The threat of Bad PR (aka Public Relations) used to keep me up at night when I was a contractor. It doesn’t take much Bad PR to make it tough for your company to grow or, if it’s bad enough, to go out of business.
And as you grow your company and more and more people are at work each day, there are more and more people who can slip up or even give the appearance that they’ve slipped up.
What can you do to mitigate – or better yet – avoid Bad PR?
Learn how to play both offense and defense.
Note: As a CYA (aka Cover Your…Anatomy), you’re welcome to get advice from your own professionals who specialize on any and all of this. There’s a lot at stake.
In the meanwhile, I’m going to share my take on some examples of the high stakes game we, as contractors, must play:
Scenario #1: Scandal or a TV sting:
What I mean is a TV camera crew is waiting to record what your Tech recommends and does on a fake service call they’ve set up. Ever notice they don’t do much to promote the good contractors who did the right thing? That’s because it doesn’t make great TV. Whether or not you think that’s fair or not, know that this is only going to happen more and more. It’s no longer wait and see what happens. You need to know how to play an effective Offense by:
- Training CSRs how to handle calls and/or visits from the press, TV or governmental agency.
- Training Techs how to handle this scenario the right way should they be confronted by a camera crew. We’ve all seen it go badly with a Tech covering their face with a hoodie or shoving the cameraman. Appearances matter.
- Training them on how to explain what you do to make sure customers are served and protected with things like:
- Operating manuals that spell out how everyone does the work the right way which is always in the customer’s best interest
- Training that is always ongoing in your own training center, so the Techs know how to recommend the right type of work and how to do an expert job
- Having in place a 100% money-back guarantee if the customer is not able to be completely satisfied with the work that was done
- Continuously doing ride-alongs that ensure that Techs are doing in the field what they’ve been trained on in your training center and classroom
- Your own Mystery Shoppers whose ONLY job it is to bring to the company’s attention how Techs are behaving (good and bad) in the field
Bad PR requires you have also been trained on how to play Defense too and live by this approach, “Tell it first, tell it fast, tell it all”:
- You’re not likely to bury the story.
- You must be proactive and always tell your side of the story before you lose the narrative.
- You need to share the “why” you did what you did and tell it all.
Make sure employees know in advance what to do if something happens. Once the story breaks, it’s too late. There are ways to work with the press to share all of what you do to protect customers. And don’t threaten them with lawyers and lawsuits. The old adage of, “Don’t pick a fight with the press” applies.
You will want to have a communications plan in place ahead of the announcement and know what you are going to say should the TV stations and reporters show up.
Scenario #2: The threat of Bad PR can come from alienated staff.
Things like a death of a co-worker or close friend which means they want to attend the funeral will require that management go the extra mile and make that doable. If you fire someone for this, it will get out on social media and online and reflect poorly on your company.
Scenario #3: Social Media and Online Reputation Damage
This brings up the other challenge in today’s world, and that is the advent of trial by Social Media. There’s no shortage of digital devices and platforms for people to rightly or wrongly attack you in Social Media and online review platforms.
You can say it’s not right that they can do this, and I won’t argue with you. But I will remind you that the phrase that wins out is, “Perception is Reality”.
This too is an Offense and Defense Strategy:
On offense, it’s not just a good idea to have a ton of great reviews online on the online review platforms and tons of great social media presence – it’s now a necessity. The more legitimate great reviews is what it takes to outweigh posts from Customers who may or may not be the type who never can be satisfied or even your competitors who stoop to assailing you with the cloak of anonymity.
The good news is that surveys have shown that customers are more likely to trust online reviews if there are some bad ones versus just all good or great reviews.
The other thing is to play Offense with things like:
- Having your CSRs or Dispatchers call the Customer after each call (aka “Happy Call”) to get ahead of a potential unhappy customer review.
- Have your Techs exit their calls by asking something like this, “Is everything clean enough for you? Is there anything more that I can do to be of service? My company will send you an email to rate my work today and we strive for the highest levels of Customer Satisfaction. What can I do right now to ensure that you’re comfortable with what I did and how I did it to earn a great review?”
- Have your systems in place to make it easy for a customer to go online and give a review, and if doable, work with a specialist who allows you to step in before the online review goes live if it’s a bad one.
- Once you know you have a dissatisfied customer, you need to have a plan in place that is known by all on how to move fast to make them happy or give them their money back with things like “100% Customer Satisfaction or Your Money Back.”
- A manager or owner needs to call the Customer ASAP. Better yet, if manageable, go and pay the Customer a visit and share with them what lengths you go to serve customers the right way.
Playing Offense and Defense…not just one, but both…helps to Mitigate Bad PR.