You work in an intense competitive environment. Customers are always comparing your services and your prices to others’. When you mess up, there’s a pretty good chance you’re going to get defectors. When a competitor messes up, there’s a good chance you’re going to benefit.

So what do you do when a competitor messes up big? Maybe they have a huge outage. Maybe they get caught up in a legal battle. Maybe a senior employee ends up strangling a giraffe to death. Or just smacking around a monkey.

It is really tempting to call attention to the situation and position yourself as the antidote.

Just a few warnings:

  • Remember that you had your own mess ups in the past and will likely have them in the future. You will have outages. Maybe you once kicked a pigeon. Avoid inviting scrutiny and retaliation that will ultimately hurt you.
  • Be careful not to appear too opportunistic. If you suddenly start donating 10% of your revenues to save porcupines, it might seem more exploitative than generous. Maybe not. Sometimes the outrage is so great and the opportunity is so right. Also, honesty, creativity and humor can go a long way. Just be aware of the risk.
  • Stay on message. You work hard to stand for something. Great service. Innovation. Reliability. If you leap to a very different message because it’s trending on Twitter, you could sacrifice clarity and you might not be playing to your own strengths.

Having said all that, a competitor’s stumble is certainly an opportunity to step up your game. Their customers are going to come looking for alternatives. Make it simple for people to switch. Pound home the benefits of your service. Do all the things you likely do anyway. Just think about using this as an excuse to do them a bit better.