Consultant Crisis Management in the Face of Company Challenges

Consultant Crisis Management in the Face of Company Challenges by Jennifer Fong

Recently a direct selling company promoted a big sale that they were going to offer. They prepared their consultants with online techniques to promote the sale, provided lots of materials, and everyone was excited. There were some great offers on some amazing products, and people stayed up late to get first dibs on the sale items.

And then the site broke. For most of the day, people who attempted to access the sale got error messages. It was a disaster. Finally, the company had to admit that they did not have the capacity for the unprecedented demand, and they had to indefinitely postpone the sale.

And what impressed me most was the incredible grace of my consultant throughout the challenge.

It is very easy to get upset with your company when they’ve promised something and then do not deliver. It was not intentional…the company just did not predict the demand. But the consultant, who had set up a group for her customers to promote the sale, was incredibly graceful throughout, providing updates from the company on the status of the sale, and finally offering free shipping to all her customers when it became clear that the sale would not go on.

It was likely an embarrassing situation for the consultant…for all the consultants in the company…who had promised something to their customers and couldn’t deliver. It probably felt even worse for the corporate office who likely worked for hours on end trying to get things back up and running. Most corporate offices are highly aware of the faith and trust they build with their salespeople, and do everything they can to maintain that relationship.

In the end I think the company made the right decision. Better to postpone until better technology could support customers appropriately than to deliver a sub-par experience which would damage the customer relationship even more.

But I have to give kudos to the consultants for this company that understood this, and managed this experience with their customers with grace. It is very easy to point fingers. It is harder to be understanding when you feel embarrassed, even when everyone gave their best-faith effort.

Will the company learn lessons from this experience? Undoubtedly. They will make sure they are prepared next time.

But I also think we can all learn lessons from the grace of the company’s consultants. Rather than tear down their company when they were already down, they managed the situation well, and the comments that I saw from customers were filled with understanding and appreciation, mingled with their disappointment. I’m sure there was internal feedback given by consultants to the corporate office. But the public face was grace, and it was impressive.

The next time you are disappointed with something your company has done, think on this. Yes, give feedback privately. But remember that the customer relationship with both you and your company is paramount to build a long-term business. Communicate well with your customers, and do your best to support them through any disappointment, without bad-mouthing your company. You look more professional. And you’re likely to wind up impressing your customers.

And this is what builds long-term business.

Your thoughts?

10 Responses to Consultant Crisis Management in the Face of Company Challenges
  1. Dolph Hoover
    July 30, 2015 | 11:33 pm

    The only thing that can turn a huge crisis around is to release a statement of a public apology in which you will tell the truth about the incident. Next is you brainstorm different kinds of resolutions and improvements you have to undergo in order to fix the situation. So in a nutshell: apologize, tell the truth and innovate ways to improve the service. Have I said tell the truth?

  2. Dwight | business technology consultant
    June 10, 2015 | 10:13 pm

    I am a business technology consultant and they should have known that this might happen. The department whose in charge to this must be well-trained and ready on any circumstances. However, the decision to postpone the sale is a great idea but we can never tell if the people are disappointed on what had happened.
    Dwight | business technology consultant recently posted..Is April 21st the End of Times For Your Website?

  3. Ian Zafra
    February 23, 2015 | 2:08 am

    Great customer relationship management here Jen. This part says it all “Communicate well with your customers, and do your best to support them through any disappointment, without bad-mouthing your company. You look more professional. And you’re likely to wind up impressing your customers.” After all, everything is part of the good customer service. They maybe disappointed but when customers see and feel how genuine your efforts are to make things get better it will lead to long term relationship.

  4. Maria Ringler
    January 27, 2015 | 9:18 pm

    Great article! Some things are unavoidable and it is very surprising how some consultants don’t realize that when they rant and rave publicly it makes them look bad not the company.

  5. Michele
    January 27, 2015 | 12:15 pm

    Our CEO was quick to address this with all of us the very next day and expressed her heartfelt sadness at disappointing us. I, for one, had no issue with this because stuff happens and to have one glitch in 35 years of business is saying something.
    She said something that I felt hit the nail on the head: at our home office, they are working hard to help us build our businesses, and sometimes, when you take risks, they bomb. But you have to take risks anyway!
    When they work, they are spectacular; when they don’t, you can learn so many things that may keep you from making an even bigger mistake down the road. But risk-taking is what got us all in this kind of business in the first place. Taking the easy path isn’t for us! And the risks we take are well-rewarded!

  6. lisa miller
    January 26, 2015 | 6:37 am

    Thank you for recognizing and writing this article. I am honored to share that many leaders had such beautiful words and shared them in a leaders group that helped set a different tone to the situation. If you looked at this situation this maybe one of the only oops this company has had. 35 years strong in the direct sales industry. As what we feed our mind we put out. This was not intentional and as it was disappointing it gave us an opportunity to reach out to customers we may not of heard from a touch base and acknowledge they chose you. It also prompted me to offer a TEAM customer appreciation letting my team know they can invite customers to my home on a certain day and their will be give aways and can view the entire Spring line at that time.

  7. Christy
    January 25, 2015 | 12:54 am

    Jen, what a wonderful article. Being a consultant for a company that this has happened to before, I have met the adversities head on and felt that my customer relationship came out stronger in the end. All your customer wants is to be notified, informed and educated. If you hide from the problem hoping they won’t notice or it will go away it typically ends up not ending well. I learned this early on in my sales career working in a one hour photo lab.

  8. Kathy Yellets
    January 24, 2015 | 4:46 pm

    I experienced this personally and during this time of we came to realize that in every human endeavor, including ethics, leadership can make the difference between success and failure. By quickly embracing my team as well as customers, the tone of grace & forgiveness was established and carried throughout the ordeal.
    Thanks so much for this article Jen, you once again have the pulse of the industry.

  9. Sharon Morris
    January 24, 2015 | 4:23 pm

    Thank you for this article. It was a great encouragement. I was one of these consultants. Yes, I was incredibly embarrassed and frustrated by the situation, but complaining about, particularly publicly, would have changed nothing. Except to possibly cause my customers to doubt me, along with my company. I believe in my company wholeheartedly – I know they always want to deliver the best product and service possible, and I know they will do everything in their power to assist us, the consultants in the field. I was also very proud of them for taking complete ownership of the situation, and deciding to halt the event before it got any worse.
    I was also so proud of all my customers. Yes, they too were frustrated and disappointed, but they were very sympathetic and supportive. Each asking to be informed when the sale comes out again.
    It’s been an experience we certainly don’t want to ever repeat, but it’s one we all have learned from. Grace and forgiveness are priceless gifts.

  10. Tim Haran
    January 23, 2015 | 5:43 pm

    Excellent article, Jen. It surprises me when consultants or distributors publicly get angry at the corporate office for technical glitches or other setbacks. It happens and it sounds like your consultant handled an unpleasant situation well.

    Sharing feedback privately is a great option — it allows the distributor to express his/her frustration and it provides an opportunity for the corporate office to further explain the situation and/or make amends. And you’re right: Supporting your customers (and your company) during an unfortunate situation is so important.

    Thank you for a great post.
    Tim Haran recently posted..Olympic-Sized Advice for Joint Health

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