3-Minute WOM Lesson: 3 tips to defuse a word of mouth crisis

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Bad things happen to good companies. Sometimes it’s your fault, sometimes it’s bad luck. But it’s how you respond that matters. A few tips:

1. Never underestimate the power of a sincere apology
2. Point to independent sources
3. Fix problems publicly

1. Never underestimate the power of a sincere apology

An honest, genuine apology can cut through the hysteria and calm even the harshest critics. It’s not always easy for a brand to do — it requires humility and candor. But not only can it defuse the current situation, it can also help you build credibility for the next time an issue comes up. To see how this can be done well, see how Amazon’s Jeff Bezos apologized for his company’s removal of certain copies of George Orwell books from Kindles.

2. Point to independent sources

It’s common for negative word of mouth to involve a lot of misunderstanding and misinterpretation from customers and critics. A great tool to use here is third-party sources that can explain the full story. This strategy of redirecting the conversation to outside experts was a key part of UPS’ response when a competitor launched an attack campaign over new industry legislation.

3. Fix problems publicly

When you solve problems in public forums, more people get to experience what a great company you are. Your options will vary depending on your industry, but even the most regulated brands have options here. Take H&R Block, for example. They take conversations offline to exchange sensitive customer information and then invite them back online when the problems are resolved.

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