#GASPFAIL. Crisis (out of) Control

COD: Customer (crappy) Service email, gone viral.

In case you missed it, a Twitterstorm erupted Down Under this afternoon over a customer service (I use that term loosely) email from clothing retailer GASP. You can get all the juicy details here:

Exhibit A: The Complaint Email

Exhibit B: The Response from GASP Online Customer Care

Outrage over the email quickly gained traction and GaspGate soon burst into the Twitterstream with the hashtag #GASPFAIL  in the top 5 most trending topics in Sydney, #GASP taking spot number two on the national list.

 

The GASP Facebook page was the scene of a brand massacre with people expressing their disgust at GASP’s treatment of their clientele and inviting a response, apology, anything….

Whilst this PR disaster unfolded, there was one noticeable guest who did not come to the party, GASP. The only official response from GASP came through deleting Facebook posts from their wall before finally doing away with their brand page altogether.  #GASPFAIL indeed.

Here are some of the comments before the masses were silenced:

 

 

Aside from investing in staff training and development, what could they have done to better to manage the crisis? Well, quite a lot.

Like all businesses operating in this brave new world of always on here are some of the crucial mistakes made by GASP this afternoon:

  1. Removed complaints from the Facebook Page
  2. Remained silent
  3. Removed the Facebook page completely
  4. Still silent…
  5. Twitter, which is a more prominent feedback channel during a crisis, was going off, yet the Gasp Twitter Handle remains, yep, you guessed it…silent (and barren to boot).
  6. Links are being circulated to personal Facebook accounts of GASP staff, showing rather unsavoury comments (whether related or not to the customer service email). This shows you just how far consumers will go if wronged.

So, what could they have done?

  1. Not handle the customer complaint the way they did first and foremost. They wouldn’t  have this issue had they handled that situation more wisely.
  2. Listen and monitor. Once the issue erupted, they should have set up social media listening immediately for brand mentions. This would have provided many insights on what was happening and how the issue was escalating; this in turn would have provided critical information that the PR and management team could have built a plan from. Had GASP been monitoring they would have seen a spike in mentions which would have alerted them to the impending brand massacre.
  3. Have a crisis plan in place. When things go wrong it is crucial that there is a clear escalation process and employees know what to do. You have to act with speed before the problem escalates and gets out of control.
  4. Admit you’ve made a mistake and rectify it. Don’t stick your head in the sand and pretend there isn’t an issue, address the issue and address it publicly using your social media channels.
  5. Be authentic. Don’t throw a canned response or token apology and expect it to change sentiment, it won’t.
  6. Never EVER remove negative feedback from your social channels.  It’s social media 101. As GASP has learned, your community does not appreciate being silenced.
  7. Have a social media policy. If your employees are active in social and identify themselves as an employee of your business,  they should have clear guidelines on what is and is not appropriate in social media

Crises happen all the time and we know how quickly they escalate with user generated content and social media as the accelerant. A combination of planning, preparation and process is your best defence. Have you got a crisis plan in place?

By Lucie Snape (@LucieSnape)

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