Social Media Crisis Management: Employee Interactions

Sections of this topic

    The way you handle stakeholders can make fans for life…or create a crisis

    We focus a lot on preventing crisis stemming from those outside our organizations via social media, and for good reason, but it’s important to remember that issues involving employee interactions are one of the most common causes leading to a need for more serious crisis management.

    In an article, Daniel Edward Craig shared this wisdom on preventing social media crisis from within:

    Businesses are well aware of the perils of external attacks, but often the real threat comes from within. We have never been more vulnerable to errors and misjudgment on the part of employees.

    As an example, in 2012 a major international hotel brand was assailed on social networks after a front desk employee allegedly mocked a disabled U.S. army veteran who requested assistance during a power outage. He got down from his room by throwing his wheelchair and suitcases down three flights of stairs and sliding down on his behind. Then he went straight to the media.

    Staff must understand that social media has raised the stakes. The costs of mistreating customers are significantly higher. Employees and managers must be trained and empowered to identify and resolve issues onsite before they escalate to online channels.

    Not that it was a good idea to mistreat customers before, but frankly it was possible for members of your organization to have the occasional ugly run-in and get away with it. Now, between social media and the ever-present smartphone, any such incidents are likely to be recorded, documented, and immediately shared with a massive network full of potential stakeholders.

    It’s not that the customer must always be right, but the consequences for slips in behavior have been magnified to a point where a single mistake holds the very real potential to permanently damage your business.

    How do you prevent such mistakes? The best way is to create crisis management plans that include clear instructions on how disgruntled stakeholders are to be handled, and then train employees on tactics they can employ when it comes to both agreeing and disagreeing with the opinions or demands of said stakeholders.

    Nobody’s going to force you to do it, but unless you’d like to provide some nice fodder for this blog we’d suggest you get on the ball.

    For more resources, see the Free Management Library topic: Crisis Management

    [Erik Bernstein is Social Media Manager for Bernstein Crisis Management, Inc., an international crisis management consultancy, and also editor of its newsletter, Crisis Manager]