Isn't it amazing that, recall after recall, crisis after crisis, when a large brand in involved, there always seems to be a reaction time problem; British Airways being the latest prime example with their IT problems over the long weekend at Heathrow and Gatwick recently.
But they're not alone, as we can easily point to VW and Samsung as well. And here’s the key; time and time again, research has shown that brand loyalty actually increases dramatically when a problem or question or request is dealt with quickly and efficiently, because the default setting for most consumer facing companies is generally pretty bad as we all know. Not only that, but positive PR from a well handled issue can now spread rapidly over social media to spread the glow.
I appreciate that the larger the organisation, then the harder it is to react quickly due to the number of people involved, so pre-planning is the absolute key to this. From our own experience being directly involved during the horsemeat scandal, one of the major brands affected came to us to make sure that a hotline was available and resourced quickly and fully briefed to take the sting out of the situation. By doing so, the volume of questions soon subsided, and the happiness rating of all those affected was more than 70% – amazing in the circumstances…
In fact it was our experience with that project that led us in to develop the concept of the pre-prepared Strategic Action Recall Team, or START for short. This now allows our clients to have a regularly rehearsed standby team ready to go with separate Hotlines and project management IT support and reporting. And a key feature is that there is always C-Level involvement ready to talk to the media and customers immediately a situation occurs.
So, getting back to the British Airways case, there is absolutely no reason these days why top management couldn't have been seen to be visible to promote both inbound phone and web response channels to assist the 75,000 customers stuck for travel over the bank holiday weekend. The fact that there wasn't any advice coming out to those affected or even in the media, soon created a negative storm on social media, which may now take months or years to recover from.
From my own personal experience, I've always been a fan of BA with the superb Terminal 5, a little extra legroom and up until recently the free food and beverage service. Now though, there is the irritation of having to pay for bags to check into the hold, the need to purchase snacks and drinks which may just about arrive in time before landing on a short haul flight… And, on top of all this, we still have the threat of more cabin staff strikes that have been rumbling on for years.
Anyway, those are all bigger issues for the marketing and customer service teams, but there can be no denying that the lack of visibility of management and advice as soon as the problems occurred suddenly made the whole brand damage situation far worse than it needed to have been.