- one of my employees has been alleged of a crime by a customer
- business name has been publicized in the media
- customers are asking for refunds
I am an attorney, and have experience from both a legal perspective and a business perspective. I hope my thoughts on the matter are helpful.
In a situation where the integrity of your business is called into question, and the trust of your customers has been shaken, you need to avoid doing anything that even hints at an appearance of impropriety. This means your approach should be as forthright and upfront as possible. No hiding the ball, and no avoiding the issue at hand. Equivocation will be seen by your customers as consciousness of guilt, or at least an attempt to sidestep the problem.
You can't do that.
I'm of the opinion that all advice needs to be clear, practical, and actionable, so I love lists. Here's one.
1. Communicate to ALL of your existing customers that an alleged criminal act may have been committed by an employee, but that you as a conscientious business owner have taken steps to insure that the alleged act doesn't happen again. Emphasize to your customers that their trust in your business to provide the service that you provide is paramount, and it is critical to you and your business that that customers be comfortable with you. This incident is an anomaly. This could be by email or snail mail.
2. Personally call all customers that have expressed an interest in getting a refund. Obviously, I don't know what business you are in, but nothing is more important in this day of faceless email and text than a personal phone call, or even face to face meeting. Emphasize that you are a person-like your customers-and that you hold their interests in the highest regard; without them, there is no business. They need to know that you above all else, you care about them. That's more important than than the money.
3. Offer the refund when asked. You hate to see them go, but if the relationship is broken beyond repair, part ways as amicably as possible. They (or their friends/relatives/associates) might be customers again down the road, and they will appreciate you handling the matter professionally.
Through it all, customers will appreciate your meeting this issue "head-on".
Take the initiative.
Feel free to request a call if you need anything.
Good luck, and good business.
It all depends on how big the business is and the cost/benefit of changing it.
If you feel the cost of renaming is less then the work involved in fixing the situation (create content to rank higher then the allegations / paying for a reputation expert) - then do it.
From a Branding standpoint, you should never chaNGE your business name IN THE CURRENT SITUATION. If you do it, it will BE perceived by your consumer as a guilt recognition and/or na empty marketing empty tric - na empty tric..
Use this critical moment as an opportunity to improve your brand relationship with stakeholders: ACT as a good person, responsible and oriented to people well-being.
On the other hands, improve your brand identity to comunicate that it is a "true brand" or that you are more and more connected to stakeholders. Call me and i will give you more directions to improve your brand.
I agree with not changing the name of the business. You need as much transparency as you can manage while keeping yourself out of legal hot water. You don't want customers to be in a position of wondering "if". As much as possible while keeping yourself out of potential legal trouble, you need to demonstrate that YOU are: honest, saddened / horrified / shocked / embarrassed by the situation (whichever fits and is your honest emotion, without getting yourself into legal trouble), what steps you've taken, what steps you're taking going forward, that you're understanding of those customers who've chosen not to continue with you, and that you're deeply appreciative of the customers who stay.
Be sure to quietly seek the advice of a good attorney and have them OK all your statements before you put them out there. But make sure YOU actually write them so they don't sound like canned statements. With your attorney's permission, let your customers in on what steps you've taken so far (fired the employee?placed them on unpaid leave pending a thorough investigation?) and what specific steps you're taking going forward (Extensive new types of background checks and personality tests? New security procedures? Or whatever fits the situation).
Meanwhile, focus your attention on the customers who stay loyal. Thank them with some sort of special discount or offer--but do it carefully and with a deeply grateful and appreciative tone, rather than a bright and chirpy tone. Maintain a list of those who stay with you through this, and continue to remember and reward them in the future after the storm is past.
Your tone is everything in this matter. Never say "no comment" to a reporter. (Google "alternatives to saying no comment"--there are many.) Do not let your customers or the public see you be defensive or angry. They need to see you being a pro-active leader who recognizes the seriousness of the situation. It's over-used, but you really do need a tone of resolute "keep calm and carry on."
If you try to hide or pretend nothing happened, it will backfire.
Good luck, and feel free to call me to explore more ideas or develop a specific strategy.