Zomato is in news and it’s a branding manager’s nightmare kinda situation.
Allegedly, a Zomato delivery partner in Bangalore has beaten up a customer on her face. See the details here.
Zomato has taken the damage control very seriously. They have issued their public statements in purview of the public sentiment.
This isn’t new to online businesses. Specially, when you are working with multiple parties such as delivery partners and merchants, there can be some instances that reflect badly on your brand reputation.
In this article, I am going to cover the most important steps a brand should take after such unfortunate incident:
Human resource policy or Protocol on non compliance of the code of conduct
The corrective action plan starts with a well framed HR policy.
When your business starts to hire people or collaborates with them, a code of conduct should be framed and implemented.
Delivery partner is a third party which collaborates with your business to deliver the products.
Similarly, merchants are the third party vendors who sell their products on your market place.
For an online food delivery business like Zomato, the riders are their delivery partners. While the restaurant owners are their merchants.
For online shopping websites, courier person is their delivery partner while the people selling on their platform are their merchants.
They are different than your employees. So, the code of ethics should be different than the usual one.
Ideally, there should be separate code of ethics for delivery partners, merchants and employees.
This detailed document should run through the content, HR and legal teams separately.
A good example of code of conduct is here:
A detailed PDF is available to investigate sensitive issues such as potential conflicts of interest; and provide additional channels for partners to voice concerns.
In the ongoing controversy of Zomato, they immediately suspended the delivery executive’s active deliveries as per the protocol.
As the case is under investigation, Zomato is covering the legal expenses of the delivery executive.
They are also covering the medical expenses of the alleged victim.
Having these things written down in a document helps in designing the course of action in case of conflicts of interest.
2. Contacting the Accused Delivery Partner or Merchant
It’s very easy to assume that the delivery partner or merchant is at fault.
But, a fair investigation of the matter is very important.
Just like a customer, a delivery partner or merchant is also an important part of the business.
And, you wouldn’t wanna lose them because of a false accusation.
So, contact them before taking any action.
Hear their side of story and document/record it with their consent.
In case of legal actions, having recordings and documentation is imperative.
Inform your delivery partner about the consequences (temporary or permanent suspension etc.).
Tell them how they can redeem themselves (If that’s possible) or how they should proceed further.
Be empathetic and listen to them with great care.
3. Talk to The Unhappy Customer
There’s nothing bad than a furious customer.
Looking at the gravity of the situation, talk to your customer in a tone that doesn’t hurt them any further.
Sometimes even an anonymous feedback can shake your boat. Finding such customer become a bigger task than resolving the issue itself.
How to find an anonymous customer?
No wild guesses here. Try looking for the customer in the cutomer database.
In the world full of @sweet123 or such random usernames, finding the real customer can still seem like a missing piece of puzzle.
The solution of this is: ask the angry customer to assist you.
Apologize & ask them to contact you on support email or DM.
Contact your customer on the very same platform (Twitter, Facebook, YouTube etc.) where they shared their negative experience. Comment below their post or video with your official support account. Leave contact details for future communications. If they have any intentions of solving the problem, they’ll contact you.
There’s no point of dragging the matter in the public domain, if you both want a solution.
Once you find them, you don’t have to offer anything but an apology.
Talk to them sympathetically. Tell them that this unpleasant experience isn’t something you aim for.
Let them finish themselves. Hear their side of story without any judgement. The first thing an angry customer wants is to vent. To do so, they need someone to listen—and, for better or worse, you are that person.
If they want to make a settlement at their own, you can listen to them and offer them something. Don’t offer any monetary benefits or settlement when they are furious. As it will lead to a bad scuffle.
Most important part of this communication is: Taking up responsibility.
The biggest turn-off is when you try to separate yourself from your partner.
I have heard customer support team saying things like: “But, they are not from our company.” or “It’s their fault not ours.”
10 out of 10 times, this tone doesn’t go well with the angry customer.
Always be responsible, agreeable and don’t play the blame shift game.
4. Issuing a Public Statement
You don’t have to issue a public apology or statement immediately.
Remember that a public statement is issued when things get bigger and you owe an explanation to a lot of people.
These are sensitive & complicated issues and sometimes the company needs to discuss it with all the concerned teams. It might take time.
However, delaying it for more than one business day leaves a bad impression on the customers.
Your public statement should be coherent and consistent. Don’t write two or more public statements that give some mixed signal.
The statement goes public on every major platform. There has to be a private apology for the concerned customer as well.
Apologize unconditionally. Let’s face it: Inconvenience is caused and an apology doesn’t harm anyone.
Don’t stress out. You don’t have to be very defensive on your stance. Mistakes happen, companies rectify them too.
Don’t take sides. You should be fair. Don’t show selective stand for any of the sides. Be neutral.
Talk to the media. You silence can be taken as your arrogance. After issuing the public statement, you may engage in a press conference or a personal interview.
Shut down the trolls. Sometimes your competitors might decide to ride the troll bandwagon to vindicate your brand.
In that case, you don’t have to go all Sherlock and tell everyone about the vendetta. All you have to do is maintain a dignified stance.
Your PR team can create a damage control plan for you.
If some trolls are incessant in making malicious accusations, you might decide to take some action as per the policy of the platform they are targeting you on.
In my opinion, blocking or banning trolls rarely works.
They’ll find other ways to target you. You have to kill them with kindness.
Remember, not every comment is worth replying. You have to say your truth once, but firmly.
Also, don’t leave gaps for speculations. If there’s any development that your customers should know. You should be the one informing them.
If there’s any fake news around it, you should be bursting it.
I hope this article helps you in a way you want.
If there’s anything you found interesting, aggreable or wrong; tell me in the comments.
I like to read them and rethink about it. In most likelihood, I reply all the comments within 1 business day.
Feel free to connect.