, you ask? Jonathan knows, and goes on to share his insight with readers:

    If you want your employees to help protect your reputation in the event of a crisis, the starting point is instilling a customer service culture. Next, you need to empower staff to make decisions and do the right thing in the event of a problem.

    Finally, when the crisis breaks you need to brief the frontline – receptionists, call centres, security guards, salespeople – on what’s happened, how they should respond and what to say. This should be an essential part of your crisis communication plan.

    Take this approach and your own people can play a big part in protecting your reputation. More than that, supportive words from those directly affected by the incident provide a real opportunity to enhance your reputation. That’s certainly true for Qantas given that Clare Balding’s tweet has now reached 35,000 followers: now that’s positive word of mouth on a huge scale.

    While many organizations seek some sort of “secret formula” that will magically produce buckets of goodwill and a torrent of happy Tweets and Facebook postings, the reality is that no such thing exists. These results come from enabling every member of your frontline staff to serve as brand ambassadors and crisis communicators and, obviously, the hard work that these people put into creating and nurturing customer connections.

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    For more resources, see the Free Management Library topic: Crisis Management
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    [Jonathan Bernstein is president of Bernstein Crisis Management, Inc. , an international crisis management consultancy, and author of Keeping the Wolves at Bay – Media Training.]