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How the right communication strategy can protect your reputation this Christmas season

The Christmas season is upon us, with the retail and hospitality industries in full swing. Shoppers are out in droves and despite the festive season, some customers can be particularly demanding which creates a potential reputational landmine that all public-facing businesses need to studiously avoid.

Maintaining standards

Your regular staff would know the high customer service standards you set, but the additional demands at this time of year can sometimes cause them to slip. Hiring casual staff is common but they may not be as invested in your customer service culture.

It only takes one lapse to create a reputational storm on social media and undo all the hard work you have done throughout the year to build customer loyalty.

We all have happy customers who are quietly satisfied, but the negative review of one unhappy customer can spread like a virus through social media platforms, quickly creating a crisis communication nightmare.

Southwest Airlines in the United States learnt this the hard way last year, when one of their staff made fun of a 5-year old girl because of her unusual first name.

The airline may have had 10,000 positive interactions with their customers that day, but it only took one slip to create a damaging story that flew around the world. They acted swiftly and issued a well-worded apology, but the damage to the company’s reputation was done.

Ask yourself the question

Are all your staff fully inducted and trained to meet your customer service standards right through to the end of the year? If not, find time to ensure they are.

If you find yourself in the eye of a customer service storm this Christmas, be prepared to provide an apology that is swift, personal and 100% genuine. You can’t afford to go with a “sorry, not sorry” response, even in a situation where the customer may be partly to blame.

Also, consider a policy that authorises your staff to quickly defuse situations like this, such as offering a refund or discount before the customer has the chance to take a swing at you on social media. As you know, that can be 30 seconds after they have walked out your door.

If you do stumble across negative feedback online, don’t ignore it. Respond online, but if it has the potential to degenerate,  take it offline.

Remember in today’s connected society, your online reputation always precedes you. If you feel under-prepared to respond to a crisis or public relations nightmare with an effective communication strategy, we can help you rise to the challenge.

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