KUALA LUMPUR: Your office is swamped by phone calls from impatient customers, asking why they have yet to receive their free plane tickets as promised for having participated in a survey.
You find out later that they had completed the survey which was featured on a dubious website.
Or, when you come to work, you see a horde of unhappy customers waiting outside the building, demanding to know why they were not informed that they would have to pay a fee if they did not get their membership cards renewed by the month’s end.
Apparently, there had been a Facebook posting about the new fee ruling.
The above two incidents happened in Kuala Lumpur over the past year.
In the age of scams, fake news and “alternative facts”, such cases are getting more frequent.
A recent incident involved shoemaker Bata Primavera Sdn Bhd, which was accused of selling shoes with the Arabic word “Allah” formed in the pattern on the soles.
Bata ended up removing 70,000 pairs of the B-First school shoes from its 230 stores nationwide.
It was a step which cost them RM500,000 in losses.
The shoes were returned to the shelves only after Bata was cleared of the allegation by the Al-Quran Printing Control and Licensing Board of the Home Ministry on March 30.
In February, AirAsia came under unwanted attention when its brand name was used in a purported free ticket survey and fake ticket scam.
Back in 2014, the airline had also asked its customers to be wary of an online lottery scam which made use of its name to solicit personal information from them.
What is more astounding is that the e-mail highlighting the lottery had been circulating since 2011.
And in January last year, Public Bank saw a rush of customers crowding its branches to renew their debit cards.
A Facebook post that had gone viral claimed that they would be charged a RM12 fee if they did not renew it by Jan 31.
What are the dos and don’ts for companies under attack by fake news?
“A quick and concise response is the way to go,” said AirAsia’s head of communications Aziz Laikar.
“Be prepared. The more high profile the brand is, the quicker the response should be.”
The communications team have to be able to draw up a statement fast to deal with the issue head on before it grows to a full-blown crisis, Aziz said.
He listed out four steps that a company could take.
“Start by immediately responding with facts via a short statement to the media, as well as on social media platforms,” he said.
Aziz also advised companies to lodge police reports and to make use of the chance to educate the public that they should always refer to announcements made via official platforms.
“Also, disseminate the information internally to your colleagues. Every employee should be a brand messenger.
“They are a powerful force to spread the correct message.
“The best way to effectively manage an issue is to make sure the entire company is aware of the situation and able to communicate it correctly,” he said.
Ogilvy account director Clarissa Ng said that loyal clientele and employees were usually a company’s “first line of defence” and must be treated well.
Ng, who has handled the case of a client hit by rumours of exploding phones, preferred a “low profile” approach in dealing with such fake news.
She opted by focusing on promoting the phone’s safety features.
The campaign reassured consumers that the phone underwent rigorous testing in their laboratories in Shenzhen, China, and how its electrical current would be cut off automatically to prevent the gadget from exploding.
“Sometimes, the more you explain, the public will demand more answers. How we handled it was to remain low profile,” she said. – The Star