How to Build Trust in Your Business During a Crippling Crisis
With COVID restrictions just about lifted around the world, we have entered into an era where trust is at an all-time low. Adding to the mistrust of governments and mass media, as we climb out of the devastation that seemed to be a two-year pandemic war, businesses are struggling to relearn their place. Learning how to respond to business crisis, both in the short term and the long term will help you build trust and loyalty with your customers and your employees.
This month, (July 2022), Air Canada has come under fire for cancelling a multitude of flights, having overbooked and severely misjudged their booking capacity and losing luggage at an unprecedented rate. Rogers Communication lost services in a multi-day outage that left millions of their customers in a telecommunications crisis.
The domino effect of the latter forced Canadian consumers into a tizzy as businesses without internet service were only able to accept cash transactions. But with ATMs being affected, the double-whammy of inconvenience left consumers stranded.
It is so easy to blame the telecommunication giants for this latest fiasco, but the truth remains that businesses themselves were unprepared for the disruption.
I know, you might be reading this and saying, ‘But Marc if it wasn’t for Rogers, we wouldn’t have had to turn people away.’ The truth of the matter is that even though Rogers was the root cause of the disruption, businesses have the responsibility to their customers, their employees and their bottom lines to be prepared for such an eventuality.
Notice I said “eventuality.”
Disruptions to our businesses are not a matter IF they will happen as much as it is, WHEN they will happen. And how we respond to them will dictate if we build or crush our customers’ loyalty and the trust they put in us.
Overcoming a crisis in one’s business, by focussing on the eventuality of crisis and ensuring that we have plans in place will help us build trust with our customers.
Things will break. This is a certainty. It could be a breaker, a transformer, and piece of equipment, or your plumbing or your internet goes down. You could be faced with a natural disaster, a civil uprising, or a war.
Here are a few things you can do to prepare.
1. Work with your team
List out where your vulnerabilities are. A simple brainstorming exercise can help you do this. Using different coloured post-it notes™, divide vulnerabilities into people, processes and property… if you love these exercises as much as I do, you can even colour code sub-topics for each.
In this exercise, nothing is off-limits. Honestly, does it matter that someone writes, ‘Alien invasion, or a loss of gravity?’ nope, it doesn’t. Because there is the next step.
2. Classify each idea.
By classifying each idea, we have the ability to sort and rank the importance of each. Classifying each piece of feedback into a “risk” category and a “likelihood” category will allow us to code each idea and thought and rank them appropriately as we define appropriate strategies.
Starting with the “risk” category, assign a Level 1 to 4 for each idea.
The highest level of crisis, with huge implications for the safety of people and the viability of the business. (Fire, natural disaster, ransomware attack, alien invasion)
Moderate potential risk to business operations, customer or employee success or even the company’s brand and reputation. (Infrastructure failures like power outages, internet failures, major equipment failures, or employees walking out)
Issues have minimal impact on the long-term business operation or employee/customer success. (Internet and social media reviews, basic customer issues, minor staffing issue)
Issues are what I like to call hiccup issues. They are minor inconveniences which are slightly more intense than our day-to-day operations.
The ‘likelihood’ category defines how likely the issue will arise. I like to use a rating of A (most likely) to D (next to impossible).
By the time you are done, you will have a ton of ideas rated with a number and letter. For instance, the internet going down will rate as a 2B, someone knocking over a display might be a 4C, and an Alien invasion might be a 1D.
3. Brainstorm what can be done to de-escalate each of the points.
Reducing the likelihood of an incident and reducing its severity is the next priority. For instance, in a retail environment, having the internet go down, which we rated as a severity level of 2 (really hurts) and a high likelihood (B), can be mitigated by having one of those old-time credit card imprinters with the carbon copy paper receipts. Not ideal, but it can reduce the severity to Level 4.
Another example could be someone getting electrocuted by the floor washing machine (it’s happened). The severity is Level 1, the likelihood is a C (keep in mind that the likelihood could escalate with the age of the machine). Having a preventative maintenance schedule can reduce the likelihood of a D. I suggest having a comprehensive Occupational Health and Safety program, wherever people and processes are concerned.
Develop a communications plan.
In both the Air Canada example and the Rogers example, what infuriated people the most, aside from the companies not fulfilling their service promise, was that the companies kept the public in the dark for far too long, with no communication as to what the plan of action was.
Human beings will forgive a lot. But we have been so tainted over the decades with misinformation, spin, and political manipulation that any delay in communication is seen as a huge breach of trust.
A comprehensive communication plan defines who is responsible for communication and when…. Here’s a hint…. The bigger the level of severity, the faster and more frequent the message has to come, the broader it has to reach, and the higher up the chain of command it has to come from.
Creating a crisis and communication plan, centred on the well-being of your customers and employees will go a long way to reinforcing the trust people have put into you and help you sustain that loyalty as the brand of choice.
If you would like to take control, so future crises won’t control you, and you need a hand, book a 30 minute discovery call with Marc.
About the Author
Marc Haine is a Service Expert and a Master of Experience. He is a sought-after speaker and trainer working with businesses that need to attract and engage their best customers. Driven by his passion for creating experiences that rock, Marc has worked with retail, casinos, hotels, associations and municipalities to help them design jaw-dropping experiences that get them noticed.