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Uber: Getting It All Wrong

Sometimes a company hits the headlines for an innovative new development that gives their customers exactly the right thing in the right way or for an irresistible marketing campaign.  And other times, the company is Uber getting in more hot water for making a mess of things.  Now the app that links drivers and riders is in the headlines for a data breach disaster where hackers robbed information and Uber staff covered it up and paid the ransom.

In fairness, any business can have things go wrong.  An employee can go rouge.  Technology can fail.  Sometimes it is through carelessness, other times the staff simply can’t keep up with rapidly growing demand and changes in how to do business and something falls through the cracks.  But we can learn from Uber’s security breach scandal, and we must because hackers are relentless.  While the rest of us are busy doing business, they have time to devote to undoing our businesses.

Obviously the best thing is to ensure that system as difficult to hack as possible and you are protecting the data you hold. The details of how to do that are constantly evolving.  It is also wise to reassure your website visitors that you are protecting their data. But things can go wrong.

Crisis Management 101

This data breach happened more than a year ago, but it appears Uber employees concealed it.  It’s a little hazy still how a $100,000 payment was made without being noticed by some very key people in the company. But the story is only now coming to light.

Every parent has a story about finding their child in the act of some mischief.  Children covered in paint will deny destroying the wall.  Children with faces covered in chocolate will insist they didn’t eat it. It’s one thing when the culprit is a four-year-old who succumbed to temptation.  But it is quite another when employees of a global brand seek to conceal a crisis.  And people are getting really fed up with adults acting like pre-schoolers who were caught in the biscuit tin.

If there is a problem, acknowledge it.  Take responsibility. That doesn’t mean you take out a full-page ad announcing that the sky is falling, but you do need to notify people affected.  Tell them what you know and how you discovered the problem.  Apologize.  Acknowledge the impact whatever happened has on people. Assure them you will keep them informed of developments and then follow through.  Learn how to do better, and explain to people how exactly you will do better.

Preventing this kind of cover-up isn’t just a matter for the CEO.  Companies need to foster a climate where staff are comfortable proactively informing managers of any problems or errors. Policies need to spell out exactly why it is in an employee’s interest to bring any problem to management’s attention straight away.  People must know they will be treated with respect and concealment will not be tolerated. Staff need reassurance that highlighting a problem will help develop better processes and procedures to prevent future mishaps.

Make It an Opportunity

Whatever has gone wrong, the crisis is also an opportunity.  This is your chance to show people that your company is responsible and dedicated to serving them.  In world of non-apologies where celebrities say they don’t remember this or that, but they are sorry IF anyone was offended, speaking up plainly and saying you know what happened was bad makes a very good impression. People will remember it and realize that while nothing in this world is 100% fool-proof, you’ve got their backs.

People understand that we all make mistakes and that hackers or unreliable employees are hard to prevent.  But they want to do business with a brand that they are confident will do something to make it right if something goes wrong. Reading fair and transparent policies about returns and data security on your website reassures visitors, but seeing you step up and handle a real crisis by putting their needs first instead of trying to conceal or dismiss the problem can earn you solid respect and trust.

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