Submitted by: Juan P Rodriguez
For a couple of weeks now, our company has been undergoing an effort to regain the trust of some of our clients. A couple of mistakes were made in the past that have negatively affected a specific group of client´s perception towards our brand. These mistakes were not made intentionally; nevertheless, actions needed to be taken and leadership needed to be the protagonist of this effort.
Mistakes will happen over time in any company, this is inevitable. As a leader of your company, you should focus on creating controls, within a system, that mitigate the possibility of these mistakes ever happening. But, in the event of any of these mistakes ever happening, actions like: assuming responsibility, the speed with which you´re company addresses the issue, the proposed plan to fix the issue and the plan after the issue has been solved will determine whether your company will eventually increase brand loyalty by your customers or lose them for good.
Step 1. Stepping up to the plate
Facing a scandal can be a challenging task for any company´s leadership. Not facing the scandal will surely make it an even more challenging task later on. What the affected clients need to see is someone taking the leadership role to explain, apologize, and fix the issue at hand. This effort needs to be transparent and most importantly, with the client´s perspective in mind. How has your company affected them? Who will assume the role of fixing it? What is your client going through? What does your client expect from your customer service? Be empathetic and place yourself in the “client´s shoes”.
Be forthright and honest. Your clients can understand a mistake. That´s not to say they will accept it and stay with you as a client. What they will not understand or accept is dishonesty. Being dishonest or non-transparent will surely lead to eventually loosing those clients.
Step 2. Speed to respond
As soon as the company is aware of the issue, it is imperative that the company´s leadership gather all the facts available and release a communication statement to the affected clients as soon as possible. The underlying idea here is to transmit to the affected clients the company’s intention to be transparent about the issue and to assume the leadership role in order to resolve the issue.
Back in 2007, a Virgin train services from London to Glasgow derailed at 95 mph. As a result of the derailment, one passenger lost her life and 5 others were injured. As a result of this, Richard Brandson, Virgin founder, drove all night from a ski resort to get to the nearest airport so he could fly to the scene of the accident. “I think that anybody who runs a company, if there is an incident like that, it´s absolutely essential that they drop everything and they go to the scene” Branson told Inc. in an interview later on. He also spoke about the importance of caring for those affected by the incident and to show support during those hard times.
Step 3. The Fix
How does your company intend to resolve the problem? This is the proposed solution after the fact. Here is where your intentions need to become actions. These actions need to address the issue at hand and to do so within the stipulated time and within stipulated depth. Your clients should be informed all throughout the process, from start to finish. This is where your company becomes part of the solution and incrementally distances itself from only being part of the problem.
Make sure that any promise your company made to your clients in this stage is kept.
Step 4. Preventive measures
How does your company plan to mitigate the possibility of this problem ever happening again? After all the dust has settled and every fire is put out, communicating your action plan to mitigate this problem from ever happening again is a must. Your clients will not want to go through this ever again and they need to know how you’re making sure they won’t need too.
Additionally, this is the time to release a positive public relation´s campaign where the company´s image is restored and where both the company and its clients can start focusing on the future.
The relationship stablished with clients is everything. You must adhere to what your company offered at the beginning of the relationship and try to improve upon it, never the other way around.
So the next time you´re company is faced with a public relations scandal or a failure to meet your client´s expectations with regards to either your services or your products, keep in mind that the most important issue here is coming through for your client and effectively fixing the issue. At the end, all of us as clients understand that things might happen, but the ways your company deals with these matters are what eventually differentiates the regular companies from the awesome ones.
Picture by: flickr-www.audio-luci-store.it