When we talk of crisis management we not only talk of the operational activity that solves the problem, fixes the fault or restores a service. In our world of instantaneous news coverage and the speed of social media one of the biggest, if not the biggest issues, is how we manage our reputation.
Many organisations, both large and small, in response to an event that impacts on their ability to operate effectively throw all their resources at fixing the issue and you can completely understand the reasons for doing so. Unfortunately, from a customer’s point of view, this activity is in many cases completely invisible and they are left to ponder the bland tweet, media release or statement that at best confirms that a human is in fact taking the issue seriously and at worst confirms that the company has a complete disregard for its customers.
I regularly travel on the train network and during disruptions often find myself particularly annoyed at the lack of information during a delay or when a service is overcrowded (particularly when I consider the cost of my ticket!). Now, operating a train service is without doubt a complex task, but as a passenger, miles away from home you find yourself wanting access to information far more than if you were unable to log on to your favourite shopping website for example.
The need therefore for organisations to really understand their customers and allocate sufficient resource in the event of a disruption is absolutely critical. Long gone are the days when customers will just accept their lot.
It can be frustrating as an incident manager, your operational response can be perfect and you can fix the fault in record time, but if you don’t get the right messaging out to your customers, it can all be for nothing. In these circumstances just remember this well-known quote from Henry Ford…………
“It is not the employer who pays the wages. Employers only handle the money. It is the customer who pays the wages.”
When you next manage an issue for your company, just remember it is not just the operational response that is important, it is how you communicate that to your customers. If you haven’t told them or showed them a picture of your team at work, then they probably won’t believe you. Your communications work cannot be an afterthought it is a vital component of your overall incident response.
About the author – Chris Regan is the Director of Blue Rock Risk Limited a specialist crisis and risk management consultancy. Chris has developed an international reputation working with both private and public sector clients to help them plan, prepare and respond effectively to a wide range of crisis and risk issues. Chris can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org