Yesterday I was an unwilling participant in a security blunder made by a service provider that I use at both work and home.
The cool thing was that the response to the issue was a great lesson in excellent leadership.
I’ve been utilizing a firm to provide both DNS and content filtering for the internet since they opened their doors to the public years ago. The service has been stellar, and the content filter has survived the attempts of both bored corporate workers and mischievous teenagers to access content that you wouldn’t want to watch with your Grandmother.
Yesterday an overzealous (and probably new) sales rep sent out an email making statements that my account was being used improperly and that I’d be locked out of features unless I upgraded to their higher level platform. It was an example in the worst kind of sales marketing: Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt.
To make matters worse, the sales rep sent the email out to a huge list of people and included everyone’s address in the TO: field! This means that he exposed the user list to everyone and opened up a huge potential for spam and other unsavory practices. Keep in mind that this is a company that provides internet security services…
To say that I was less than thrilled would be an understatement. However, within 45 minutes I received an email from the CEO of the company. The CEO apologized for the error, re-affirmed his desire to keep his customer base happy and promised follow-up from the head of sales detailing how they would rectify the issue.
The CEO defused a potentially huge PR gaff with an excellent leadership response. While he’s going to take heat from people, and I’m sure that this made his day significantly less pleasant, his response is textbook in how to minimize a big problem:
- React swiftly: Waiting will only magnify problems. Suck it up and dive into the unpleasantness.
- Be forthright and honest: Take ownership of the problem. Don’t try to hide behind marketing speak or legalese. Admit, move on.
- Avoid deflection: Don’t try to justify or deflect the problem onto someone else. If a staff/team member messed up, the leader takes one on the chin. That’s what leaders are paid to do.
- Apologize: Say you’re sorry… It’s. Just. That. Simple.
- Affirm the offended party: Let them know that you appreciate them (if you do: don’t lie – and if you don’t, get out of business)
- Provide details on how to mitigate future problems: You don’t have to have the whole plan, but give as much detail as you need to show that you’re taking the issue seriously and will have systems/processes in place to avoid the issue in the future.
- Be receptive to feedback: Listen to the feedback that you are provided. The future best idea of the month may come in from a user as a result of the problem. Keep your ears open.
While I’m not pleased about the issue, the response was wonderful and textbook of what I’d expect of a excellent leader. Many companies maximize a problem by their response. This firm handled it as best they could and because of that minimized the problem.
I’ll keep doing business with them. We all make mistakes, and handling it well is a trust builder.
Remember these 7 simple items next time you’re on the hot seat for a mistake made by either yourself or a team member.
Have you ever experienced a response to a bad problem that left you feeling better about the company?