Every once in a while a person or organization makes a big mistake. Customer satisfaction takes a hit and the problem goes viral in the press and on the internet (blogs, social media, websites, etc).
Why is this important?
The process of recovering from a big mistake will determine if an organization or person will be forgiven or not. The degree to which they are forgiven may impact the company’s fortune or the person’s future (financial, social, emotional, etc). Failure to take recovery steps can affect revenue, profit and status for organizations and individuals as well.
What is clearly evident is that what might have worked in the past such as the manipulation of the media (the keepers of the communication channels to the public), no longer works.
What are Big Mistakes?
Let’s look at a few high profile examples in the recent news.
1. Tiger Woods’ fall from grace started in Nov 2009 with a car crash in front of his home. Subsequent revelations exposed multiple sexual affairs and impacted his revenue from sponsors, may have ruined his marriage and caused him to withdraw from public life, including his livelihood of playing golf for a period of time.
2. Toyota has had a serious falling out with governments and customers alike with recent recalls in late 2009 and early 2010. The main issue is the honesty and transparency of Toyota with both stakeholders on the safety of the cars they manufactured.
3. Most recently the Roman Catholic Pope has been criticized for lack of action concerning sexual abuse of children by priests, with recent stories from Ireland and Germany.
What is the normal practice for recovering from these very public issues.
How to Recover?
The first action any one or any organization finding itself in this position needs to do is to ‘acknowledge’ the issue. Failure to do so, makes the person or organization look like they have their heads in the sand; that they are in denial; or worse, that they are trying to cover up the truth. In today’s social world, these issues just won’t fade away. If there is no acknowledgment, the public pressure grows and more and more evidence is gathered to demonstrate the problem to the person or organization involved.
2. Ask for Forgiveness.
After the acknowledgment of the problem, the next stop to recovery is to go public (using the media and social ) with an apology.
a. Tiger Woods press conference Feb 19, 2010
b. Toyota’s president publicly Apologizes
c. Pope Benedict XVI issues an apology
3. Publicize Actions to ensure the problem does not recur.
a. Tiger Woods has sought help at a sex addiction clinic and spoke of a return to Buddhism.
Update as of Sept 2, 2012: the video that used to be posted here has been removed from its source by ESPN.
b. Toyota has started a program within his organization to review the processes top to bottom. In this video he promises to work to restore confidence of his customers.
c . Pope Benedict XVI is sending a pastoral letter aimed at bringing ‘repentance, healing and renewal’. The Bishops in Ireland have agreed to cooperate with government authorities in these matters going forward and address their parishioners with humility.
What to do next?
The degree to which the announced actions are followed up with real verifiable and visible changes will often determine if these actions are good enough to restore customer satisfaction (fan satisfaction, or satisfaction with the church).
As an example, Tiger Woods recently announced he is returning to golf for the Masters Tournament in April 2010. One of the things he failed to do in his public apology in February was to deal with the women he had affairs with, in his public apology. One of the women is coming at him with a vengeance now that he is returning to a more public life. She is exposing his text messages to her during their affair.
The lesson to be learned here is that all stakeholders have be considered when trying to recover from ‘Big Mistakes’.
What is your opinion?