In any business, no matter how well managed it is, and how many contingency plans you make, there will be times when things go wrong. Dealing with your customers at such a time will involve careful crisis communications. If your staff haven’t been given crisis management training, then a minor crisis could quickly turn into a serious brand-destroying disaster.
A recent example of the effect of crisis communications on a company is the events surrounding multiplayer game EVE Online. CCP, the company that developed the game, released an update called Incarna that displeased a large percentage of their player base. In testament to the company’s crisis management training, what could have been a huge PR disaster was turned around thanks to careful crisis communications with their customers.
The Issue With Incarna
The Incarna update had been promised for a long time, and when it was released some players felt that it was incomplete. Other players found that the update for the game caused problems with their computers.
These issues were amplified by anger from a large percentage of the player base at the addition of an in-game shop that allowed players to purchase clothing for their character using real life money. The player base felt that the clothing was excessively over-priced, and that it could be the first step towards the sale of items that conveyed an in-game advantage.
In Game Protests
The players that were angered by the patch began protesting in-game, with thousands of players sending angry messages and clogging up areas that were important to other players. If there’s one group that you don’t want to annoy, it’s gamers – they made sure that their message spread to as many people as possible. Diffusing this situation would take more than a couple of cleverly worded press releases, and the fact that they managed to reach a satisfactory resolution is a testament to their crisis management training.
Their crisis communications started with an arrangement to meet up with a democratically elected group called the Council of Stellar Management. This group were called to the company’s headquarters to discuss the issues in the game and to clear up the bottlenecks in communication. The group put together a joint statement that addressed most of the concerns of the player base. Dealing with a situation like that, instead of simply shutting down in panic, is exactly what crisis management training can help with.
Thanks to effective crisis communications, the EVE Online player base stood down from their protests, and negative press from the initial update was turned into positive press as the gaming community’s faith in the company was restored. The lesson that can be taken from this update is that communication is key. Good crisis management training will not only help you to communicate with your customers, it will help you to send the right messages so that your customers know that you understand their issues, and are working towards resolving them.
Author: James Harper on behalf of Insignia, experts in crisis communications and provide crisis management training for organisations of all sizes.