How to Effectively Talk to Your Customers During a Crisis

Whether it’s a global pandemic or a data breach, a crisis of any kind can affect your business or your reputation.

So what can marketers say and do to keep customers informed and satisfied until the crisis is over?

To begin with, a crisis can threaten not only your business but also your job, your career, and possibly your livelihood. You are motivated to do whatever it takes to complete tasks, even if it means longer days, extra cups of coffee, and skipping normal self-care routines. And it works for a while, but soon you start making mistakes because of one. a phenomenon is known as cognitive tunneling, “when your concentration decreases during periods of high stress, making you blind to the things in your environment that you would normally see.”

SOCO consists of a series of five questions:

  1. What is the main message?
  2. What do you want the recipients of the message to do?
  3. Which customer groups should be aware of this?
  4. What facts or data support the message?
  5. Who is the spokesperson for this message?

Let’s ask each question using an example that all B2B brands know and fear: data breach.

What is the main message?

Your customers may panic due to the slowing down of your business, especially if their business depends on your management. What should they remember or know that can alleviate their panic?

Determining a key message not only helps you focus on what to say but also reduces the chance that customers will misinterpret your message.

What do you want recipients to do?

Also called a call to action.

Again, your customers are panicking, looking for your leadership and guidance for the next steps. It is important to show them that your company is in control and can guide them through the crisis.

In the event of a data breach, you can tell your customers that, while doing everything you can to protect their information, it may be a good idea to change their passwords or set up two-factor authentication.

Which customer group should be aware of this?

While it is tempting to send a message to all contacts in the customer’s database, only those directly involved likely need it. Or what they should hear is different from what others should hear. Therefore, it is better to segment your audience and deliver different messages to your different audiences.

In our fictional data breach crisis, hackers only had access to part of the database. Then, you send a message to the affected population, with instructions to protect your information and a warning to other customers, with the guarantee that a data breach has occurred, but your information is not at risk. Not specified.

What facts or data support the message?

Depending on the main message, you may need support when communicating with facts or data, which helps to remove emotions from a situation and reinforce the message’s credibility.

In a data breach scenario, you can recognize the day and time it occurred, the types of access to information, and the steps you, as a company, take to protect your database.

Who should be the spokesperson for the message?

Whether you are sending an email or giving a press conference, you need to determine who the best person to deliver the message is. Because? Because for a message to sound, it has to come from someone who has the customer’s trust.

According to crisis communication expert Doug Levy, trust can be created by notoriety or authority. Levy further explains: “Most people trust familiar faces or names. [In] emergencies, however, people look for policemen who seem conscientious and empathetic.”

That is why you will see spokesmen for the uninformed press, depending on the type of emergency.

Regarding this fictitious data breach, it may be tempting for your CEO to “send” the message to customers, but if customers don’t recognize the CEO’s name or if the CEO never communicated with them before the incident, there may be deaf ears message. A better choice is a successful customer administrator with whom they communicate regularly or a technical leader responsible for database security.

Let’s summarize

An industry crisis can be stressful, but its ability to respond with precision and empathy gives customers the confidence to move forward with their business. For that to happen, you need to establish a structure or process that will allow you to create the right message, even in a high-stress situation.

Use the five frequently asked questions as they are or as a starting point for creating your own questions. Either way, you will be prepared.