The guy who fixed my car had a weird habit.
If he’d promise to deliver my car on Friday, he’d call on Wednesday and give me a status report.
The car still wasn’t ready, but I knew right there on Wednesday about the status of the repair job.
So why did this repair guy use this unusual approach?
“It’s simple,” he said. “Most clients are going to call up and ask me about the status, anyway. That disrupts my day and keeps me from working efficiently. And of course, that slows down the repair job, which no one wants. So I call the clients and give them the news instead—even if it’s bad news.
Bad news is something you’ll have to deliver if you run a business
No matter how big or small your business, it's inevitable that something will go horribly wrong. And your natural reaction would be to hide it from your clients. What's the point, you think, off letting the clients know that things have gone awry.
It's at this point in time that you should put yourself in an airport scenario
Imagine you're about to catch a flight, and the gate has yet to be announced. As the minutes tick away, you get more and more agitated. You repeatedly look up at the flight status, then get into an animated conversation with your neighbour, and before you know it, you're swearing at the airline!
No one likes bad news, but your job is to deliver the news.
And this is specially important when your website goes kaboom!
Recently our membership site at 5000 BC went through a security upgrade. The job was supposed to last approximately three hours.
By the end of four hours, the site was looking like a dog’s breakfast. All the links were not working, several thousand posts in the forum had disappeared, and yup, even I couldn’t log in to my own site. One day dragged into the next, and the misery continued.
So what were we doing while the site went from bad to worse?
We did what any smart PR expert will tell you to do: We told the truth. Instead of trying to keep the information hidden from our members, we told them exactly what was going on by sending them updates. We didn’t just tell them that the site was not working. We gave them the gory details—and why not? They were going to find out those details anyway, so why not be transparent in the first place?
Many politicians and movie stars never seem to understand this simple fact
When there’s a bit of a scandal, a politician or movie star will try to cover up the detail. And it’s plainly stupid to go down that track of hiding the detail.
Instead, the best way to defuse a bad situation is to give your clients constant updates with sufficient detail. The more you hide the truth, the more the reporters want to hunt you down. And then, while digging for dirt, reporters invariably find even more juicy stuff.
Clients too will start tweeting and emailing and doing all sorts of things if they don't hear from you quickly enough. Instead of keeping the situation under control, the secrecy is capable of spreading like an uncontrollable bush fire.
But what if clients get angry and leave?
Some clients may do just that. Well, you don’t need those clients anyway. The rest will actually rally to your aid, asking if you need any help, and at the very least offering support. In all the years we’ve had situations (and we’ve had our share), we’ve never lost clients. When you’re transparent, you gain their appreciation and their respect for you grows—especially if you handle the episode with honesty.
It doesn’t matter how small or big your business, you will run into trouble
When trouble hits, covering up is a really bad idea.
Instead, get clients over to your side.
Simply, tell the truth
And tell it often.
And when the crisis has passed, reward your clients for putting up with the inconvenience.
P.S. We often don’t even wait for the crisis to pass. With 5000bc, even as the problem was in play (and it took five days before we came to a solution) we created a really good mini-product, got an audio together and a transcription and sent it to clients. Even in the middle of a crisis it’s possible to say thank you. Now if only airlines gave us a nice whisky and a fancy dinner, while we were waiting!
Next Step: Links you should visit
“I thought I had a pretty good About Me page.”
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Profitable Print Relationships, Wiltshire, UK
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