Four crisis management best practices (that anybody can emulate)
About 10 days ago, a construction subcontractor working a couple blocks from our office didn’t just accidentally sever copper and fiber optic wires underground that cut off our Internet and phones. They literally (an inexplicably) destroyed thousands of feet of said wire, cutting off Internet and phone access for dozens of businesses in downtown Redmond, Washington.
Within 24 hours the Internet was working again, but it took another nine days to get the phones back on. So if you called our office last week, you got a busy signal. There was nothing we could do.
Perhaps more frustrated was the owner & manager of our office building, from whom we had contracted for our phone service. They also had nothing to do with this outage, but were left in between unhappy customers and a less-than-responsive service provider.
So how did they handle it? I thought the team and leadership at Thinkspace, helmed by CEO Peter Chee, did a great job with their crisis communication. Here are a few lessons worth emulating should something similar ever happen to you.
Many of Thinkspace’s customers found out about the phone outage from Thinkspace first, vs. experiencing it directly or hearing from unhappy customers of their own. Their initial communication made it clear they were on top of identifying the problem, solution and potential timeline with the vendor. Difficult situation, but it was being handled and that was communicated in very short order.
Open, detailed and frequent communication
Over the next several days, as the situation worsened and stretched on, Thinkspace sent detailed updates to customers 2-3 times a day. It was very detailed based on conversations with the service provider and subcontractors, and also included a handful of workarounds they were attempting. The frequency of communication was appreciated and helped alleviate tension and frustration.
Every Thinkspace employee, and especially CEO Chee, made themselves available to discuss the situation directly with customers at anytime. They made rounds to offers to, in some cases, just listen to people vent. They could have just as easily hid in their office and behind emails, but they instead took the offensive. In a good way.
On behalf of their customers, Thinkspace met with the Redmond mayor to express frustrations and discuss remediation. They contracted insurance agencies to discuss compensation options. And they provided their customers with several options to submit claims for damage compensation. This was more than just communicating status of the problem and solution. It included advocacy of their customers in a very proactive, very appreciated manner.
Nothing here was necessarily original or spectacular or innovative. But it was the right thing to do from an organization that prides itself on being customer-centric.
It’s one thing to claim customer focus on a Web site or mission statement. It’s another thing entirely to put that in practice when the cards are down.
Good stuff to emulate for sure.