Organisational crises aren’t always big cataclysmic events or total screw-ups. In fact most of us will never head organisations big enough to experience major catastrophes. What we will face, regardless of the size of our businesses, every week and sometimes every day, are micro crises.
Of course, there are obvious things like customer complaints, miscommunication or just the natural abrasion which comes with serving difficult customers, but I’m referring to even more subtle and often overlooked micro crises. Any time a call goes to message bank, that’s a micro crisis, a mini breakdown in your customer service. Forgetting to attach something to an email before you send it, not replying to an email or text within twenty-four hours, or turning up late for an appointment, are all examples of micro crises – which I like to call ‘404 moments’.
Having worked in website design for a number of years, I relate these micro crises to a 404 page. A 404 page is what you see when you click on a link, or search on a website for something that doesn’t exist. The website essentially can’t find what you’re looking for: either because it’s been removed or never existed in the first place (the link you clicked on may have a typo in it).
Renny Gleeson, Global Digital Strategies Director for Wieden+Kennedy (a cutting-edge advertising agency handling clients such as Nike, Nokia and Target) delivered a TED talk comparing landing on a 404 page to the feeling of a broken relationship.
“What a 404 page tells you is that you fell through the cracks – that’s not a good experience – it’s like a slap in the face,” says Gleeson. It’s the same when you miss a phone call or reply late to an email. Most 404 pages say things like: “The page cannot be found – the page you are looking for might have been removed, had its name changed, or is temporarily unavailable.” This is typically followed by more technical jargon and little or no styling or company branding to go with it. 404 pages are most often generic and grossly impersonal.
In his TED talk Gleeson refers to a focus group which started a project built around the experience of a 404 page. The group collated a bunch of 404 pages from various websites and found the ones which gave the best user experience. He says, “Little things, done right, matter” and “Well-designed moments build brands”. While most 404 pages make your site look unprofessional and only encourage visitors to leave, a 404 page that is funny and memorable can have a huge impact on keeping visitors on the site. For examples, check out this article ‘The Best 404 Pages on the Internet’. Most of these pages use wording like, “oops”, “uh oh”, “sorry”, “this is awkward”, “how embarrassing” and other more human expressions. Some sympathise with you, others will tease or blame you. Many have images, cartoons and even comic strips. Some embed YouTube videos, and a few have impressive videos produced just for the 404 page.
Apart from asking your web designers to do something more creative with your 404 pages, think about what you can do with the other micro breakdown crises (404 moments) in your business. Rather than making your 404 moments seem like big, bad ordeals, consider how you can be more Flawsome. Acknowledge them as breakdowns and turn them into friendly, positive experiences.
Microsoft has taken a step in the right direction with its new operating system, Windows 8. When users experience system failure (affectionately known as the ‘blue screen of death’), rather than inundate people with technical jargon of why their computer stopped working, the new system takes things in a more compassionate direction. It features a whimsical colon and open bracket ‘sad face’ emoticon and the words: “Your PC ran into a problem it couldn’t handle, and now needs to restart.”
Renny Gleeson finished his TED talk with a quote from one of his recent tweets: “A simple mistake can tell me what you aren’t. Or it can remind me why I love you.” Instead of ignoring the micro breakdown crises in your business and hoping people won’t notice, see them as opportunities to reinforce your brand, show people you care, and give a memorable service.