Crisis Management in an Unpredictable World: 5 Tips to Save Your Brand
Companies around the globe have been directly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic that continues to force new ways of doing business. With the safety of employees as top priority, transitioning to work-from-home call centers and leveraging technology for customer engagement may have you realizing that your current business continuity plan or crisis management strategy may need a major overhaul—but where do you begin?
The idea of crisis management is nothing new to Consumer Relations, who have been tasked with handling brand crises ranging from product recalls, data breaches, social media backlash and more. But a global pandemic may not have been on your radar. Maybe you weren’t as prepared as you should have been and are starting to see impacts to your business directly, or are looking to update your strategy or even create one from scratch. No matter the reason, here are 5 key tips for updating your crisis management strategy and saving your brand.
1. Have a Plan Ready—or Update Yours Now
Don’t you wish someone would have said that you shouldn’t wait for something to go wrong in order to develop a plan? Hindsight is always 20/20, so be sure to have yours up-to-date with the latest developments for your business. The first step is to build a team to handle such situations. Once you’ve selected the correct people to lead your brand’s crisis management, you’ll need to build a strategy of how you’ll communicate with your customers and employees. You will need to establish what defines a crisis-level issue. For different crises, you may want to take a different approach to responding. Be sure to have a clear strategy for each type of issue that you could face. Then, identify your brand’s key stakeholders. You will need to make sure to communicate to them in the event of a crisis. Lastly, assign ownership to each step in your communication process and prioritize them with a timeline.
2. Leverage AI and Technology
As we watch the transition to working-from-home unfold due to social distancing, businesses are adapting to completely new ways of doing business. For most call centers, this includes deploying a home-based model for agents to be able to seamlessly interact and engage with customers while continuing to deliver the same level of service, or even better, than on a “normal” day. Having a cloud-based single agent desktop with access to all customer histories, in-context guidance and automated email responses allows service reps to do their job from anywhere—at any time.
Layer in another modernization in the consumer relations industry—AI chatbots. Deploying a chatbot to help manage consumer questions in crisis scenarios can greatly improve efficiencies and reduce costs. But Agents are also struggling to answer questions precisely in scenarios that are complex and evolving, where company/governmental policies may change rapidly. A Crisis Management AI chatbot can deliver answers directly from a range of sources such as the CDC, the WHO or other government or general places and serve up answers directly to your agents or end-customers. Chatbots can also answer questions about how your company is responding to the crisis specifically. Are there certain policies or procedures you’ve put in place that your customers should know about? Have your store hours and/or product availability changed because of COVID-19? Thankfully, when time is of the essence in a crisis, chatbots can be deployed very quickly and service multiple contact channels that you may have such as webchat, facebook messenger and/or SMS.
3. Listen Intently and Remain Engaged
In today’s digital-first world, when something goes wrong, customers take to Twitter, Facebook, or another social media platform (or multiple) to publicize their experience. In a survey of 300 executives and board directors, Forbes Insight found that companies attribute about 25% of their market value to reputation. And nothing can put your reputation on the line as quickly as a crisis. Thankfully, if you use social media well, you can mitigate that risk. By using social media management tools to monitor your audience and engagement, you can see what the public is saying about your brand. When you notice an influx of posts about a particular topic or posts with negative sentiment, you’ll want to be alert. Social media platforms also provide a two-way dialog for brands to engage the customers that were affected, which is extremely helpful during critical times.
4. Take Responsibility With Your Customers
Should a crisis occur, the biggest countermeasure is to reduce the damage by providing honest and timely communication to your consumers. Social media is a great tool to provide this interaction.If you hesitate or wait too long, you increase the risk of the story becoming fabricated. A key part in crisis management is to make sure your customers know that you care. Especially when a crisis is completely out of your control, your customers want to know that you are taking action and they are a priority to you. Utilize different communication channels, such as social, email, and text to ensure you reach them. Be empathetic while owning the story and responding. By owning any mistakes and seizing control of the moment, you put your brand in a much better position to shorten the length of the crisis, you get the accurate information to the public, and you can establish a lasting, trusting relationship with your customers
5. Communicate Effectively Internally
When a crisis hits, you want to make sure your employees are equipped to accurately execute the plan. But every crisis is different. Every situation is unique. It is impossible to train your agents for every different type of potential problems that could occur and when the crisis occurs, you often don’t have time to train. A CRM should be configurable to dynamically change fields that are mandatory and/or important based on the information being entered. In addition, a knowledgebase should equip all agents with additional product/crisis information, without needing additional training in the moment. This ensures that the accurate messages are being given to customers.
Astute’s suite of smart consumer engagement software—including fully-integrated Crisis Management AI, social media management, CRM, and knowledge management solutions—can help you protect your brand across every channel by identifying potential threats, responding quickly with correct and consistent information, and connecting with customers who may be affected.