In one of my earlier articles ‘The secret to being forgiven’, I spoke about the power of appearing to open and transparent when things go wrong. It’s hard enough to give an honest explanation of what happened during a crisis and apologise for whatever part your organisation was responsible for, but you can’t expect customers to truly forgive you unless you detail your plans to keep it from ever happening again.

Like Donald Porter, vice president of British Airways, is quoted as saying: “Customers don’t expect you to be perfect. They do expect you to fix things when they go wrong.”

There are three steps to dealing with a crisis which will help to ease the public’s reaction (which usually ranges from fear to outright anger):

  1. Give an honest explanation of what happened.
  2. Apologise for whatever part (no matter how small) your organisation was responsible for…

… But most importantly:

  1. Describe the steps being taken to address the issue and detail your plans to keep it from ever happening again.

It’s all too easy to apologise and give a customer a refund or voucher and send them on their merry way – crisis averted. However, compensating the complaining customer without addressing the core issue isn’t enough, and though it may ease the hurt of the customer, it doesn’t help the company to improve.

Bill Gates has said: “Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.” Each crisis, every time something goes wrong, you have not only an opportunity to make your life easier by putting in processes to try and make sure it doesn’t happen again, you ultimately are improving your product or service – that can only lead to more repeat business.

Does your company have a crisis communication plan that includes responding to online attacks? If you or your business were to face an online assault to your or its reputation, how would you react?