Managing Crisis Well is Great Customer Service

“Bad companies are destroyed by crisis. Good companies survive them. Great companies are improved by them.” – Andy Grove

The fact is in business bad things do happen, and despite best efforts, a company would face some kind of crisis that could challenge its very foundation. Such unforeseen circumstances could have debilitating and devastating effects on a business, and can come in any form – fire and other natural calamities, illness that could affect a large portion of some critical staff members, major breakdown in systems and or infrastructure – or other such crisis. These situations could lead to a company being unable to run even its day-to-day operations normally. This in turn would affect the company’s customers directly, which is why managing crisis well is an inextricable part of top class customer service. Companies that seem incapable of managing crisis well are more likely to lose customers during the time, which they may never be able to recover from leading to a shutdown of business.

Managing a crisis well lets customers get a first-hand view of the company’s abilities and inspires trust in them. It lends a sense of confidence to customers that the company would not only be able to provide them with great service, but also handle tough situations such that they would not be affected. No amount of publicity or advertising would have the same effect on customers as a company’s ability to handle tough situations with ease and clarity of purpose. It is easy for any company to provide service and do the things that customers expect when everything is working well. However, the ability of managing crisis well is the true test of great customer service. Customers expect that when things go awry – a company would take responsibility, by owning up to the crisis, remaining completely honest and transparent about the situation, and would have strategies in place to counter the effects of such situations.

It is extremely important for a company to remember that shifting blame makes it appear less trustworthy and would leave customers wondering whether the company would remain honest in dealing with them. Conversely, if a company takes full onus of a crisis, irrespective of the cause, customers get the impression that the company has a tight grip on its processes, allowing it to bounce back, given their ability of managing crisis well. Customers are then more likely to remain with such a company, and would perhaps have more respect and trust in its abilities to provide top class service and products.

With good planning and sound strategies in place, a company would succeed in managing crisis well and minimise its potential damaging effects. In fact, a company that would be prepared would largely be able to prevent many a crisis. While it would not be possible to stop a natural calamity from taking place, thorough planning and a crisis management plan would ensure that the impact of such situations is not as long lasting. In turn, a company would prevent its business from going down, as customers would continue to engage in business despite the odds. Many companies have a business continuity plan in place, but what matters most is how that plan is implemented in managing crisis well, and ensuring that customers continue to get uninterrupted service. Failure to have a plan or implement the plan could potentially spell disaster – a company risks losing its customers since the business might never recover.

Managing crisis well is a factor, as mentioned, of a good plan. A good crisis management plan would identify the kinds of crisis that may occur and affect business, help determine the steps to minimize risks arising out of the situation, and ensure that there is team dedicated to keep customer relationships intact by keeping customers informed. It would be important for a company to build strong relationships and rapport with its customers, gain insights from them as to what they would want when crisis strikes, and get feedback regarding the best strategies to mitigate the effects of a crisis. By taking customers into confidence and seeking their advice on such matters, a company would be displaying its humane side that finds favour with customers. In addition, it gives customers as sense of oneness and belonging with a company and sense of relief in knowing that the company is prepared to face disasters well.

As mentioned several times, customer service must be the responsibility of each person in a company. With such a culture of company wide support, it would be a lot easier for a company to tide over crisis. Managing crisis well is about each person making it part of their role to ensure that the company can tide over the problem swiftly and without much damage to customer relationships. A company united with a sense of common purpose would not only be able to rid itself of the ill effects of a crisis, but also be able to highlight its strength to its customers and the market at large.

Even if some amount of trust or confidence in the company is damaged due to the occurrence of a crisis, but by using customer insights and getting everyone in the company to help, it would be able to rebuild the trust in a short span of time. It would be important to share regularly updates and information with customers such that they know that the company is in control of the situation, and would be able to keep the risk and damage to customers to a minimum. In addition, customers must be updated regularly about the steps the company is taking, the solutions it has planned, and how they plan to get the business running as before. The fact is the business of customers is connected with the performance of a company and hence apprehensions and even some amount of anger would be expected from customers. Managing crisis well is all about letting customers know that they have no reason to worry and that the company would do whatever it takes to restore normalcy.

In the event a crisis ensues due to some unforeseen problem within the company, the right thing to do as part of great customer service would be to admit the mistake and not shy away from taking complete responsibility. This is a tough call since taking responsibility is bound to attract ire and frustration from customers, and possibly some amount of churn too. It would be imperative for the company to apologize upfront, and quickly release the plan of action aimed at removing the issue. The best way would be for the top person of the company to issue a statement directly for customers. This would eliminate rumour-mongers from spreading viciousness, and provide some kind of relief to worried customers. With so many channels of communication, a company could issue a single statement across all of them, thereby reaching the maximum number of audience. In addition to the initial statement, it would be essential to release regular updates, and have a team dedicated to responding to customer queries and providing these updates. There is no substitute for honesty and transparency when managing a crisis, especially when it could affect the customers.

By using an honest and straightforward approach, not only will customers continue to trust the company, employees and other stakeholders too would feel more confident about remaining associated with it. This would in turn, enhance the overall reputation of a company and place it among industry greats. Really, there is no secret method that will help produce customer loyalty and trust, or employee confidence, or market reputation – it all happens when a company can stand tall by managing crisis well and at the same time taking care of its customers and employees. Does your company manage crisis well?

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