The past week has shown quite unequivocally that the unexpected really can happen, in some cases turning our lives upside down, or at least giving them a good shake-up for a while. Who would’ve thought, this time last week, that European airspace would be all but shut down for a week and maybe longer?
It’s moments like this is when marketers and communicators are really tested – when the unexpected happens, how do we turn failure into opportunity?
The business of service
I’ve been amazed that some obvious players don’t seem to have embraced the opportunity fully. For example, after last December’s huge PR disaster in the wake of the channel tunnel disruption, Eurostar have a golden opportunity to show travellers that they can pull out all the stops when disaster happens and – vitally – start to reel positive perceptions back in again. True, they’ve done their job by transporting thousands of travellers to and from the continent with extra trains. But they’re not just in the business of travel, they are also in the business of service. So if they can’t transport people (and currently the message is, if you don’t have a ticket don’t even bother turning up) can they still serve them? With information, advice, the sense of going the extra mile when people most need them?
Phone operators – great for business that millions of your customers are stranded and hugely reliant on their phones to keep in touch with business and home. So when they most need you, what else can you offer your customers? Free SMS? Free data? Goodwill goes a long way.
Payback time for loyal customers?
It’s the brands that we rely on day-to-day, with which we feel most closely aligned, who are surely best placed to reinforce that intimacy right now – by saying to customers, you’re stuck wherever you are, but we can help you make contact, find information or a desk so you can keep working, we can entertain you, even feed you or keep you stocked up with the essentials while you’re away from home.
Brands: these things may not be part of your core business, but surely service is?
As social media has shown clearly in the past week, online communities are a lifeline for sharing information, particularly when it can’t be found from official sources. It’s also where people are most likely to vent or praise – so service providers, take note. Or better still, take action.
Kate Spiers is CEO of Wisdom London