Murphy’s Law – you’ve heard of it, know it, and probably even lived it at one time or another. “If anything can go wrong, it will” is more than a lament; it is a call for managers to think about what can go wrong and how an organization will respond to adversity.
A reminder of the need to plan for a surprise visit by Murphy can be taken away from Southwest Airlines’ botched Facebook promotion last Friday. A 50% off fare sale intended to celebrate Southwest reaching 3,000,000 fans on Facebook blew up as a technology glitch caused some customers to be charged as many as 35 times for the same transaction. The company known by many as LUV was not feeling a lot of from irate customers.
What will be the response when Murphy sets up shop in your department or company? Most strategic planning focuses on how to achieve success – meet objectives, reach goals, and advance the business. Planning should include failure, too. The nature of the planning differs as it is not about how to achieve failure but rather how to mitigate it when it occurs. Examples of areas to address in failure planning include:
- Customer service response
- Public relations response
- Social media response
- Leadership response
It is impossible to plan specifically for failure as there are so many ways Murphy can invade your organization. But some essential considerations are:
- How will a failure situation be handled – Within functional silos or by a cross-functional crisis management team?
- Who are the key personnel that should be involved in resolving a failure situation?
- What are acceptable benchmarks for delivering a response for each of the four areas (customer service, PR, social media, and leadership)?
Failure is inevitable, so is the need to plan for failure. How an organization responds when things go bad can either build trust with customers or destroy it. In Southwest’s case, it appears to be working diligently to refund all affected customers quickly. While relationships with some customers have likely been irreparably harmed, Southwest’s response will be a starting point for making amends with impacted customers.