Would your business cope in a crisis?

We are aware of how important it is to know our customers to attract and retain new business. We ask ourselves what our unique selling point is so that we stand out as being different to others.

Research and data tracking of buying habits of consumers are used even more by large companies and corporations to ensure a smooth customer experience and that they are higher in the ranking. Common research methods used by these professionals include experiments, phone surveys, focus groups, direct observation, questionnaires, social media interactions and loyalty schemes.

Consumer psychology studies shows how our thoughts, beliefs, feelings and perceptions influence how people buy and relate to goods and services. Think about what you do when you first enter a shop or store? How many steps do you have to take before touching the first item? How far do you have to go to get the item you were looking for and so pass a lot more products along the way? Milk is put at the back of the store for a reason! Look at how effective IKEA stores are on guiding their customers on a journey around their store. Customers are able to stop off for a bite to eat and pick up smaller “essentials” near the till that will fit in well with the bigger items purchased at the start of the shopping trip.

Professionals in this field look at the decision-making process, social persuasion and motivation to help understand why shoppers buy some things and not others. However what happens when a satisfied customer, who has happily purchased a good or service, experiences a crisis?

What goes through their mind? How do they react? More importantly, how can a business react in this state of panic? People look for answers, guarantees and reassurance. Financial compensation can sometimes be on the agenda too depending on circumstances and how the situation is handled.

In recent times in the UK we have had food safety scares – horsemeat scandal – and flooding.

As with all situations where consumers are flung into disarray and confusion there is stress and apportioned blame. The main thing is to keep calm so that there is not an immediate escalation of panic and distress. Crises are messy and often unfold at a pace that needs a careful and considered response. The best thing is to have a plan of action so that all staff know how to cope in a crisis situation and can react swiftly and smartly.

Would your business cope in a crisis situation?

Don’t lose your head in a crisis!

Acknowledgement and communication are essential. You cannot afford to bury your head in the sand and hope it will all simply go away. For instance, if a customer’s flight is cancelled it is expected that the airline should have a plan in place. This is a situation that most people would expect a company to foresee and deal with effectively. In a world where the media search the internet and social media for news you can bet that the only opinions given will be that of disgruntled customers and the general public will be filling in the gaps by most likely tweeting unkind material about the business . A lack of information fuels anxiety so there are indeed a number of steps to take and fundamentals to keep in mind.

1. Have a plan!

2. Acknowledge what’s happened. If you are online, as most companies are nowadays, an immediate response is expected. The demand for a response is 15 minutes in Twitter and about an hour on Facebook. You should be monitoring everything and responding quickly, even if it is just to say “We are aware something has happened and we are looking into it.” During the horsemeat scandal Tesco were quick to publish an apology to customers while Findus took longer to go public with its findings. Sure enough the public did complain (and rightly so) but people were quick then to make fun of the situation too – videos of people in horse costumes galloping around Tesco aisles. By acknowledging the problem quickly Tesco were able to give information and keep people in the know about what was happening.

3. Get your team together so that an announcement can be made and instructions can be given out as soon as possible. This way you can run the business as usual with the right people carrying out the right tasks to deal with the crisis. If you are a larger company it is best to have conversation with the lawyers before a crisis hits!

4. Explain the situation as thoroughly as possible, being upfront and honest with your employees as possible. If there is a problem, explain what it is and what is being done to rectify it.

5. Apologise. Getting the tone of your apology is important.

6. Take a break and refresh your team. It is important for you and your team to not take the comments personally or to be goaded in a way that leads to you or your team making mistakes.

7. Be prepared to face this issue again if a similar crisis happens. Depending on the extent of the crisis there can be further ripples or repercussions.

8. Regroup, reflect and reassess your plan of action in a crisis. Learn from mistakes and rectify areas, so your response is efficient and effective, should it happen again.

9. Keep smiling. Fail to prepare, prepare to fail. If you have already carried out step 1 then you can move forward safe in the knowledge that you and your team have done your best. Keep spirits high as everyone will need a boost after getting through the tough times.

10. How can I mange my mind set to manage emotions? Another blog coming another time!

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