Read these real-world examples of crisis communication and apply them to your customer service team.
Smart business owners know that crises can occur in a moment’s notice, so they must prepare their employees to handle any type of workplace situation. While you hope it’s never used, this proactive planning minimizes damages when an unfortunate circumstance derails your business. After all, it’s easy for employees to panic and make rash decisions when they’re under pressure to respond to a significant crisis.
Rather than gunning for the immediate solution, you should carefully select the response that’s most human and customer-focused. Whether that be apologizing to victims, protecting your company’s reputation, or using humor these strategies should always be chosen and practiced before a crisis occurs.
Before we craft an effective crisis-communication plan, we need to understand the different types of crises and how they can affect your business. Let’s look at the five types of crises that affect every company, regardless of industry.
- Financial Crisis
- Personnel Crisis
- Organizational Crisis
- Technological Crisis
- Natural Crisis
1. Financial Crisis
A financial crisis occurs when a business loses value in its assets and can’t afford to pay off expenses. This is caused by either internal or external factors that result in a severe decrease in demand for the company’s products or services.
2. Personnel Crisis
A personnel crisis occurs when an internal stakeholder of the organization is involved with an illegal or unethical scandal that impacts the company’s reputation.
3. Organizational Crisis
Organizational crises occur when a business exploits its customers to gain more profits or information. These situations often receive lots of media attention that’s negative for the company.
4. Technological Crisis
A technological crisis occurs when an organization’s technology crashes — such as when a server breaks or an error emerges in a software product. When these crises happen, customers and users have no access to the company’s products and/or services.
5. Natural Crisis
A natural crisis occurs when severe weather interrupts normal business functions. This can be temporary like a snow delay or more permanent like a flooding evacuation.
Since there are few different types of natural crises, let’s review each one in more detail below.
Short-term delays are times where weather temporarily prevents your business from being fully operational. Your business may still be open, but certain features or services aren’t available to customers. For example, you may provide a delivery service, but due to severe snow, you’ll need to delay deliveries until the following day.
During these situations, your team should alert customers to any changes that may affect their customer experience. Use an automated email or calling tool to send out a message to your customer base, notifying them of the temporary crisis. It’s important to be proactive during these cases as it reduces friction for affected customers.
I remember growing up through the New England Ice Storm of 2008. And, while the storm itself only lasted a day or two, the damage it caused left nearly every town without electricity for weeks.
This is a great example of a long-term outage crisis. While the storm wasn’t considered a natural disaster, it did affect how businesses operated. Some companies needed to close completely while others offered limited services until power was restored.
If your business experiences a similar situation, it’s best to communicate with customers as much as possible. If you can, use mobile devices to get messages out on social media and make it clear to customers what you can and can’t provide at this time. Alternatively, you can use radio ads to contact customers who are listening to the news and waiting for updates.
Anticipated Natural Disasters
Fortunately, modern technology has made it possible to anticipate some incoming storms and disasters. For example, hurricanes can be spotted before they reach the coastline and start causing damage. This gives people enough time to prepare for the storm or evacuate to a safer location.
In these situations, your business should prioritize customer safety before profits. Delay actions like billing and sales pitches until you’re sure customers are safe and that damage is limited. If there are urgent tasks that need to be completed, reach out with customer service personnel to see if they can assist. But, remember, these are the times where it’s more important to show customers you care about their well-being than to remind them about an overdue bill.
Unexpected Natural Disasters
Other disasters, like earthquakes and flash floods, aren’t caught ahead of time. These can strike at almost any moment and cause devastating damage to towns and cities.
If your business or offices are affected by this type of disaster, the first step you should take is to assess the damage. Try to determine if you can keep your business open, and for how long. If the damage is severe, call up your insurance documents and anything else you’ll need to file a claim for your business. Then, let customers know via social media if your business will be open, or if you’ll need to close and when you expect to reopen.
If your business can stay open, but customers are affected by the disaster, you should focus on your customer service team. Plan for a spike in case volume as people will likely reach out with questions or concerns about their accounts. Remind your reps to be patient as customers may be juggling other important tasks while working with your team.
Permanent Climate Change
In rare cases, natural disasters create permanent changes in a region. Take forest fires or droughts, for example, as these events present long-lasting changes to an environment. If your business was dependent on a resource found in your area, this can create major problems for your organization.
For these scenarios, the best response is proactive planning. Creating a plan ahead of time to deal with these potential issues can help you avoid problems once natural disasters occur. You should be constantly updating your plan, too, giving you plenty of alternatives to choose from in case your original backup plan fails.
Your business can learn a lot from companies that have responded to and overcome these five types of crises. In fact, the next section includes real case studies where notable organizations managed to maintain their reputation in the face of a company-wide crisis.