Preparing for the Worst: Crisis Management

5 Nov

Like many aspects of customer service online, crisis management online can be a double-edged sword. Social media can be used for good to respond to major problems, or it can be the start of those problems for your company. (See Jeff Jarvis’ infamous “Dell Hell“.) As more companies integrate social media into their every day communications, the former is becoming more important. While you never want a crisis to occur, your company must be prepared for when it does and your customers go online.

On SmartBlog for Social Media, Rob Birgfeld maintains that even though customers can use social media to start online uprisings, those same tools are still  best for crisis management. Social media lends value by allowing companies to track what their customers are saying, and hopefully stop a problem in its tracks. In addition, problems can be addressed on multiple platforms, so you can quickly respond on all fronts. As for a problem that occurs offline and carries over online, the key is to maintain the same principles of crisis communications, just make them faster to keep up with the demands of the internet.

In a PRSA article, James Donnelly outlines some of these principles of online crisis communication. It starts at the core of the strategic framework of a company’s online media. They should start online relationships from the start, and usability is an important factor. When a problem arises, customers will already trust the website and know its navigation. Companies must also use a genuine voice when addressing their customers, and keep the relationship going after the crisis as been resolved.

A recent example of quick online crisis response was the airlines during the Iceland volcano eruption that grounded hundreds of thousands of travelers over six days. On Mashable, Shashank Nigam applauds the efficient responses of the airlines on Twitter and Facebook, and their subsequent updates throughout the week. Customers appreciate being told the truth and updated frequently during crises, and social media is a great asset in these respects.

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