It’s a rare business that doesn’t suffer adversity and disruption from time to time. When that happens to your business, you need to step up your communication, not retreat into your shell.
There’s something going on right now that illustrates why it’s so important to remain in touch with customers and the marketplace while you sort out your problems.
A photo hosting website I use has been off the air for more than three days now. The company has put out no information at all to its tens of thousands of customers around the world. The web is awash with rumours. According to one widespread rumour, the company has gone bust. Although that doesn’t appear to be true, the rumour is spreading rapidly.
Even if the company resolves whatever the problem is – perhaps it’s hardware servers or communications equipment, which is another rumour – a bad impression of the company is going to persist. They’ll be unable to erase from the web the thousands of references to the company being liquidated, inaccurate though they may be.
Many people are posting about their plan to look for another photo hosting site, whatever the outcome of the present problem is. If the unavailability of the site had been explained, they’d probably relax and wait for it to come back, rather than getting upset.
The company (which I won’t name as I don’t want to add to the rumours) could have got an explanation out by now. Even if their mail system is goosed along with other equipment, they could have posted status reports on bulletin boards, put out press releases to the media, set up another temporary web site to explain what’s going on, written some blog entries…
In other words, your communication plan has to cover not only what you do when things are going well, but what you will do in a crisis to manage expectations, preserve your reputation, and give you the best chance of resuming normal business with loyal customers.
How good is your communication plan?