The Time a Mega-Church Pastor Went After My Client Online

What we learned about managing brand crises along the way

Did someone forward you this email?

It was Sunday morning in 2016, and I was nursing a slight hangover from a dinner party the night before.

That’s when I rolled over and saw my phone had 1187 notifications.

”What the hell is going on?” I thought to myself.

Well, one of our clients at the time, a real estate investment platform and mortgage broker, had an upset customer.

But not just any upset customer; this customer was the head Pastor of a mega-church. And this Pastor had decided to air the company’s mistakes during his sermon, asking the church to help get the client’s attention online.

Until now, we had customer service playbooks and response guidelines, but we hadn’t handled a brand crisis of this magnitude.

So, I got on with the company’s executive team to talk about what had happened. We were told by the customer service department that the Pastor was owed a deposit back, and that was being processed in line with all other customer service issues. However, the Pastor also wanted $5,000 for his ‘pain and suffering’ throughout the ordeal.

That’s when the COO of the company spoke up on the conference call, “We shouldn’t pay this guy a cent more than he’s owed.”

The COO felt the company was being taken advantage of, and maybe he was right. However, this would be a losing battle in the court of public opinion and brand management.

After explaining the costs to the brand, if the Pastor kept mentioning the company negatively, the board reluctantly paid the Pastor. This whole ordeal took place in ~3 hours.

See, if you’re managing a brand, it’s crucial to catch brand crises before they arise. You do this by making sure the customer service (CS) department and social media teams are looped in together. That way, when a transaction starts to go south, your social team can proactively look for the customer online/prepare information for when that customer reaches out.

Your social media manager and customer service teams should have the following:

  1. Frameworks to respond to common inquiries that lead to one-and-done CS requests

  2. A customer verification system because some people are just trolling

  3. Rules for when (i) legal or (ii) senior management needs to get involved

The more connected your organization is across departments, the better chances you have at catching crises before they ever arise.

Check out this video on mistakes to avoid on social media 👇

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