The bad news: Crises happen. The good news: About 80 percent of the issues and objections that people can throw at you in any given business crisis can be foreseen.
That’s what my experience with many companies, including 3M and Carlson, has taught me: 80 percent of crises result from downsizings, product/service mishaps and all the “what ifs” we constantly fear, but rarely plan for.
In the middle of a business crisis, no one wants to be caught without some valid talking points, right? So where and when do you start to craft them?
As a leader, you need to develop and practice your worst-case scenario responses now so you will know what to say—at least 80 percent of the time! And you won’t have to reinvent your message wheel if the situation resurfaces or something similar occurs in the future. All you’ll have to do is modify the existing language.
Here are a few common scenarios you can draw from to help you communicate effectively:
- Dealing with an unwarranted refund request? Put the responsibility of follow-through back on the client with a response like this: “I know it’s difficult to put your confidence in another designer especially when the end product is so important. That’s why I continued making edits beyond my standard two rounds. I want you to be happy with the work I’ve done. However, outside of revising the assets, and because of the discount I already extended, I’m not willing to offer a refund. If you’re open to another round of edits, just let me know.”
- Got a skeleton in your closet? Pronounce your turnaround publicly: “Eight years ago, a health issue prompted us to make a difficult financial decision, one that we never anticipated having to make—bankruptcy. While I cannot say I’m happy that it happened—it was hard on our employees and their families, and I will always regret that—I can tell you the experience, while trying, served as a great lesson in how to manage business in a worst-case scenario environment. I’m thrilled to report that as a result we have built a new business that’s not only debt-free, but also operating with a surplus.”
- Can’t get collected? Send a proactive email that says, “You may not be aware that you have an outstanding balance of $1,540.00, which is overdue. I know you will want to get this corrected right away, so I’ll have my operations manager give you a call in the next few days to discuss. In the meantime, if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me. Thank you for your continued business.”
Before you act . . .
If things are going well for you, take advantage of the moment by thinking ahead: Use this crisis-free time to craft and rehearse the right messages for every imaginable bad-news situation—before you need them.
What are other bad-news scenarios that could put your reputation at risk? Comment below.