Crisis Avoided: Connecting with Your Customers During an Emergency

Worldwide GPS technology giant Garmin became the latest high-profile business to get targeted by cyber criminals. It was widely reported that Garmin suffered a ransomware attack and ultimately paid a ransom of close to $10 million to the perpetrators.

While Garmin immediately issued press releases notifying its customers and the public that it was experiencing an outage when the attack first took place, there was still criticism surrounding Garmin’s lack of transparency with customers about the attack.

Here are the most important lessons learned from Garmin’s ransomware attack about connecting with your customers during a crisis.

  • Be upfront with customers. Garmin initially framed the outage as a maintenance issue before telling customers it was dealing with a company-wide outage that affected almost every customer interface, including its apps and call centers.

    What you can do. Communicate with customers from the beginning of a crisis. While certain information may need to be withheld for legal reasons, be as transparent about the unfolding situation as you can be.

  • Be upfront with employees. Unfortunately, customers learned about the true nature of Garmin’s attack – that it was a ransomware attack and that the company paid a ransom of $10 million – from Garmin employee leaks to the media, not from company leadership.

    What you can do. Tell your employees about the unfolding crisis from the beginning. Also, issue a statement about the crisis to the media before one of your employees starts leaking it to the press. Also let employees know to funnel their questions and comments to you, and not to the press!

  • Provide frequent updates. After publishing an initial statement about your business’s crisis, provide frequent updates, even if you have no new information. Your customers want to feel connected to the situation.

    What you can do. Create a schedule with specific times when an update will be provided, and determine who will be in charge of pushing out the updates.

Crisis and catastrophes – no matter what form they take – must be proactively dealt with in real time as they happen, including effective communication with your customers.

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