“How To Ruin Your Reputation In 3 Days”

Jon Pederson by Jon Pederson 3.16.2010 1 comment

How To Ruin Your Reputation In 3 Days

And Not Even Need To Plan Ahead

Often when considering your digital strategy it is focused around an order of priority: 1. Branding & Marketing, 2. Sales, 3. Customer Support, 4. Communications, 5. Operations, and after that there’s no time left in the day to address other things that may seem less important, but if unaddressed could be your demise.

Specifically, what is your digital strategy for crisis management? Let me take a minute to give you an example of the wrong way to do it in just three days:

Day 1

You’re a company that provides an online service to subscribers that rely on you for their business opperations. The servers go down, and no one can access their data… or do business. All your customers are now emailing, calling, tweeting, posting comments to your blog, and every other avenue you’ve ever created to be able to communicate with your customers. Only now, you don’t have the time to actually communicate with them because you’re so busy getting the servers back online.

So, you post a message on your site: “We’re experiencing minor problems. Check back shortly.”

Day 2

You’ve managed to get one server running, but there’s a bunch of data not yet synced. Customers can login, but are seeing stuff from a week ago. Of course this brings on the second flood of communications and inquires… which you still don’t have time for.

So, you send out an email explaining: “Our technicians are working around the clock. Your data is safe, and will be back online shortly.”

Because you are not paying any attention to the conversations happening on facebook, you don’t realize customers are giving one another recommendations for other places to take their business. All the while slamming you for not communicating what’s going on. You’ve only been provide vague statements at best, and that is not communicating.

Day 3

Everything is back online, data is current, customers are logging in, and everyone is taking a deep breath, right? Wrong! Customers are downloading their data as fast as they can, and half of those customers are setting up accounts with your competitor to start uploading data there instead.

So, to make sure everyone knows what really happened, you send out a press release: “Due to circumstances beyond our control… some customers may have experienced brief interruptions in their service… blah, blah, blah…” After all, you don’t want it to sound worse than it really was.

You post the press release to your blog, which you had already setup to automatically send out a tweet. The only problem is you have not been monitoring twitter throughout this fiasco, and now the truth is compared with your candy-coated press release. This conversation quickly gets picked up by other communications channels… oh, like television and radio news talking about how poorly this situation was handled, and “to leave comments on their site…”

You can see where this all goes from here. You no longer have any control over the conversation, those few remaining customers that were on the fence have now left for your competitor.

So what should have been done different?

Well, firstly a simple policy which identifies who will monitor and maintain communications online in the event of a situation like this is critical. And secondly, be honest about what is going on. Your customers are going to be honest about their frustrations and concerns, so you need to be truthful about the situation.

Your reputation is created for you in social media, and your company gets branded by how you respond.

NOTICE: This is a fictional set of circumstances, based on a real situation.

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