A well-handled crisis can turn a disaster into an opportunity that will reap good rewards in terms of customer loyalty, brand reputation and word-of-mouth referrals.

Last week I dwelt on how to manage a customer service crisis with some of the things that an organisation should do.

This knowledge of knowing what to do also extends to knowing what should not be done.

Switched-on management always have ready-made contingency plans to tackle every situation whenever the need arises.

They know the right approach to use and the right words to say that will heal the wounds caused by a crisis.

Stop being defensive

The organisation’s representatives and its customers should never be in a fight to prove who is right or wrong.

When there is a crisis, customers hate representatives that shift blame, lie, deny or try to cover up for their mistakes.

There is nothing as sweet as dealing with people that are transparent and honest. Organisations must never be defensive shoes but they must evaluate the crisis by getting to the bottom of the matter.

Even if it is a customer is at fault, blaming them directly may seem as a direct attack and may push them away.

If caught up in such a situation, the only thing that an organisation can do is to have a one-on-one meeting with the customer and try to make them see the cause of the problem and how they can both solve it as a team without pointing fingers.

Never make quick decisions

It is good to act as swiftly as possible but sometimes making hasty decisions may be detrimental, especially when there is a change of heart in terms of tactics or a shift in plan execution.

Decisions should not be made in the heat of the moment; instead, keep calm and always have many options open.

The idea is to roll out the plan according to the status of the situation.

The plan should be flexible enough to accommodate changes that might come along the way.

Situations or circumstances change, thus an organisation should not be caught up in a web that they are not able to come out of when the need arises.

Flexibility in planning is vital as it allows best decisions to be implemented without running the risk of being rigid.

Thus, management should give itself enough time to come up with a thorough decision that they will not regret making.

Sometimes it is better to acknowledge that you do not know the answer rather than lie.

If the organisation is still assessing the situation, it is safe to tell the truth about the current status.

This gives the customer confidence to adjust to the new set-up caused by the crisis.

Risks must not be ignored

It is said, it is better to be safe than to be sorry. A crisis that involves safety, security, health and reputation of the organisation is way too much to be ignored.

This is because it has repercussions on customer perception of the organisation and it also kills investor confidence.

Organisations must be very careful and always be overly on guard when disaster is imminent.

Such cautious behaviour helps the organisation to avert disaster, if need be.

Most organisations tend to be reactive instead of being pro-active and only wake up when disaster strikes.

They are slow and usually lack a plan to avert a crisis and risk losing customers for life.

Do not allow speculation

Customers must not be given room to speculate on a crisis. Systems that allow an organisation to communicate directly with the customers about the problem at hand must always be in place.

Speculation breeds rumours and lies, and customers always end up being misinformed.

This can destroy the trust that customers have in the organization.

Whenever there is an information gap, customers try to fill that gap with any information that is fed to them, even by unreliable sources.

It is important for the organisation to disseminate the correct information to its targeted audience as quickly as possible.

Do not allow people without authority to speak on behalf of the organisation

In customer service, communication is the order of the day, and this means whatever is said by any one from the organisation has an effect on both the internal and external customers and the organisation at large.

Not everyone is able to articulate issues professionally, neither does everyone appreciate the power that words carry.

Organisations facing a crisis must always use one voice and that is the voice of authorised personnel.

It helps the organisation from transmitting conflicting statements that may cause disharmony, panic and despondency to the public.

An official website, official social media handles known by customers and stakeholders or an authorised internal customer who is certified by the organisation to speak on its behalf can be used to relay authentic information.

The right hand should know what the left hand is doing

Everyone within the organisation must be briefed on what is going on and agree on a particular source of information that should be fed to customers.

All internal customers must sing from the same hymn book and stand by one storyline regarding a crisis.

This builds coherence and a common purpose.

Ad-hoc responses by anyone within the organisation usually send mixed messages that may end in mixed reactions, which potentially damage the perception of the organisation’s capabilities.

This may deter customers who want to do business with the organisation.

Cresencia Marjorie Chiremba is a marketing enthusiast with a strong passion for customer service. For comments and suggestions, she can be reached on [email protected] or on 0712 979 461