Easily the biggest debacle any electronics company had in 2016 was the Samsung exploding phone fiasco with the Galaxy Note 7. Not only were its phones exploding all over the place, but mockery and confusion exploded all over the internet.
I know all about the confusion because I was right in the middle of it.
As with all business disasters, we can learn some important lessons from it and use those lessons in our own businesses.
Here are the three lessons I personally learned from the whole ordeal.
1. Crisis preparedness is crucial for companies
Just like people, companies tend to think: “It can’t happen to us.”
Because of this attitude, companies are shockingly ill-prepared to handle a major crisis in their midst. This was glaringly obvious with Samsung considering how difficult it was to get any information out of the company.
Even once it had been widely reported that the Note 7 was dangerous, Samsung took quite a long time to release any information about what to do if you bought one.
I had purchased mine and was using it and when I started hearing rumblings about explosions and recalls, like anyone else who bought one, I wanted to know if I should immediately stop using it or take it back to where I bought it or what.
It was this confusion and seeming lack of preparedness on Samsung’s part that gave people the most anxiety. The people I knew who had bought a Note 7 seemed more frustrated with the lack of available information than any physical risk the phone posed.
Had Samsung been prepared for the possibility of a recall, it could have had some kind of statement ready to go when the problem first popped up. Even a generic “We are aware of the situation and as a safety precaution we recommend people stop using this phone model until further notice.” would have been a lot more reassuring than the deafening silence that came out of the Samsung head office in the first days of the crisis.
If a company isn’t saying anything about a crisis it’s involved in, you can bet a lot of other people are filling that silence online with all kinds of chatter.
Any company, especially a major international corporation, should have a crisis communication plan in place and ready to go when needed.
2. Coordination is key
As part of a comprehensive crisis communication plan, a company has to coordinate the response with its partners.
Now, I realize that Samsung is a huge, international company and it has multiple partners around the world in terms of retailers and mobile network providers, but the American arm of the company could have coordinated much better with their partners here.
I and everyone else I know who was personally dealing with the Note 7 fiasco were doing the “corporation shuffle,” being handed from retailers (Best Buy, in my case), to service providers (Verizon) to Samsung and back again, with phones exploding and melting all over the place.
All we wanted was a place to take these things where we could dispose of them and either get our money back or get a less murdery phone and it just caused a great deal of irritation to be constantly told to ask someone else.
3. If your brand is strong, people have a mighty short memory
Samsung is projecting major profits for its last quarter in 2016 despite the whole exploding battery fiasco.
These profits are largely driven by the company’s other products that have nothing to do with phones, but I can attest to the fact that a lot of people (including me, I must admit) weren’t affected enough by the crisis and ensuing communications disaster to switch from Samsung to another brand.
This just goes to show that strong brand loyalty can safeguard a company against even the worst crises.
Samsung may have dropped the ball with their handling of the Note 7 crisis (and then picked that ball up, stabbed it with a butcher knife and set it on fire), but we can only hope the company has learned from it. Communication is key in any relationship we’re often told, and that includes the relationship between brand and customer.