The last year was hard on everyone, but business owners faced crises that no one could have anticipated. Lockdown orders shut down operations, leading to revenue loss and layoffs or furloughs. When businesses were allowed to reopen, they had to do so with new health and safety measures in place, and many found themselves barely scraping by. Although there’s no real way to prepare for a deadly pandemic, having a crisis management plan in place can make the process smoother.
Read on to discover some templates for how to communicate with customers when disaster strikes.
What Is Crisis Communication?
Before we dive into the different ways you can handle crisis communication, let’s talk some about what it actually is. While none of us likes to consider the idea of a crisis happening in our businesses, the truth is that they can strike at any time. Crisis communication is how you’ll handle your public response in the wake of that crisis.
Crisis management is a pre-determined strategy that you’ll implement if your business ever faces a crisis. You may need to have different plans for different types of strategy, and it’s a good idea to update these plans every few years. This way, when disaster does strike, you can focus on resolving the issue.
Examples of Crisis Scenarios
There are several different kinds of crises your business might face throughout its life. Many businesses faced financial crises last year when they had to close stores or declare bankruptcy in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Business owners in Texas had to deal with technological crises when they lost power and were unable to keep functioning normally.
You may have to handle personnel crises, including furloughs, layoffs, or other staff changes that impact the way you operate. You likely faced a natural crisis last year when you had to set out new safety and health measures due to the pandemic. And sometimes, you might have to handle an organizational crisis, in which you have to issue an apology for some misconduct or wrongdoing in your business.
1) Spokesperson Response
One of your options when it comes to crisis management and communication is to have a spokesperson handle all your public messaging. Using a spokesperson does a few things; first of all, it centralizes all your communication so the public is getting a consistent message. It also humanizes your crisis, giving the public a figure they can connect to your crisis management efforts.
Your spokesperson needs to be someone who has the power to speak on behalf of your company and answer questions. They should be someone who is well-spoken, poised, and even-keeled; you don’t want them flying off the handle at the first challenge. Your emails to customers, shareholders, and media outlets should all come from this person.
2) Damage Control
Aside from appointing a spokesperson, you may want to lay out a plan for damage control for each of your crisis scenarios. During damage control, you work to solve the problem and earn the public’s trust. This may include everything from additional transparency efforts to regular updates about changes you’re making.
A damage control email should address the situation head-on and be focused on the action your company is taking to resolve it. This is not the place for apologies or explanations; those can come later. Instead, stick to a “just the facts” approach and show the public that you’re working actively to resolve the problem.
3) Case Escalation
In some instances, a crisis may not be a widespread problem that impacts all your customers. It may be limited to (or begin with) one customer who has encountered a problem. If you run into this type of crisis, a case escalation strategy may be your best bet.
Case escalation is focused on showing the customer that you’re taking their problem seriously and working to solve it. You should give the customer clear information about concrete steps you’re taking to address their concerns. And once you do have a resolution, be sure to reach back out to the customer and let them know about it.
4) Social Media Response
Social media is one of the most powerful communication tools available to marketing professionals today. Nearly 70 percent of American adults have a Facebook page, and another 37 percent use Instagram. When you’re dealing with crisis management, communicating through social media is a great way to reach a large segment of your audience at once.
As much as your social media response should be about your company addressing the crisis, it should also be about responding to customers. If your customers comment on your posts, tag you in something, or simply mention your name, you should be there responding to those concerns. A quick response can sometimes quell rumors and suppositions that can get wildly out of hand.
5) Customer Feedback
Customer feedback should be an important stage of your crisis management plan. Yes, it’s crucial that you spend time putting out messages about what’s happening with your company and how you’re handling things. But it’s also critical that you give customers space to air their concerns and frustrations.
Your customer feedback emails should have plenty of resources for interested parties to reach out to. Make sure you include helpline numbers, customer service emails, and other contact information. Let your customers know that you’re there to listen, and then follow up on that promise.
Set Up a Crisis Management Plan
Handling a crisis is never easy, no matter how much you prepare ahead of time. But having a good crisis management plan can help you to prevent bad situations from becoming worse. Set up a crisis management plan for each of the different scenarios you may face.
If you’d like to find more ways to improve your customer communication, check out the rest of our site at Vertical Response Marketing. We provide easy email marketing to help you communicate with your customers. Start your free trial today and discover all the tools you need to run a successful email marketing campaign.
© 2021, Chris Duncan. All rights reserved.