5 Helpful Crisis Communication Tips: Are You Ready When Shit Hits The Fan?

I worked on a rewards platform that deals with money for its community. So when things go wrong, they can go really wrong.

Long story short, we once faced an issue with our third-party server over a weekend and this led to the loss of some data for a number of users. And knowing the nature of our community,┬áthis could’ve been really bad for us. Luckily, however, we managed to avoid a disastrous outcome with our crisis communication plan.

It’s one we came up with specifically for our product and our user base, and it’s helped us communicate better and faster.

So, are you ready when shit hits the fan?

Check out my helpful crisis communication tips to be sure!

1. Respond Fast

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Fast response to a crisis is imperative in keeping your user base from turning into a torch-wielding mob of angry people.

Even if you have no plan of action for the crisis, update your users with whatever piece of relevant information you can give them (eg: we’ll have an update for you before the end of today (Wednesday, 10 November 2017).

There’s nothing worse than radio silence.

It puts people on edge, and the last thing you want is an agitated group of users.

Put yourself in the user’s shoes.

What would you want to know, or how would you like the situation to be handled if you were in their position?

Usually, at this point in time, things may seem very chaotic, with you and your team trying to sort out the mess and come up with a plan. So it’s really important that the team leader remain calm and collected.

A leader must keep their cool at all times so the team can execute their crisis communication plan without feeling stressed out or anxious. These sort of feelings among the team may increase the possibility of errors in judgement or work, and that’s the last thing you need when you deal with a crisis.

2. Be Sincere. People See Through Bullshit

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As you’re messaging your users, don’t come up with some excuse to circumvent your issue.

You need to be as honest as you can. People will appreciate not being patronised.

Tell them what happened, and be sincere in your apology and action plan. A follow-up or update post, email, or message helps to show that you mean what you say and have taken action.

3. Get Your Facts (And Grammar) Right

Check, double-check, and triple-check any and all forms of communication that will take place during your crisis management plan execution.

There’s nothing worse than telling people that you’re getting something fixed by tomorrow when it will really take a couple of days.

It should be obvious that the content of your message(s) to your clients/users is grammatically correct and that there are no spelling errors.

But sometimes people forget in their haste to smooth things over and end up posting/sending messages with mistakes in them.

This really makes you seem unprofessional, so check everything thoroughly.

4. Personalise Your Message

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There’s nothing wrong with using a template answer for similar questions thrown at you during a crisis, especially when the overall number of open tickets is more than what your team can handle in one sitting.

The key here is to personalise your template to suit the user you’re messaging.

It doesn’t have to be extensive since you are using the template to save time, but it should reflect that you are paying attention to the user.

Some things you can do to personalise your template reply message:

  1. Include the user’s name in your template (it makes it look like you’re addressing directly)
  2. Repeat relevant part(s) of user’s complaint to show that you are reading their message, and not just replying them based on the keywords of their message to you. If a user says this affect them in X way because of X, then repeat X in your message (eg: I’m sorry that this happened during your birthday. We’ll make it up to you by xxx…)
  3. Tell them your action plan for rectifying the issue and give them a timeline of when you’re carrying out your plan

Template Answer Example:

Hi there, we’re sorry for the recent downtime. We know that you’ve and we would like to make it up to you. Please allow us to compensate you with xx for xx. Do let me know if you have any questions or concerns. Thank you

Personalised Template Answer Example:

Hi, Sarah. We’re so sorry for the recent downtime. We know that you’ve and we would like to make it up to you. Please allow us to compensate you with xx for xx. Do let me know if you have any questions or concerns. Thank you

5. Apologise, But Don’t Grovel

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Don’t go overboard when apologising to your users.

It makes you look insincere, and that will increase your chances of getting bashed by your users.

You really don’t want to go down that road.

Apologise the appropriate amount – show that you are remorseful over what happened, and tell your users what your brand/product is doing to avoid a recurrent issue. Be proactive in communicating with your user, but never appear pathetic in the eyes of your user.

That decreases the trust they have in you.

At the end of the day, you want to provide endless value to your users to keep them around. So give them a valuable experience during the good, and the bad – 24/7. Nothing can ever go right all the time, but you can always be prepared for when things go wrong.

So be prepared and just do your best!

Hope you find these tips useful. Do let me know if you have any crisis communication tips of your own. Share this out and comment below!

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