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Damage Control: How to Bounce Back
To regain the trust of your clientele, you need to acknowledge the error, take responsibility, offer a solution, and follow through with changed behavior. You also need to realize that it will take time to earn back the trust of your clients after a big error or gaffe
Customer trust is more important than almost anything when you have a business, no matter what size it is. Your clients need to be able to trust you will do what you say, that you will provide a good product, and that you will treat them like they matter.
When you fail to do this, the reflex may be to point fingers, throw someone else under the bus, or make excuses for what happened. This would be a mistake. To regain the trust of your clientele, you need to acknowledge the error, take responsibility, offer a solution, and follow through with changed behavior. You also need to realize that it will take time to earn back the trust of your clients after a big error or gaffe.
Acknowledge the Mistake
So you've made a mistake. The first thing you need to do is acknowledge it. It is important here to not only name what you did wrong, but also offer a genuine apology for your error. If you can show consumers that you understand what you did was wrong, they are more likely to empathize.
Celebrities who compose apologies in the Apple Notes app are infamous for the lacklustre “I am sorry if you were upset” type of apology. You want to avoid this at all costs. A bad apology after a gaffe simply adds insult to injury and further aggravate critics (who are also more likely to jump on social media to share how frustrated they are with your brand).
An effective apology promptly acknowledges the mistake and the harm caused, either in physical or emotional damage, wasted time, etc. Your organization should also be sure to include the words “sorry” or “apologize” in your apology to make it clear you regret what happened.
The best apologies are sincere, come from a high-level executive, and include a solution and outline of the steps they are taking to rectify their mistake. Here are some good examples.
Take Responsibility and Offer a Solution
Another big mistake lots of businesses make when handling damage control is to try to throw someone else under the bus instead of just acknowledging they messed up. For example, when BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil rig detonated in 2010 in the Gulf of Mexico, spilling 134 million gallons of oil and killing 11 people, the initial press release tried to blame a contractor.
The fallout from that apology involved BP having to take out ads in major national publications. Admitting an error hurts, but it might hurt less than international outrage and irreparable damage to your brand.
In addition to taking responsibility for your mistake, you need to offer a solution to whatever happened. If someone’s food was bad, you might offer them a refund or a gift card to try a different meal. The solution should be as good or better value than the error or mistake.
Your customers need to see changed behavior in order to begin to trust your brand again. Responding with remorse to bad reviews doesn’t mean much if your business doesn’t do anything to fix the problems that were reported.
In today's business landscape, transparency has become an essential element in rebuilding trust with your shareholders and customers. As a business owner, it is vital to understand that concealing any information about what is happening in your organization can only worsen your situation. Instead, it is imperative to educate your stakeholders about your company, keep them in the loop, and if here is a problem, explain what you plan to do to prevent it from happening again in the future.
In a damage control situation, you will need to act and respond quickly to address the issue. But before sharing the situation with the public, it is crucial to have a plan in place. With that in mind, it's also recommended that you have contingency plans in place ahead of time to ensure your company's damage control runs smoothly when someone inevitably makes a mistake.
By being transparent in a crisis, your company is holding itself accountable, and your clientele will feel like they are a part of the resolution of the problem. This will not only help you to repair the damage done but also build a more solid and trustworthy relationship with your stakeholders.
Follow Up and Follow Through
Your initial press release following an uproar shouldn’t be the last your customers hear from you on a crisis. You need to be in touch with the people affected, find out if your solution has satisfied them, and continue to reach out until you can confirm the problem is resolved.
The second part of this involves ensuring that the problem never happens again. Change your processes or create a policy to prevent the issue from happening again, and then share this change with your employees and the customers who were affected. This shows that you have learned from your mistakes and grown from the situation.
While you might balk at the perceived cost of apologizing and fixing the issue, Harvard Business Review indicates a good apology actually saves businesses money.
Rebuild Trust Over Time
Now that you've apologized and offered up solutions, it's time to rebuild. Rebuilding trust with your audience after making a mistake is not an easy task, but it is definitely possible. One of the most important things you can do sounds simple enough: don't repeat your mistake. If followed, it serves as a good starting point that shows you have learned from your past mistakes and are continuing to take measures to rectify them.
It's natural to feel defensive and want to deflect blame. However, being transparent and taking responsibility for your actions shows that you are willing to be held accountable for your mistakes and, over time, helps you rebuild trust with your target audience.
It is crucial to be proactive and honest with your customers throughout the process of rebuilding trust. Keep improving and keep addressing their concerns. By doing this, your customers will see that you are taking them seriously and are making a real effort to improve. Trust is a gradual process that takes time and effort, but if you stay committed and true to your word, your customers will see the progress you are making and regain their trust in you.
The way a business addresses its mistakes is almost more important than the mistake itself. By having a plan in place, you can create a sincere apology that acknowledges the error, takes responsibility and offers a solution. Be transparent with offended or hurt clients, follow up and follow through with them in order to earn back their trust.
With these guidelines in mind, your business should be able to overcome even the most reputation-damaging situations, and come out looking better to customers on the other side.