Sometimes, because of unforeseen circumstances, things can go horribly, horribly wrong for a company.

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Over the past day (since June 15, 7pm PST), Intuit has been dealing with their own unforeseeable crisis when they experienced a major outage that has left customers unable to log into online software websites like QuickBooks Online, Quicken Online, and others.  The result is some very unhappy customers (right).

An Intuit PR representative talking to customers on Twitter.

While Intuit PR managers (left) jump onto Twitter and make blog posts to reassure customers, other businesses see an opportunity to capitalize on the situation.  A Twitter search for #Intuit reveals a number of competitors, tweeting messages about the reliability of their own products.

While Intuit has apologized, many customers are not satisfied with the brief explanation that Intuit has given for the sites being down.  Ironically, the most recent blog post before the service update talks about the importance of transparency when dealing with a crisis.

4 Rules for Resolving a Social Media Crisis

1. Practice what you preach.  If you tout the importance of transparency, then make sure that you can be transparent during a crisis, too.  For example, at HubSpot, we use to show our portals and report on downtimes. 

2.  Respond fast, respond often.  You’re only hurting yourself if you wait too long before releasing information, and when you finally do speak up there isn’t a lot of substance to what you’re saying.  Give frequent updates, even if the update is just “no new information”.

3.  Apologize for the right thing.  Make sure you aren’t alienating your customers further with your apology.  They may be more upset if they feel like you are not addressing how the error impacted their livelihood. 

4)   Make amends.  Try to find a way you can make it up to your customers.  They are the backbone of your business, so it's in your best interest to keep them happy. 

We hope to see the issues for Intuit resolved quickly and will watch for further developments and important marketing takeaways.  Every business has points of crisis, and businesses that can manage the crisis well prove themselves to be leaders and improve customer retention.

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Originally published Jun 16, 2010 6:00:00 PM, updated February 01 2017