In a Crisis, Think Like Your Customer

Someone files a lawsuit alleging your taco is filled with something less than meat. Sound familiar? This isn't a time to hit the bunker. It is time to think like your customers.

Whatever you think of Taco Bell's response to the lawsuit, one thing is clear – companies need to respond from the point of view of their customers. Taco Bell turned to its huge Facebook fan base to generate support. It also posted sponsored links to drive Web searchers to where it could tell its side of the story.

However, it missed an opportunity to reach a wider, more skeptical audience by, for example, showing its supply chain for meat – from the ranch to the Taco Bell counter. You don't need a dry business school presentation. Humor and a little presentational value could have been employed to make the trip from hoof to taco fun to watch, as well as instructive.

Showing where your meat comes from, your quality controls and the actual preparation in the restaurant doesn't have to reveal trade secrets. But it can reveal respect for the customer who eats – or might consider eating – at Taco Bell. While you were at it, you could have thrown in a plug about the chain's commitment to food safety, which is the bedrock concern for most restaurant-goers these days.

Crises aren't a romp in the park. However, they can be platforms to strengthen and expand your customer base.

You pay millions to get your target audience's attention. A crisis gives you their attention for free, so take advantage of the moment and give them what they want to hear.