While it is almost impossible to avoid negative coverage 24/7 on social media, it is possible to limit the damage. You should have a social media strategy in place that includes how to respond to any negative comments and use a social media management system, such as Tweetdeck or Hootsuite, to keep track of all “conversations” related to your business.
Whether something is reported on social media, on a blog, or in the press, it’s important that all key members of your team are aware of the issue and buy into any management strategy to prevent the matter from escalating. Develop your initial response to the crisis and then focus on actively finding opportunities for positive coverage.
Step up staff training
Your entire team must be made aware of the fact that they represent your brand and as such their behaviour will be scrutinised. Ensure that they take the opportunity to learn from the crisis once it has passed.
Face the crisis head on
Don’t ignore the situation in the hope that it will go away. You will make things a lot worse if you do not respond. Acknowledgment of the mistake is important too. If a crisis erupts, bring in your entire team and assign each person a task in your damage control programme.
Respond with a genuine customer apology before a simple mistake spirals into a public disaster. Be responsive and act quickly. Be sincere and show emotion; your customers want to know that you really do care. Be clear and take ownership of the mistake and do not offer excuses.
You can recover, but the process requires meaningful communication to attempt to regain customer trust. Be clear on your position and key messaging. Position your brand as one that is able to admit to its mistakes and is committed to improving standards. Openly acknowledge the issue on your social media channels and direct your customers to visit your website for more information. Constantly update your customers during the crisis.
Respond on social media
Choose the most appropriate channel(s) to communicate with your customers. Research has revealed that the success of online customer service relies heavily on response times, so react quickly. Respond to your customers that were directly affected by the crisis first; your best route here is to try and take the communication offline. Customers want to interact with a person, so never use automated responses when rectifying a situation.
Preparation preparation, preparation
If a crisis hits, you should have a list of possible questionsready that the media might ask and your spokespeople should be prepared so that they are aware of your key messages and know exactly what to say.
Turn the situation around
If handled correctly, your reaction can turn the situation around and win you even more customers. An apology goes a long way.
*by Aki Kalliatakis, the founding member of The Leadership LaunchPad. A business focused on customer loyalty and radical marketing. It was founded in 1989. The consultancy helps companies to implement customised service and loyalty strategies.