Ryanair has been under fire in recent weeks for cancelling thousands of flights due to a pilot shortage, which forced them to break the bad news to more than 400,000 disappointed passengers.
It has since offered its customers a refund for the cancelled flights, along with a £35 voucher as compensation for the administration error. Understandably, the compensation proposal was not quite up to standard for a lot of customers.
In fact, our research shows that a whopping 91% of people thought that the offer was unacceptable, 7% thought it could be improved and only 2% were satisfied.
In times of corporate crisis, we can’t help but wonder: how can a leader move a company forward from such a colossal failure, whilst retaining an unhappy customer base and minimising further damage to their brand?
Anticipation and accountability
Most corporate disasters don’t just crop up overnight. Monarch, for example, had seen a decline in business for some time before it was forced to close its doors for good on Monday, 2 October 2017.
Brexit, the decline in the value of the pound and the rise of terrorist attacks all contributed towards the airlines ill fate, but Monarch’s anticipation bought them time to come to an agreement with governing bodies to return the 110,000 customers that were stranded abroad.
The most obvious way to handle a corporate crisis is to stop it from happening in the first place. Of course, that’s easier said than done as its sometimes out of our control, but anticipating a crisis will give you time to establish whether it can be avoided and/or prepare for its unfortunate arrival.
From customer support and operations to sales and marketing, your whole workforce needs to be on the same page to effectively deal with the problem. Brainstorm with members of your team, from all divisions of the business, to plan ahead and take control of the disaster, potentially stopping it from happening or softening the blow if it can’t be avoided.
By the time the disaster catches up with you, you will be prepared to release a statement accepting full responsibility which will reassure customers, employees and external stakeholders that you’re aware of the problem and that you’re doing everything you can to make it right.
Composure, communication and customer service
So, you’ve made the headlines for something that you wouldn’t wish on your biggest competitor? Don’t worry – it’s not the end of the world – or worry, but keep it under wraps!
Worry is contagious, and anxious staff won’t be able to provide the level of care that’s required when customers need it most. Customer service is the backbone of business, as it bridges the gap between your company and your customers. Moreover, it affects decision making which can be catastrophic during times of crisis.
Employees need to feel secure in order to perform in their roles and reassure customers, but how can they if all evidence points in the other direction?
Being honest and transparent is important when dealing with worried customers and employees, especially if your business has been painted in a bad light by the media. Offer support, advice and empathy. From the offset, tell customers their options and set achievable time-frames to find a resolution, maintain faith in your brand and prevent further damage.
Following the Ryanair flight cancellations, a bad situation was made worse when the brand failed to tell customers that they had the option of rerouting with another airline. Ryanair is now facing legal action for misleading the many passengers that have been affected.
Post-reflection is important, even if your company crosses the bridge with little or no damage. Evaluate what went wrong, how it could have been avoided, what steps need to be taken to prevent it from happening again, and whether the situation was dealt with well across all aspects of your business.
While being in the limelight for all the wrong reasons is the last thing a business wants, it’s not all bad. Companies can learn from a corporate crisis, update their processes accordingly and improve their service as a result.
We have no doubt that Ryanair will be allowing their pilots to take their rightful holiday entitlement going forward!