Part 1: What not to do
You can’t read the news lately without seeing stories about major corporate disasters. From Fedex and U.S. Postal workers being caught on video throwing (and destroying) expensive computer equipment over fences, to Carnival Cruise Line’s Costa Concordia being steered into rocks by an incompetent captain, 2012’s headlines have been filled with both outstanding and horrific responses for these mistakes.
So what does this have to do with you? I certainly hope that none of you ever have to deal with a disaster on such a grand or public scale; however, we all have to be prepared to deal with mistakes we make that can affect our business.
Many customers with whom I’ve discussed this issue tell me that they consider mistakes as opportunities to see the character of the business. How a business handles this kind of situation determines the loyalty a customer has to that business, and the likelihood that the customer will recommend that business to his or her acquaintances.
Let’s start with how not to handle mistakes. A shining example of how not to handle a situation is the one I mentioned above: the sinking of the Costa Concordia cruise ship. The media has deemed it the worst at-sea disaster since the Titanic. That isn’t exactly how you want your product or service remembered!
I have read every article I could get my hands on about the accident and there has been very little communication directly from the cruise line. The CEO’s first outing after the sinking was to a Miami Heat game. People were shocked that he never traveled to Italy to be with the victims as they made arrangements to return home or to console family members of the dead.
It is also worth noting that I’m a frequent “cruiser,” and as such I’m a member of several frequent traveler programs, including Carnival’s (Costa’s parent company). Since the sinking, I received emails from Royal Caribbean and Celebrity Cruises acknowledging the accident and offering reassurance that they are reviewing their safety policies. I received no such email from Carnival.
I believe the lack of forthcoming communication from Costa and Carnival allowed the media to run stories about the disaster from their own perspective. If you search the Internet for recent stories on Costa, you’ll see that their history of accidents is now being dug up and put on display over and over again. Had Costa and Carnival made a greater effort to acknowledge the mishap, outlining what they were going to do to help the victims and addressing how they will handle safety issues in the future, they probably would have fared much better in the media.
My next post will highlight how you should handle a bad situation to make the best out of a PR nightmare. I have some great examples for you to see.
I’d like to hear your thoughts on disaster control. Share with me here on my blog or post on my Facebook page or Twitter feed.