Your call center can rescue you from a massive PR nightmare.

For brand managers, the web is technology’s greatest gift to mankind. It is, for them, a place brimming with business opportunities and new prospects. But for those in public relations, the web is a jungle with countless booby traps. One wrong turn and you could probably be heading to your biggest nightmare.

And it’s easy to see why. In an age where Facebook posts can go viral in less than an hour and retweets won’t just stop, it’s safe to say that a PR crisis can explode anytime. Brands need to be extra careful when updating their social profiles and talking to customers. Everything they say must rest exactly between promoting the brand and satisfying a customer’s needs.

Unfortunately, no matter how vigilant you are when it comes to reputation management, you’re not completely safe from PR disasters.

Call centers are usually the first to detect whether there’s an ongoing online reputation crisis out there. Phones would start going off all at once. Agents would then be complaining of irate callers, who seem to be coming in droves. Worse, these frustrated customers would demand to be escalated to a manager or a supervisor, which causes more confusion. And finally, they’ll most probably be harping on the line for half an hour or more, while 10 more customers are on queue.

So what should contact centers do?

As the face of your brand, your contact center plays a crucial role in keeping your reputation intact. Before you can get ahold of your top execs, it’s up to your frontline employees to try and regain control over the situation. To do this, you need a solid strategy that will allow the upper management to keep tabs on what’s happening while deciding on the best course of action.

1. Channel calls to a separate number.

Separating the PR-related calls from the regular ones is a great way to manage this disaster. You may assign a different number for accepting such calls. Once you have an estimate of how many agents you’ll need to accommodate the callers, you can then borrow staff from other parts of the company. This ensures that your regular call center services will continue to be delivered efficiently while the PR situation is being handled.

2. Let your agents vent.

Taking your agents off the phone, even for five minutes, may sound counterproductive, but they do need to vent and release their stress. Otherwise, they’ll end up frustrated as well, and that won’t help your case. Plus, they may have ideas on how to improve the problem, as they are the ones who directly interact with your irate customers.

3. Improvise!

These PR disasters will, for sure, test the leadership capabilities of floor leaders in your contact center. As soon as they find out why customers are calling and what they’re complaining about, team leaders must be able to come up with a temporary protocol on how to handle customers’ issues. This protocol should include escalation policies and possible solutions to complaints. Having this kind of system in place can help agents resolve transactions faster.

4. Coordinate with brand managers.

Of course, all these things must be relayed directly to brand managers, especially if the call center is an outsourced one. They must be informed of everything about the issue, and customer care managers must also be able to suggest sound recommendations depending on customer feedback.

Call volume may dwindle in a few days, but don’t think that it’s the end of the PR crisis. In the process of appeasing customers for the sake of reputation management, you may forget that your staff have also been under a lot of pressure. They may have lingering doubts about the company and the quality of its products, so make sure to talk to them. Attend to any concern they may have with the company, and reward them for their good performance.