3 rules to help beat the competition (instead of your customers)
Friday, April 14, 2017
First, it was Uber, which continues to find itself in the news for all the wrong reasons. Then, it was Pepsi nearly breaking the internet and adding a new line in the oil-and-water discussion of race relations and police brutality. Both companies went through situations that left them embarrassed, backpedaling and answering to myriad negative headlines.
United Airlines is now the latest to have to answer to critics. After a video of a 69-year-old passenger being forcibly removed from a flight went viral last week, United stocks plummeted (losing more than $1 billion in market value), and — perhaps more importantly in the long term — the image of the Chicago-based airline took a blow that could scar the company indefinitely.
It didn't help that days later, the company also has had to deal with a passenger stung by a scorpion on a recent flight.
This is the perfect time for United — and Uber and Pepsi, as well — to engage in serious damage control. Having a solid quality control team could parlay into much-needed brand reimaging that will remind old customers and introduce new customers about what makes the company so special and inviting from the start.
Here are three things companies can do to assist with brand reimaging after going through a terrible situation that could damage their integrity:
1. Own it
Before anything else, a company needs to say two things: "We did it," and "We're sorry." Understand that the customer is always right (one of the oldest rules in economics and consumer education), and in this case, the customer must be handled delicately.
Additionally, all company comments must be heartfelt and genuine. Saying something and meaning something are two completely different things — and consumers are savvy in picking up a false apology.
Take United's case, for example. Josh Linkner, a business columnist for the Detroit Free Press, discussed how the company "prioritized the transfer of employees over customers." United CEO Oscar Munoz first backed his staff in following protocol. In doing so, he also angered thousands of passengers who may no longer use United again to fly.
Whether big or small, you go into business to serve your customers, and in this situation, a customer became secondary. This cannot happen again.
2. Make your mission statement count
Ah, yes, the mission statement: You know that sentence or two that basically defines a company? The goals, ethics and best practices of a company are supposed to live and flourish through its mission statement. Sadly, some just see the statement as mere hype that ultimately is pushed to the wayside by countless employees.
Sometimes, in rebranding your image, the right thing to do is to retrace your company's steps. Remind yourself of what once made the company great. A good mission statement will tell us what the company stands for and how it can benefit its consumers — and, possibly, all of globalization.
3. Social media is everywhere
A friendly reminder to some of you who feel untouchable in a position: Social media can and will destroy you. It may be an old-school mentality, but many company representatives feel they can be bigger than any video that comes from someone's cellphone.
With Facebook (and now Facebook Live), Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat and the rest of the social media giants of the world, a few seconds of video can turn into what feels like an eternity of frustration.
Perception is reality in many cases, and this is enhanced when a video supports the argument. In a matter of seconds, one post can generate feedback all over the world. The viral United video — which attracted hundreds of thousands of views from several angles and resulted in analyses on YouTube and other national sites — is something that will be there as long as the internet exists.
In other words, this will be something United deals with forever. To make this as simple as possible: No company is bigger than social media. Understand that social media is the new Big Brother: It's always watching you. And it will tell on you.
Hopefully, United can recover from this catastrophic situation. If anything, it serves as a valuable lesson in crisis management and quality control. Understanding and utilizing these three rules could help a company make the best of a bad situation.
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