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Act Fast When Customers and the Community Lose Faith in Your Offerings

Mar 3, 2008
There may be no stronger source of unhappy surprise than having the customers' and community's perceptions of your products and services suddenly turn from positive to negative with no warning. Perhaps a television program runs an expose about the safety of your product, testing it in ways that you have never considered or are inappropriate. Or suddenly the government imposes a new standard, and your product has to be phased out in its current form. If you didn't anticipate these risks your reaction will probably be similar to a bicyclist without a rear-view mirror who is bumped from behind by a speeding truck. You won't know what hit you.

One of the most interesting challenges about these circumstances is that regardless of the merits of the negative reaction you encounter, you have to do something soon or the negative reaction will become even worse. If you don't change your product or service appropriately, you'll be perceived as callous.

If you make the adjustment for one country and keep shipping the old product to other countries, you may be viewed as unethical (or even racist in some cases). If the basis of the negative reaction is that your employees may have misbehaved in some way (by bribing someone, for example), you'll be viewed as condoning the behavior if you don't take quick action to suspend the people involved and investigate what has been going on.

The irresistible force here is that during the times when you are perceived by society as a positive contributor, you receive the benefit of the doubt from customers and the community in general. As soon as it appears that you may have faltered in your public responsibilities, the presumption seems to shift to doubting everything from your intentions to your effectiveness.

Many companies have not faced this problem before and do not know how to respond in a crisis. They appear helpless to everyone.

You may have observed this condition in the past when an airline has its first big plane crash and many people are hurt or killed. The airline may have always provided great service, good prices, and contributed to the community, and have had a good reputation as a result. But if it appears disorganized and insufficiently caring during a disaster, the airline may be viewed by the public and the families of those involved in the crash as a monster that must have contributed to the accident. Lost revenues can dog the company's path for years as doubts about safety and trustworthiness grow.

A good example of how negativity can be handled can be drawn from the DC-10 safety problems. McDonnell Douglas quickly addressed the flaws that had been uncovered and hired one of the astronauts to review the plane's safety and report what he found.

That report was featured in the company's television advertising. The company's actions made everyone aware that surveillance by the Federal Aviation Administration and the airlines probably made the DC-10 safer than any other plane that was flying at the time.

At first the public avoided DC-10s in droves. But within a year, hardly any travelers avoided them. Eventually, the plane was recognized as a safe alternative by the traveling public, following the effective, timely adjustments made by McDonnell Douglas and the airlines.
About the Author
Donald Mitchell is an author of seven books including Adventures of an Optimist, The 2,000 Percent Squared Solution, The 2,000 Percent Solution, The 2,000 Percent Solution Workbook, The Irresistible Growth Enterprise, and The Ultimate Competitive Advantage. Read about creating breakthroughs through 2,000 percent solutions and receive tips by e-mail by registering for free at

http://www.2000percentsolution.com .
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