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Online Crisis Control and the Case of FedEx

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Just before Christmas, a surveillance camera video of a FedEx employee throwing a computer monitor over a residential gate went viral. VERY viral. As of December 22, the 21-second YouTube video posted on Dec. 19 had 4,612,33 views and thousands of mentions across Facebook and Twitter. Rightly so.

Here’s how the customer described it, “Here is a video of my monitor being ‘delivered.’ The sad part is that I was home at the time with the front door wide open. All he would have had to do was ring the bell on the gate. Now I have to return my monitor since it is broken.”

So what do you do if you’re FedEx and your brand’s reputation is suddenly on the line? You act quickly, respond, take responsibility and fix the matter. This course of action may sound simple enough, but in the age of social media the first step to “ACT QUICKLY” step cannot be stressed enough. Your leaders may wish to remain silent and take the time to internally discuss options and strategy and blah blah blah. But while they’re sitting around the table arguing over resolutions, your brand is being skewered across the internet.

In this particular situation, FedEx acted quickly. Reportedly, the company used its tracking system to trace the customer and was able to track down the employee. They then took the appropriate steps and issued an official response and video from Matthew Thornton, Senior VP of US Operations. Released on the FedEx blog, the post “Absolutely, Positively Unacceptable” made it clear that Matthew and the entire FedEx organization was disgusted by the matter and willing to take full responsibility.

“Along with many of you, we’ve seen the video showing one of our couriers carelessly and improperly delivering a package the other day.”

“As the leader of our pickup and delivery operations across America, I want you to know that I was upset, embarrassed, and very sorry for our customer’s poor experience. This goes directly against everything we have always taught our people and expect of them. It was just very disappointing.”

In addition to Thornton’s statement, a company spokesperson further explained that FedEx met face-to-face with the customer and is in the process of replacing the monitor. The company also said that they would discipline the employee and that he will no longer be delivering packages.

Stripping down this case, it’s easy to see why this will become an example of what to during an online brand reputation nightmare. FedEx took the correct course of action in what has become the best practices for Online Crisis Management:

Stay One Step Ahead
First and foremost, stay ahead and keep aware. Monitor your mentions with a real-time monitoring system to keep constant tabs on what’s being said about your brand. Ideally, you’ll know what’s out there before anyone else brings it to your attention. Free tools like Google Alerts can get you started. We use Radian6, a paid service, for our clients.

When an online crisis strikes:

Act Quickly
In the online world, speed wins. Quickly determine the cause of the crisis, establish an appropriate tone of voice, and respond. I can’t stress this enough: you MUST act quickly to get the best possible outcome. People will talk whether you’re there or not but the quicker you respond, the quicker you can shape the conversation.

Join The Conversation
Whatever you do, don’t remain silent. Quickly determine a simple and clear message then respond to the situation and apologize. Use every platform you have to clarify the issue at hand and respond to popular questions.

Respond Appropriately
When possible, respond using the same method of communication. In the case of FedEx, they posted a video in their blog post. So if the uproar started with a tweet, use Twitter first. You can always elaborate on your company’s website or blog.

Be Not Afraid
Do not delete what people are saying. If you do, people will figure it out quicker than you can say “AHHHH!” Complaints are not the worst thing in the world, especially if you are responding, listening and taking steps to correct the actions. If you delete comments, you’re creating your own “worst case scenario.”

Take Responsibility
Respond to the negativism and provide information while being as transparent as possible. Do this even if you are not directly responsible for the crisis. But use your best judgment, you don’t have to take responsibility for EVERYTHING. Stay focused and respond to the biggest questions. This will dispel rumors, put out the fire and keep the crisis from deepening.

Use Authority
To give your statements further credibility, use someone who is the face of your organization. This can’t always happen, but if the option is available, use it.

Be Real
Customers will want you to say you’re sorry and that you know you messed up. Unfortunately, it’s not always so simple. No matter the case, keep it real. Avoid sounding like a press release, boardroom or robot. Communicate like a human who cares. Because hopefully you do care.

Fix It
Fix the problem and reassure your customers that it won’t happen again. Stick to it.

Stay Involved
Keep monitoring and redistribute your initial response. You’ll probably need to post another response and reply to comments left on the social spaces throughout the day.

Finally, remember that online crisis management is about shaping the conversation. Once you do that and fix the matter, move on. You may feel the sting for a while but if you’ve handled everything as best as possible, you can shift focus back to your brand and making it as great as it can possibly be.

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