But when the going gets tough, there’s one thing above all others that consumers really want. Are you optimised for accountability?
The fine line
Demonstrating accountability, especially when things aren’t going quite right (customer service issues, or a technology failure, for example), can mean the difference between drawing customers closer than ever before, or losing their trust completely. And, as we know, the social world is a pretty unforgiving place when consumers feel let down.
Think about the travel chaos caused by adverse weather at the end of 2010. We all accepted that it wasn’t the train operator, airport or airline’s fault, but we did expect accountability in keeping us informed. What we most needed was a commitment to providing the information we were looking for, quickly and as accessibly as possible. We wanted to know that our needs were being taken seriously.
Some succeeded and many didn’t.
So what’s the lesson here?
Don’t wait for disaster to strike before kicking into gear. Plan all of your communications with accountability in mind – and for crisis and customer service communications, this should be at the forefront. An unerring commitment to providing information, and the articulation of your efforts to rectify a situation should underpin all of that. In addition:
- Monitor like crazy: Be aware of issues the minute they break (major or minor), and commit upfront to solve it, whether or not you have the solution right away.
- Use judgment: Is it appropriate to continue campaign comms about offers and promotions while there’s a bigger situation to deal with? Sometimes not. Be prepared to temporarily divert from the plan.
- Make it personal: It’s frustrating communicating with a nameless avatar when you need answers. If the situation is serious enough, it might be time for management to come to the social media frontline and demonstrate their overall accountability through a dedicated Twitter stream, Facebook announcement or shared video.
- Be transparent and set expectations: Keep lines of communication open around the clock if necessary, let customers know what’s happening (even if it’s not conclusive), and deliver on promises.
Consumers get that to err is human. And when brands can demonstrate passionate accountability for solving problems and providing answers, they’ll most likely find that forgiveness really is divine.