Willing to Fly the 737 Max? Boeing’s Missteps May Damage Their Brand

When a company is forced to navigate choppy waters, a single mistake can undermine a brand’s credibility and disheartened customers may take the opportunity to turn to competitors. Boeing is not the first company to fail when responding to a negative situation. However, keeping important information from the public and the FAA on two separate occasions definitely helped turn public perception against the company, especially as more details concerning the safety of flight crews and passengers come to light. How did Boeing stumble and could their chosen route of action influence their brand?

Boeing and the 737 Max

Boeing faces serious credibility problems after their response to two deadly crashes involving the 737 Max plane: the first occurring in Indonesia and the second happening en route to Nairobi. A misstep was made when only a partial picture was disclosed by Boeing after the Lion Air crash. After the second crash of an Ethiopian Airlines flight, six weeks elapsed before Boeing finally related the underlying software issue to the public and to the FAA. As a result, Boeing faces an uphill battle when meeting with influential union members representing flight attendants. The head of the union, Sara Nelson, sharing that she does not feel confident in telling travelers and flight attendants to fly on the 737 Max until certain conditions are met.

Boeing is concerned about the mark left on their reputation as it faces multiple federal investigations and lawsuits. The company has focused its public relations strategy on passengers as it waits for the decision that will allow the Max to return to commercial service. Transparency and full accountability need to be improved in order to reassure the flying public and secure the support of pilots and flight attendants.

Lessons to Be Learned

There was a concerning lack of communication between airlines, pilots and regulators about the software issue that directly affected the operation of the 737 Max planes and the safety of its passengers. The company was not forthcoming with pilots about how the basic system and some automatic features operated. It was only after the Lion Air accident that regulators and some pilots were informed that the key cockpit warning light did not operate unless the airline had also purchased the angle of attack indicator.

When it comes to safety, getting all the details to your customers is paramount. Takeaways that reflect the need for honesty and transparency in a company include:

  1. Explain the reason for launch delays. Customers would rather experience a delay with the understanding that safety is a priority for a company.
  2. Share information as soon as possible. When one leg of a trip is delayed, and a passenger is forced to reschedule their plans, arrange for accommodations. To maintain goodwill, avoid waiting until the last possible moment to tell customers of an issue.
  3. Plan ahead to maintain integrity. With so much invested in attracting and cultivating long-term relationships with customers, a plan for potential issues needs to be in place so communication can be transparent when problems arise.

Think from your customers’ point of view. What would you, as a customer, need to know in order to mitigate any potential issues arising from a partner’s shortcomings? As an airline or pilot, wouldn’t you feel it a priority to know about any system updates or faulty systems that could compromise the safety of your passengers and crew?

Plan for Tough Situations

B2B and B2C companies need to be customer-centric and offer clarity when situations come up to allow for adjustments. This can help a company maintain a positive impression and protect their brand.

What do people say about you when you are not around? Whatever it is, that is your brand. After all, your brand identity is built by your actions and how you deliver, not on your stated values. The response or lack thereof to a serious situation is a reflection of a company’s core values and whether it deserves to be trusted — or not.

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Building a Culture that Ensures Your Company’s Success

Entrepreneurs often overlook company culture during their first weeks in business. While many prioritize other aspects of their business, they risk sacrificing a potential differentiator and what should be the fundamental basis of their brand. A company’s culture is vital to securing a good reputation, encouraging employee loyalty, and fostering collaboration with other businesses. Whatever your other responsibilities, it’s essential to begin building a corporate culture from day one.

Veer Toward Values

Identify specific values that you can easily be put into practice. Generic values like equality, innovation, and employee safety are good at the start but focus on values that relate specifically to your business. If your company provides home insulation services, for example, you have the potential to reduce your customers’ household energy use and associated pollution, so environmental sustainability will be an easy value to promote in your ordinary business practices. Likewise, if you work in software or network design, information security and privacy protection are ideal values.

For example, Trailblaze Growth Advisors ties its values to helping firms of all sizes improve their appeal and increase profitability. Our values include:

  • Hands-On Operations – The Trailblaze team doesn’t advise from the sidelines. We involve ourselves in your business as directly as possible and offer practical solutions for specific problems.
  • span style=”text-decoration:underline;”>Pursuing Perfection – We constantly seek new information, learning as much as possible, so that we never encounter a problem we don’t know how to solve. Whenever our efforts fall short, we learn from our mistakes and improve our company.
  • Cultivating Collaboration – We incorporate as many experiences and opinions as possible, working with experts from all fields to find the best solutions.
  • Guaranteeing Our Goals – We set clear objectives and always fulfill or exceed them.

Document Your Values

Once you’ve decided on values for your business, make sure to articulate them to employees and customers alike. Write all of your values down, incorporate them into training programs, and devote a page of your company website to them. The sooner you make your values clear, the easier it is for your employees to embody them, and the quicker your business will gain a reputation for them.

Articulating company values also gives your employees a chance to become involved in the emerging corporate culture. Encourage them to read through the values, identify omissions, and make suggestions for improvement. The more involved your employees are in this process, the more motivated they will be to promote your company culture and the better that culture will reflect your employees’ attitudes and actions.

Build a Culture

Putting your company culture into action means giving credit to every employee who promotes that culture. Any of your employees’ actions that embody your values, however small, should be met with praise. Consider holding monthly ceremonies in which you publicly recognize employees who promoted your values and reward them with raises or prizes. Keep permanent records of these achievements on your website or on plaques. You must also negatively sanction employees who fail to live up to your values, giving them an ultimatum to comply. One unfaithful employee can give the whole company a bad reputation.

As the leadership team, you must embody your company’s values in all areas of your life, and not just at work. If one of your values is sustainability, for example, consider insulating your home, installing solar panels, and biking to work. The more commitment you show to your culture, the more it will be taken seriously.

Engender Evolution

As your business grows, attracts new customers, and responds to changes in technology, your company’s culture will have to adapt. Encourage your employees to discuss your values and find new ways of promoting them in the changing market. Your company will change, but as long as it remains committed to its core values, it can continue to garner respect among employees, customers, and the business community.

Don’t overlook something as crucial as culture. Check out our sources to learn more about founding a company on strong values.

Additional reading:

  • #GIRLBOSS by Sophia Amorusa
  • http://www.inc.com/eat-big-fish/why-successful-start-ups-need-to-build-a-culture-of-overcoming.html
  • http://venturebeat.com/2012/05/14/startup-culture-tips/
  • http://www.forbes.com/sites/groupthink/2013/10/04/how-to-build-a-great-company-culture/
  • http://www.huffingtonpost.com/anne-hill/small-business-success-advice-_b_1564803.html;
  • https://hbr.org/2015/04/why-company-culture-is-a-misleading-term; www.entrepreneur.com/article/242141
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