Handling a PR crisis
Sunday night Zappos sent out an email to employees and customers alerting them that hackers broke into their system. Twenty-four million customers were affected and even though hackers walked away with customer user name and passwords, they didn’t get complete credit card information; only the last four digits.
If you’re selling product online, security is an ongoing issue and I trust you have a plan in place if your system is every compromised.
The other plan you need is a public relations crisis management plan.
Zappos did a couple of things right.
Zappos founder, Tony Hsieh, responded immediately
He notified employees and customers right away. I also appreciate the fact that the email came from him. Not another high-level Zappos official but Mr. Delivering Happiness himself addressed the issue and that made me happy. His email was less candid than most due to an ongoing investigation but he was as transparent as he could be given the situation.
Made real-time adjustments
Even the best of plans can’t foresee every challenge or issue. Zappos made the decision to temporarily pull the plug on its phones. If you know anything about Zappos this is very unZappos like. It goes against culture. But in times of crisis you have to sometimes do what is outside your normal.
It seems the phone systems were not able to handle the high volume of calls due to the crisis. Instead everyone, even if you weren’t a member of the Customer Loyalty Team were asked to assist customers via email. Training was even being offered to all employees on the best way to serve Zappos customers.
I really like this company.
Every business needs to have crisis management plan that should include a public relations component. How will your company address your customers, the public, the media? Who will speak to your audience? Can you…are you willing to make tough decisions in real time?
A professor once said that the Titanic didn’t have to sink. Everyone did what they were supposed to do instead of asking crucial questions. They followed procedure and protocol not meant to handle the situation they were experiencing.
Your crisis management plan must have some wiggle room to allow for the unknown.