Going Down In Flames 3 Damage Control Strategies

It’s an inevitability of ecommerce.

Accidents will happen. People will make mistakes. Your brand will stumble.

It doesn’t matter if they’re the fault of your team or the fault of your customers, but every once in a while, you’re bound to get some angry voices shouting at you. And when these voices arise, you’d better be ready. Every business in the online world needs a damage control strategy for when an irate customer tries to set fire to the ship.

We recommend the following three tactics to minimize the damage your brand might suffer.

1. Address the issue, pronto

The first, and most pressing, step of your damage control plan must involve acknowledging the customers’ complaints. It doesn’t matter if they’re completely off base with an outrageous claim or they have a valid concern—you apologize. After apologizing, you apologize again.

Don’t worry, apologizing won’t hurt your brand. Even the angriest customers can usually be appeased by brands that take appropriate action. What will hurt your brand is failing to respond at all, or taking your time coming up with a response. Research shows that 95 percent of survey respondents, all of whom suffered bad brand experiences, openly spread the word about their grievance.

The take-away? Customer aren’t shy about lighting up a brand on social media. Address the complaint as soon as possible and extend your sympathies.

Some customers will be soothed by an apology alone. Other, more savage patrons will require a bit more effort.

2. Start with the channel they choose

This one is tricky. If customers complain through private forums like email or customer support, no problem. All details can be discussed and resolved in private. However, angry customers don’t like staying silent and often opt to tear you a new one on public channels like Facebook. If this is the case, follow these steps:

  • Address the comment publicly on the forum they choose. They chose this channel so their grievance would be seen by others. It’s equally important that your response be seen along with it.
  • As soon as possible, go private with the aggrieved customer. When it comes to angry customers, public dialogue is not your friend, and the customer’s privacy restricts you from digging into the details of the problem.
  • After going private in an email, chat, or private message, discuss the customer’s complaint in more detail. This is where you can begin offering your mea culpas and working with them to make it right.

3. Have a team to match the response

Sure, dealing with a single customer is easy enough, but what happens when you have dozens? Hundreds?

Large-scale product recalls, website down time that prevents customers from getting what they need, or even brand scandals can all cause tidal waves of hate to come crashing against your door.

Let’s take Samsung as an example. Poor Samsung.

As we all know, the tech giant is currently in the midst of a significant crisis with its fire-catching phone debacle. With 85 percent of Note 7 phones in the U.S. having been replaced at this point, and reports indicating that even some replacement phones are going up in smoke, the electronics company likely has its hands full with complaints.

Now, your brand likely isn’t as big as Samsung, but that doesn’t mean you’re immune from disasters of this scale. If you have the resources, appoint a dedicated team to serve as your “damage control unit” who have been trained in customer care, social media support, and who have been given clearance to act with authority when problems arise. For site owners, this also means having a dedicated web development team in your corner who can repair and restore your site if something gets mucked up.

You can bet that Samsung is deploying this strategy as we speak. Because, let’s face it, they need it. It might seem like overkill for an enterprise with a spotless record, but trust us: When the sails of your ship catch fire, you won’t have time to decide who’s going to grab the bucket of water.

Containing the Damage

Are dramatic crises like the one affecting Samsung likely? Probably not. Are they possible? Absolutely.

And when you shift back to something simpler, such as a basic customer complaint, that possibility turns into a certainty. Just like any ship that sets sail on the high seas, any business setting sail onto the waters of ecommerce must have a plan ready to contain damage before it spreads. When issues pop up, follow these strategies:

  • Address them as fast as possible and with as much sincerity as you can muster, regardless of who is at fault
  • Respond on the same channel as your angry customer, but be quick about taking things out of the public eye to prevent further outbursts from damaging your reputation
  • Have a dedicated support team trained and ready to handle any large-scale crises that may jeopardize the future of your company

Problems are inevitable, but lasting damage is not. Keep these strategies in mind to keep your ship strong and your brand reputation clean.