Protect Your Reputation During Supply Chain Interruptions

June 26 2023

While talking with a friend about her job in supply chain management at a local steel company, she joked, “Before the pandemic, nobody even knew what supply chain management was. Now everyone knows.”

Chances are you or your business has experienced the impact of unforeseen supply chain issues throughout the pandemic. Many industries’ supply chains have been affected in sustained ways, especially those that source globally, elevating the importance of businesses’ communications and reputation management.

supply chain interruptions
Photo by Mika Baumeister on Unsplash

This has likely forced your leadership team to ask smart questions, start thinking two steps ahead and consider developing new protocols. One timing misstep or miscommunication, and you’re dealing with disgruntled customers and damage control that could impact your bottom line.

Businesses need guidance on the best ways to address unexpected supply chain interruptions to reinforce brand credibility, customer relationships and employee livelihoods.

When it comes to your reputation, customer communication matters. Outside of your internal team, customers likely have the most influence over your image.

It is possible to effectively manage these unexpected challenges and safeguard your bottom line through two essential approaches: proactive and reactive communications.

Proactive Communications: Stay Ahead with Preventative Measures

Organizations relying on a well-orchestrated supply chain must consider potential vulnerabilities – before they happen. The key to any good crisis response is proactively preparing your team before an incident occurs. Consider the following best practices to plan for potential issues:

  • Analyze vulnerabilities. Understand every step in the process and think through vulnerabilities. Talk with your supply chain management team to understand risks, interruptions and options for viable solutions.
  • Develop a communications framework to address delays. Have a plan on paper for how your organization should address each potential delay or issue. Outline your target audience, identify preferred communication channels and designate responsible team members. Prioritize internal and customer communications as pivotal factors in shaping your business’s image.
  • Draft a messaging toolkit. Once you have a plan in place, create prewritten messaging for every communication, including phone call scripts, email or letter drafts, key talking points and external statements acknowledging and addressing the issue. Start with thinking through what FAQs the customer would ask in each situation and draft responses which reinforce your company values.
  • Consistently communicate with key customers. Nurture relationships with your most important customers through personalized touchpoints. Open lines of communication and engage in meaningful conversations to manage expectations, build trust and live out your customer-service focused values.
  • Deploy boots on the ground. Ensure you have local staff at crucial supply chain locations, so they can check in regularly and catch issues before they impact the final outcome.

Reactive Communications: Regain Control of the Situation

If your phone lines, inbox or social media comments are already buzzing about a delay, it’s not too late to regain control of the narrative. Protect your reputation through three appropriate reactive communications methods.

  • Communicate early and often. As soon as you know there’s a problem, reach out to your customers. The longer a crisis goes on without being acknowledged, the more difficult it can be to restore trust with those who matter. Prolonged silence complicates your reputation recovery and can often be seen as guilt or blame in the eyes of your stakeholders.
  • Leverage multiple touchpoints. Consider the rule of three and contact your customers in three different ways based on their preferred communication style – phone calls, emails, social media posts, website messaging, media, etc. Consistently reinforce the same message across these channels to effectively reach your intended audience.
  • Anticipate concerns and provide solutions. If you can seamlessly shift operations and it won’t affect your delivery, tell them. If they experience a delay, reset expectations and reinforce what’s in it for them to wait longer. Is it because you’re committed to a quality or safe product, and there was an issue with the first run? Exercise caution when sharing specific dates, costs or expectations, particularly if the solution is uncertain. When giving timing expectations, build in extra time (30-60 days) as a cushion.

Effectively managing supply chain disruptions is crucial to preserving your company’s reputation. While proactive planning is recommended, there are still opportunities to communicate effectively and rebuild trust when issues arise. Leverage a credible PRGN agency to guide you and your leadership team through the process if you need additional support. Most importantly, approach challenges head-on, demonstrate resilience and show an unwavering commitment to your customers.

Erin Vogt
Director of Public Relations, Peritus PR
A North Florida native, Erin brings over 15 years of public relations experience to Peritus with global consumer brands and corporate clients. Thriving in controlled chaos, she specializes in crisis management, messaging and thought leadership. Throughout her career, Erin has developed the ability to uncover her clients’ true differentiators and leverage them for powerful results, both internally and externally. She earned a Bachelor of Science in Mass Media Studies from Florida State University and can often be found searching Birmingham for the perfect dry cappuccino, hiking Ruffner Mountain, taking weekend camper trips, leading small groups or students at Mountaintop church or spending time in Crestwood with her husband and two boys.
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