No matter how much care you take to create a customer-friendly and inviting environment, sooner or later someone will really do something dumb. It might be you – and in many cases this is better – but more often it will be an employee. Might be an honest mistake. Might be your employee is just having a bad day.
Either way, you’re up to bat, slugger. Watcha gonna do about it??? Wait, before you answer that question, stop, take a moment and go through these guidelines.
#1 – Realize you can’t take it back
Before we go any further, there’s one thing you need to know. You can’t take it back. You may really, REALLY want to…but you just can’t. You have to start where you are. Not where you want to be or wish you were.
#2 – If possible, fix it
Some people make the mistake of trying to explain or getting caught up offering empty apologies. Stop it. If there is any way possible to do so, fix the problem immediately. If you do that, I promise you your apology will go a lot further.
#3 – If you can’t fix it, replace it
Look, it will almost always be cheaper for you to replace the item in question than to fight the problem. If you cannot do so, explain why. Briefly. Then offer a compromise or another form of compensation.
#4 – Cover yourself legally
Even if you do everything right after an incident, you might still get served. Don’t let this catch you off guard. If the problem is of sufficient gravity, you need to make sure you consult with legal counsel before just writing off the issue and hoping it goes away. That’s exactly the moment these things come back to bite you.
#5 – Now apologize
Once you have made it better, fixed it, replaced it, and sought legal counsel, THEN apologize. Don’t do it first. People hate that. They may expect it, but that time you spend apologizing, they spend wondering what you are going to do about it. If you have already done what you can, they don’t have to worry and they may actually hear your apology.
Of course, this is hardly a comprehensive list of responses to an employee screwup, but it’s a great start. For more help with corporate or commercial crisis PR, contact Ronn Torossian and 5wPR here.