We don’t do a lot of crisis management for our clients at Evolution Point. In our 14+ year history, we have to assist only one of clients with crisis management. When something goes wrong in the company (and it always will eventually), how does a company retain brand loyalty? Think about BP and the Gulf oil spill (remember them?) and how they poorly managed their brand equity initially by 1) not taking responsibility for the accident 2) not admitting fault and 3) not doing anything that might jeopardize the financial holdings of the company.
The actions of BP can be rationalized. For one thing, anything they say could open them up to multitudes of lawsuits hence they chose what they thought was the most conservative path – not to say or do anything. But the reality is that they have already harmed their brand by their inaction.
So what are the steps that you can take to retain brand loyalty in a crisis?
1) Think about your customers
Your customers are key. They are the ones that would sink you, or save you through their opinions. As a marketer, you already know who your customers are and what they think. Now consider how your situation may be affecting them and what kind of resolution you know they’ll expect from you. Establish an appropriate remedy immediately, and tell customers about it. Now is the time to really put your customers first—even though your gut instincts might tell you to focus elsewhere.
2) Think about owning the crisis
There’s nothing worse than giving the impression that you are shrinking from your responsibilities. If the issue is your fault, or even partially your fault, own it immediately and take a proactive position to correct the problem. Answer all questions truthfully even if the answer is “we don’t know”. You want your brand to be perceived as “responsible” and “proactive”.
3) Think about what you need to say
As with anything that goes wrong, apologize profusely and sincerely. Things happen, and people will forgive. What makes a great company is how you respond to the crisis. Your customers want to know that you acknowledge the mistakes and take actions to move forward.
4) Think about doing what is right
Like all apologizes, it needs to be sincere. Part of giving a sincere apology is doing what is right, not necessarily what is cheapest. If possible, make the fix something tangible to your customers, maybe a rebate, a product exchange or even a coupon for the next purchase.
5) Think about moving forward
Once the issue is resolved, don’t linger on the past and move forward. If the discussion is open, honest and truthful, your customers would have moved on with you. However, if the crisis is managed or communicated poorly, it will linger on their minds for a much longer time.
It is difficult to recover from a major crisis. And sometimes you are hampered by what you can do or say to prevent potential legal actions to be taken against you. But in reality, your brand perception is much more important in the long run. It is expensive to buy brand perception, so why not keep the goodwill that you already have in a crisis?