Why consumers need to be at the heart of your crisis response plan

Consumers must be at the heart of any crisis response plan. When any business is hit by a crisis, it sends shockwaves throughout the organisation. The impacts of a cyber-attack, emergency health or data breach can be devastating for the business, both financially and reputationally. But the greatest impacts are often felt by consumers or service users.

Emotional and financial impacts

Think about the stress of discovering that your confidential data, for example, has been lost or stolen. The financial impacts on individuals can be significant, but the emotional strain can be even more damaging.

The theft of confidential data can lead to identity fraud, financial loss and damaged credit ratings – with implications for many aspects of life. When the health and well-being of your customers is at stake, you can’t afford to cut corners in the way you plan for and respond to a crisis.

That’s why it’s so important to ensure your crisis response plan addresses consumer expectations, protects their finances and supports their emotional well-being. We know from experience that regular, clear communication is one of the most important ways to help minimise stress and uncertainty for consumers impacted by a crisis.

Customers understand that any organization can suffer a crisis, but they do expect businesses to be open and transparent with them, and to keep them informed about the recovery process and any consequences that affect them.

Understanding consumer expectations

In recent surveys of crisis preparedness, response and recovery among businesses and consumers, we asked more than 2,000 members of the public about their experiences and expectations.

Respondents told us that if their confidential data was compromised by an incident, they would expect to be notified quickly. More than half (55%) expected to be informed within 24 hours. On average, people expected to be informed within five days of such an incident.

Consumers also expect businesses to provide services to help them recover from a crisis and minimise its impacts. These services include identity theft and fraud protection (49% of respondents), contact center support to answer queries (42%), compensation (44%) and credit file monitoring services (42%).

Businesses falling short

When we asked business leaders what support they could provide to customers in the event of a crisis, less than half said they would be able to provide contact center support (43%), identity theft protection and credit file monitoring (42%) or compensation (41%). This suggests that many businesses are likely to fall short of customer expectations in the aftermath of a crisis.

Businesses that had experienced a data breach were also asked how quickly they were able to inform customers. Less than one in 10 (7%) had informed customers within 24 hours. On average, respondents said they had informed affected customers within eight days. Again, it seems many businesses would be unable to provide the rapid notification most consumers expect.

Communication key to successful response

Another concerning finding was that 42% of business respondents said their organization had no notification process in place to inform customers. And 38% said they didn’t have processes in place to cleanse customer address data. Without accurate information on customer contact details and preferences, any emergency communication program would be severely hampered.

Any delay or disruption to notifying customers is likely to result in greater emotional distress and financial harm. That’s likely to exacerbate reputational damage and erode the hard-earned trust you have built up with customers.

Careful and detailed planning for a crisis response in advance is the way to avoid delays, ensure you have the necessary resources in place, and ensure everyone involved in the response understands their role. If a crisis strikes, you will be grateful for the level of thought and detail you have put into your plan. That plan should include setting out the messages you wish to convey to affected parties and the channels you will use, as well as having templated communications ready to deploy. By keeping customers well informed in a timely manner, you deflect many incoming queries and generate positive feelings of trust towards your business – demonstrating your expertise and efficiency in dealing with the unexpected.

Plan for a positive resolution

The consequences of an effective crisis response can be beneficial for your business. The consumers we surveyed said they would feel positively towards a business that handled a crisis situation professionally and kept them well informed. Our survey findings suggest that consumers who have experienced an efficient crisis response are likely to remain a customer (46% of respondents), to think favorably about your business (43%), recommend it to others (23%) and even post about it on social media (16%).

Most people will be sympathetic to a business responding to a crisis, as long as they are kept informed about what’s happening and supported through the recovery process. Ensuring a positive outcome to any crisis means having a detailed plan. The time to draw up that plan is now, before the next crises disrupt your business.

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