What business owners can learn from the census debacle

The disaster with the 2016 Australian census has thrown up some interesting lessons for small business owners.

Tuesday 9 August marked the official date for undertaking the 2016 census, yet many were unable to do so as the site crashed during what should have been its moment of glory.

According to Mike Irving, founder of business coaching service Advanced Business Abilities, the scenario presents two key lessons that business owners can take away for their own benefit.

The first is proactive engagement with customers and suppliers.

“Have a communication plan in place for when and if disaster strikes. Make sure you're on the ball and are available to handle problems,” he says.

“The only communication I can see from ABS and census are a couple of tweets to let us know the websites are down. If you're going to communicate during a problem, tell your customer something they don't already know and make it relevant.”

However, Mr Irving says it is not enough to simply plan for a disaster and acknowledge that you have been affected. To survive against any potential reputational damage, you also need to proactively address your customers' concerns, particularly on social media.

“There are hundreds of memes created taking the piss out of [the] ABS and the census [and] there are thousands of complaints being aired on social media. No response from them at all. This is a great example of how to let your market down,” says Mr Irving.

“There was a great opportunity here to engage with the Australian public and they've blown it. Your market might not be as big [but] it doesn't matter.”

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