In our society tipping is not just customary, it’s expected. It’s a way for young people to get off their feet and make a living wage. And the decision for a Pastor to ignore tipping her server under the guise of being “Godly”, it was a story ripe for controversy. While this may have been an incredibly juicy story, these stories aren’t farfetched. Large brands like Papa John’s and Whole Foods face social media backlash solely for public statements by their CEO. It’s important to know how to deal with crisis management for brands because so as long as humans run companies, there will be the chance for controversy…
Here are some recommended tips for handling a crisis before threat colors go from orange to red.
I’m not talking a knee jerk reaction to the controversy. This often may lead to an even bigger controversy if the public statements sound callous or insincere. What I mean is keeping customers in the loop. The customers connected through social media are already followers for a reason so communicate with them first and let them know the problem before the hear it on the nightly news.
Applebee’s should’ve used this opportunity to bring up the controversy and let the public know the reasons why the employee was fired (supposedly for publicizing a customer’s name) AND use the opportunity to express the importance of respect towards servers (which Pastor Alois showed none of).
Move your customers to a landing page to handle questions/complaints. Let customer’s voices be heard here so they are less likely to address their complaints on more shareable websites like Facebook and Twitter. Continually update these customers that complain on this landing page with Frequently Asked Questions. Be aware that most customers will take their complaints using mobile so create a simple, mobile-friendly interface.
Be authentic and offer a solution
Does this really need to be mentioned? Your language choice is crucial to sounding authentic. The easiest way to sound authentic is to be authentic so have someone empathetic towards the cause to be answering personal complaints. No auto-replies if possible!
People want to be updated after their complaints. Last I heard from Applebee’s, the server was never offered her job back. It would be a nice touch if Applebee’s contacted every person that complained and used the social media channels to deliver news of some solution. Maybe a change in social media policies to be more explicit so these things don’t happen in the future.
SEO/Google Adwords/Social advertising
Be ready for keywords to pop up and take this as an opportunity to launch your complaints to the landing page.
‘Applebee’s server fired’, ‘Pastor Bell’ and more terms should have been purchased and SEO-optimized to bring the landing page to the top.
Don’t delete posts and don’t ignore posts
Some posters (“I will never eat here again”) can be saved with the steps before and a sincere apology/promise to earn their business again. Others may not be looking for a solution and can be sorely unreasonable (“You guys are scumbags”) but still deserve a sincere response. Develop some thick skin because you’ll need it.
Don’t forget, just as much as communities can lavish you with praise they can tear you down. While these stories come and go, it’s the way you handle the crisis that can define the public image of your company for years.