Listen Before the Crisis
Emergencies are no time to develop basic listening skills. Start now. If your shipping company earns the reputation of being a good listener that takes care of its customers, you’ll have a backup reservoir of trust to tap into when a crisis hits.
Beforehand, look for channels for crisis communications. Where does the shipping community you most closely identify with choose to network? Twitter, Facebook, or on industry forums?
Social media can alert you to potential issues before they escalate. For example, community news sites near your operations could alert you to negativity which might follow an incident in that geographical area.
Monitoring social media can shut down many crises before they get off the ground. You can deal promptly with an upset customer or rogue employee before the issue appears in the pages of Tradewinds or Lloyds List.
Listen During the Crisis
During a crisis, monitor relevant conversations. What kind of volume and sentiment are you dealing with? Which people and which sites are critical of your brand? Knowing about the 5,000 angry posts on your Facebook wall will help you respond quickly and sensitively.
Some years ago, a massive hailstorm hit Denver in the USA, taking 22 of Frontier Airline’s planes out of commission. Many frustrated customers idled in long lines at the Frontier counters and waited even longer on their telephone reservation lines.
The communications manager at Frontier saw this as the perfect chance for his department to assist the reservations group by providing information and flight re-accommodations. The team tracked down mentions of Frontier across the social web and helped out customers to re-book flights, spread updates, and let their clients know they were there to help.
One of the 4,000 thankful customers they helped tweeted, “Another reason to fly @flyfrontier their @FrontierCare booked me a new ticket in 10 min rather than the insane line at airport. Awesome!”
Monitoring social media will help you see the crisis from your customers’ perspective and shape your language and adjust your priorities accordingly.
Listen After the Crisis
Don’t stop listening just because the latest crisis has passed. You need to be aware of unresolved issues and lingering frustrations that need to be fixed.
Monitor social media for sentiment around your company, comparing levels before, during and after the crisis. Is your reputation beginning to rise again? If not, why not?
You’ll find most of your customers will be very understanding about your company, and even make excuses for you, if you’re apologetic and transparent throughout. Tell your shipping colleagues what you’ve learned from the crisis and what you’re changing in response to it.
Finally, open up and ask your closer clients for their ideas. Listen for their insights into how your company fared and what can make them happy again.
The Result: A Bonding Opportunity
Listening can turn a crisis into a bonding experience with your client base. If you bring your community into the circle, they’ll feel like this is “our crisis” instead of just your crisis. After all, what better way to build lifelong trust than spending some time in the trenches together?