By Dinte
March 18, 2014

There has been a lot of discussion about the Target security breach in the past few months.  Even if your organization is not in the retail industry, this is an important opportunity to reflect on how to best respond to a crisis and maintain trusted relationships with customers. Three main lessons we feel are important to take away from this include:

Communicate and Respond to the Problem

Unfortunately, Target didn’t set the best example of responding to the crisis quickly.  When organizations don’t respond to a crisis quickly, the media often breaks the news to consumers first. This can be a problem because the organization no longer has control of the message and customers are left wondering why they didn’t hear the news straight from the source.  “Anytime you are not controlling the release of information, you lose the opportunity to cast yourself in the role of the hero rather than the villain,” says Jason Maloni from Levick in Forbes article Five Lessons For Every Business From Target's Data Breach.  Taking control of the situation is the first opportunity to show your customers they can trust you.

In addition, it is important to take note of the other organizations that reached out to consumers. For example, banks reached out their customers who shopped at Target during the security breach to issue new credit cards, help customers monitor their accounts, and provide advice on how to look out for suspicious activity in the future.   If your organization sees a client affected by a crisis, ask yourself how you can help even if you aren’t directly involved. Look for ways to be proactive in solving the problem before it gets worse.

Be Ready to Answer Customer Questions

Once the problem has been communicated to your customers, it is important that your organization is ready to answer questions. “Brand loyalty is about a relationship — and when customers faced these communications issues following the news, their trust was breached right along with their credit card information,” explains Forbes. Don’t let outside sources answer your customers’ questions.  Listening to customer concerns and addressing their questions head on will help maintain strong relationships and keep their trust. In addition, responding to customer concerns involves not only developing consistent messaging but also allocating enough resources to ensure emails and phone calls are answered in a timely manner.

Develop a Reaction Plan

Even if your organization has developed an extensive plan to prevent security breaches, it is impossible to anticipate every problem. It is equally as important to developing a reactive strategy that will both communicate the problem to affected customers and outlines steps to solving the problem.   “What other businesses can take away from this is much more concrete: a security crisis can very quickly turn into a crisis of trust and loyalty if swift communications and responsive customer service aren’t employed,” explains Forbes. Through clear and honest communication, organizations can take a crisis and turn it into an opportunity to strengthen trust and relationships with consumers.

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