5 Mistakes Businesses Make When Handling an Online Crisis and How To Avoid Them

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While the internet makes it easy to market and establish relationships with your customers, it makes it that much easier to destroy your business’s reputation as well. This makes it critical to know how to handle an online crisis effectively and efficiently to preserve your reputation. If despite your best efforts you find yourself faced with an online crisis, here are the 5 mistakes you should steer clear of and what you should do instead.

  1. Not Having a Social Media Strategy

As with most things, preparation is key. This means having a clear social media strategy for when disaster strikes. Attempting to put together a strategy while in the eye of the storm will only give you a wobbly, unsuccessful attempt that might muddle things even more.

So formulate a crisis management strategy. Figure out and impress on your staff about who will speak on behalf of the company and to whom they are allowed to speak to.

Communicate on if other employees allowed to say anything to anyone and to what extent. Wrangling employees, plus the crisis itself is overwhelming. For this reason, it would help for everyone to know and understand their part. Document the complete strategy and allow your staff to engage with it. It would help to have occasional drills.

  1. Ignoring Negative Feedback

Feedback is important to a company. It lets you in on what your customers think about you and what they hope you would do better. In addition, it can also help you gauge your position in the market vis a vis that of your competitors.

However, nobody likes to negative talk about their company. Today, anyone can put out negative photos, comments, articles and blogs on the internet, and they do not necessarily have to be true. Still, ignoring them does not redeem your image. Here is how to navigate negative reviews:

  • Issue a timely response (on the same platform).

This should include a sincere apology, regardless of who is at fault. However unfair this may seem, it’s your reputation that’s at stake.

  • Offer a solution.

An apology is good, but not good enough. Illustrate how you will solve the problem and what you will do to ensure it does happen again. How you do this depends on your line of business and what the issue is.

  • Request to continue the discussion offline.

Do this by requesting the disgruntled customer to call or email you for further discussion. This will take the conversation offline and out of sight and prevent it from snowballing into a huge crisis. It’s important to recognize that there are people (trolls) who will simply be looking for a good online spat as opposed to a solution. Taking the conversation offline takes away the audience. If the person is merely interested in trolling you, requesting to handle the matter offline can put them off and probably end the back and forth.

  • In extreme cases, you might find some extremely damaging, falsified, offensive, discriminatory,hateful, inciting or defamatory information online that has the potential to inflict severe damage your business.

While transparency is key in managing an online crisis, this is the exception to the rule. For such statements, you are safe to consider getting them off the internet. Companies like contentremoval.com specialize in this service.

  1. Denying Wrongdoing

The customer is always right. Is this a fair assessment? Probably not. Do you have to live by the rule? Absolutely yes. More so when you are faced with an online crisis and people are watching to see how you treat your customers.

Yes, the customer will be at fault sometimes. Maybe they did not read the fine print or they set up a gadget incorrectly with disastrous results, or maybe even forgot to mail their subscription check and their service was cut off. It is possible.

However, blaming a disgruntled client online does not redeem you. It makes you come off as unsympathetic to your customers. And nobody wants to do business with a cold, indifferent company. Here’s what you should do:

  • Offer a sincere apology. Let someone read your message to ensure it has no traces of sarcasm or condescension.
  • Do not mention what the customer did wrong that resulted in their negative experience with your company. Focus on a solution instead.
  • Do not make excuses for the problem. This includes “we were short-staffed”, “we changed our regular supplier”, “we are going through a transition’’, ‘’it’s the high season and we got unexpectedly busier than usual’’. No excuses. Your internal issues should remain just that. Acknowledge the problem, apologize and get into resolution.
  1. Delaying a Response

Over 40% of customers want you to respond within an hour. Truth be told, depending on the complexity of the problem, some customer complaints can take days and even weeks to resolve.

However, your silence in the face of a crisis leaves a lot to misinterpretation. It can be seen as a lack of concern on your part. In some instances, this heightens the complainant’s frustration, and as with most social media complaints, it ropes in more and harsher critics-some from people that have never heard of you before.

While you might want to investigate the source of trouble before issuing any communication, this might work against you.

This is what you do. Have an immediate acknowledgment of the complaint and let the customer know that you hear them and that you are working on resolving the issue. Whenever possible, issue a timeline of when you will get back to them with a solution.

Again, try and take the conversation offline. You can request the person to email with more details, and then take it from there.

  1. Taking Things Personally

This is easier than done. When you have spent years working on a brand, any negativity that is directed at your brand feels like a personal attack. It is not. Customers are expressing how they relate to your brand, not with you. Remembering this is important in a crisis as it helps you separate yourself from your business. This can help you therefore be calmer and more objective in your response.

When dealing with an online crisis, keep the focus on one thing; your reputation. You wouldn’t want to pour your sweat and blood into building a brand only to watch it come undone because of a few negative remarks. For every negative review, you have (hopefully) tens or hundreds of positive reviews. Use these to help you keep your eyes on the bigger picture.