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Smith Outstanding Customer Experiences 
Deliver Them, Especially in a Time of Crisis

By Brad Smith

The Carnival Cruise Lines incident earlier this year prompted me to think even more about customer experience. After reading about the more than 4,000 people stranded on a cruise ship in less-than-ideal living conditions, I wondered what small businesses would do in a crisis situation.

Providing an exceptional customer experience can make all the difference for your company, brand and customers – even in a time of crisis. With that in mind, here are six strategies that can help you turn a crisis into a positive situation.

1. Address the issue with empathy: We’ve all seen this before. A company does something wrong and skirts around the issue. Whether you’re a big business or a small one, your public wants an explanation, acknowledgment of the toll your actions have had on your customers and details on what actions you’re going to take to resolve the situation. Everyone makes mistakes. It’s all in how you correct them.

2. Apologize: Think about this in your personal life. Doesn’t a sincere apology go a long way? Does a sincere apology singlehandedly remedy a crisis situation in the business world? Of course not, but a sincere apology will humanize your company and spokesperson while delivering confidence at a time when it’s needed most.

3. Exceed expectations through full transparency: Put yourself in your customer’s shoes. What would you want done to rectify the situation? Whatever the answer is, do it – plus one thing. One of the very best things you can do to extend your relationship with that customer is to fully disclose the root causes of the issues and the steps you’re taking to arrest and address it. Customers want the companies they do business with to make things right. Even when it seems nothing will help, the effort will be appreciated.

4. Keep promises and be honest: This goes along with exceeding expectations. Whatever you’ve promised your customers, deliver it – and deliver it well. It’s as simple as that. It’s better to “under promise and over deliver” than the opposite. Don’t promise more than you can provide and never lie through omission; it will be found out in the end.

5. Take to the social channels: Although it’s important to have a crisis communication plan in place before you begin to tweet and blog, the most important thing to remember is that silence can be your worst enemy. Don’t let your customers wonder what’s happening. That will only upset them further. Remember, your customers are living in a world of instant information. The more prepared you are, the better.

6. Focus on the customers you do have: So often companies focus on acquiring new sales and clients. When your reputation is on the line, ensure your current customers are the No. 1 priority.

Let Carnival Cruise Lines be an example of the importance of having a plan to provide an exceptional customer experience during a time of crisis. Doing so will instill confidence in your company and go a long way in enhancing long-term customer loyalty.

Author: Brad Smith is executive vice president, customer experience for Sage North America. Learn more at