Crisis management is a set of strategies and measures designed to be used in case of sudden and significant negative events. Crisis management calls for quick decision making, so that the damage can be contained. Customer Service team’s role is very important when a company is faced with a crisis, since it is a bridge between the company and external stakeholders, including customers, media and pressure groups.
A Company’s swift and effective response could minimize the adverse effect on the brand, and quick action is possible. For example, Toyota recalled 6 million vehicles after it was discovered that the vehicles lacked safety features. The recall of vehicles was done in a response to customer service team’s involvement and proactivity. Some of the ways in which customer service can prepare itself for an unforeseen crisis and appropriate conduct are as follows:
Planning for Disaster
The customer service team should plan in detail for responses in case of a crisis to as many potential scenarios as possible. The representative should be taught about appropriate ways to communicate with the customers in case of crisis. Drills could be carried out to train and get CSRs acquainted with the kind of queries that will be asked during an emergency. Drills would also help CSRs to practice and perform under pressure. Protocols could be developed, explaining the company’s official response in case of a particular event.
A monitoring system should be established which could help the CSR’s practice and detect any early warning signs of an unexpected crisis the company might face. If the CS team is able to identify any warning signals, these concerns could be communicated to the management, which might help avert the calamity or at least reduce its impact significantly. Effectively monitoring support staff’s correspondence will also enable to the company to quickly gather all the information out there. The more information the company is able to gather, the better equipped it would be to handle the situation with minimal damage.
Along with the customer service team, the company should form a crises management team, which can be trained extensively in the area with problem solving techniques. This team should ideally work in collaboration with the customer support team. A well-trained team would be better equipped to deal with customers and other stakeholders trying to get in touch with the company. Alternately, a company could hire an external crises management firm, also known as public relationship teams, which are dedicated to maintain a certain image of the company in the eyes of the public. The external team would have a proven track record in this particular area, and their expertise and experience could be valuable for the company.
During a crisis some companies completely black-out their external communication. This doesn’t help since the only link between the company and customers is disrupted and there is no way for the company to defend itself or present it’s side of the story. The CS team should maintain constant communication with the customers and other stakeholders. In fact, CS should adopt a hands-on approach towards averting the crises by being forward with customer interactions and engagements.
Transparency and owning up to the mistake
Ideally the customer service team should be transparent about the crisis at hand. Lying and spinning the facts will cause more trouble, since the truth comes out eventually, and it reflects badly on the company. If it has been determined that the company is at fault, the CS team should acknowledge company shortcomings instead of assigning blame to other parties.
During the planning and actions stages, all stakeholders should be involved, so that any objections and disagreements can be sorted out before an ambiguous statement is made to the public. Also, it does not reflect well on the company if various stakeholders are contradicting each other over the course of action the company has decided to take as a result of the situation.
Rebuild Damaged Trust
After the crisis has been averted, the customer service team needs to rebuild the damaged trust. This could be done by talking to the customers and assuring them of the measures the company has undertaken to fix and avoid the issue in the future. Media agencies could also be engaged to communicate company’s stance and course of action.