When Customers Attack: Why A Modern-Day Crisis Comms Plan Is More Important Than Ever

Screen Shot 2019-11-05 at 2.01.28 PMWe are all familiar with the usual crisis response plan. It includes fill-in-the-blank press releases and holding statements for expected problems like recalls, robberies, cyber-breaches and hacking, death or firing of an executive or mass corporate layoffs. But, today, your crisis plan needs to account for more common and damaging situations including customer boycotts and violence. 

For example, we’ve all been following the immense success Popeye’s has experienced with the launch of their new chicken sandwich. The strategy is brilliant and has employed long-appreciated PR stunts such as limiting the supply to create greater demand and long lines. They even brought the sandwich back on a Sunday, targeting top rival Chick-Fil-A, which is closed on Sundays.

But, this week, we’ve seen their success turn ugly as customers attack each other while waiting in long lines or berate Popeye’s employees. Even Popeye’s employees are starting to lose their cool with each other and with impatient customers. It went so far as one customer was tragically stabbed to death by another customer while waiting for a sandwich.

And, all of these situations have been caught on tape and gone viral online. 

Of course, this is part of a growing trend where fights break out and/or customers harass people while in a retail, restaurants or c-stores.

Increasingly, we are seeing situations where the employees are the ones misbehaving or reacting inappropriately such as this video where a customer gets angry because the Starbucks is closed. Unfortunately, the employee begins using profanity at the customer, which makes him and the brand look bad, regardless of provocation.

The simple truth is we are living in a time where many people are on edge AND everyone has a video camera ready to record. How your employees handle violent situations or customer complaints can be the difference between a crisis happening in your brand’s location or because of your brand’s response.

Also consider the long-lasting effects of these situations as, the “outrage brigade” is ready to boycott brands based on partnerships, advertising plans and videos showing customer interactions.

In order to protect your brand, you need crisis planning that focuses on more than just the usual fill-in-the-blank releases, press conference planning, CRT information gathering and sharing. Your crisis plan should also include:

  • Employee training on de-escalation techniques
  • Call-trees and response action plans
  • Witness information gathering
  • Holding statements messaging
  • Total narrative ownership

The bottom line is today’s crises need a new approach. Are you ready?

If you need help with your crisis planning, please visit Connected Comms.

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