The hardest and most important communications you have to handle during a crisis is to set the right tone and be responsive when sharing information to your agency partners and any impacted patients. Your customers are the ones who ultimately hold your EMS agency’s destiny in their hands. If you want to weather the storm, the easiest way is to protect and save what you already have secured.
Assuming you’ve already read through Part 1 of this series and already have your simplified and clarified message finalized, let’s discuss the next section of this four-part series. How to communicate with impacted patients and your agency partners during a crisis.
5 Tips for Talking to Impacted Patients & Agency Partners
1. Be Honest & Direct. People will be upset – don’t ignore or belittle that anger. Be humble and empathetic in your wording, but also tell patients and partners what to do or what to expect. Provide usable information in the first few sentences, don’t bury the detail halfway through your statement. Someone who’s stressed by your agency shouldn’t have to search a long document to find updates or answers.
2. Provide Expectations & Instructions (Even When You Don’t Know the Answer). Even if you don’t yet have all the answers, acknowledge the issue and explain that you’re working on an answer. A simple statement on your website and social media channels can help, such as: We are aware of the issue and are working on a solution. We will provide an update with additional information at 3 p.m. today, or earlier if possible.
3. Move the Issue Off Your Main Page. If you’ll need to communicate a lot of information over time, or will be giving a lot of updates over several days, create a secondary website or social media page to separate impacted, angry patients from unknowing or non-impacted patients.
4. Respond to Social Media Posts. Angry patients may post a lot on your social media pages. Create a series of short responses that can be used. One response may simply be that you’re working on a resolution to the issue and that the agency will provide an update as soon as it can. Another might be to direct impacted patients to another page for more information, updates and how the agency plans to help impacted patients. Ultimately, people want to be acknowledged, and others will see you responded.
5. Accept that Media is a Conduit to Talk to Upset Customers. Upset patients or agency partners during a crisis will be watching media to see how you respond to the crisis. Therefore, your response needs to have them in mind. If patients need to do something as a result of the crisis, tell the media what customers should do and use them to help give instructions. I’ll get more in to talking to the media in Part 4 of this blog series.
Leverage the Opportunity to Create Loyal Customers
For the most part, people can accept that mistakes occur, and that not everything is in our control. Patients and agency partners just want to know you’re genuine in your desire to fix the problem and truly do apologize and accept responsibility when it’s expected. If you handle the crisis well, and your partners and patients are content with how you handled everything, they may become even more loyal to you and your brand knowing that they can count on you to do what’s right even when it’s not easy.
Want to learn more? I’ll be presenting at SUMMIT 2018 in Denver in May. Sign up today!