Investigating the Impact of a Crisis on Corporate Reputation
Over the years we have been asked by a number of companies to explore how their handling of disruption has affected consumer perception of their brand and to evaluate to what extent their communications with customers were successful in providing timely information thereby minimising dissatisfaction. Most recently we’ve explored disruption in water supply following flooding for Southern Water, loss of water resulting from exceptionally bad weather for both South East Water and Welsh Water (Dwr Cymru) and water shortages during the heatwave for South East Water. And for United Utilities we measured the impact of a suspected cryptosporidium outbreak shortly after it occurred and again two years later to see whether there were lasting impacts.
Key to this type of research programme is a timely initial approach to ensure that the event is still fresh in customers’ minds.
Quantitatively we ask questions about behaviour resulting from the incident (for example the purchase of bottled water), impact on the company’s reputation and assessment of their handling of or communication about the incident. In a number of cases we have then calculated the financial impact of behaviour change, both for individual customers and across the whole customer base.
Research often includes a qualitative stage where we are able to add depth to the findings by exploring the experiences of those most affected; for example, farmers or the elderly.
Our clients have found this type of research invaluable in understanding where they need to act differently and how best to communicate in order to minimise the impact on customer perception of their brand.
The financial calculations are used to understand likely cost to customers of an incident and levels of compensation which might be payable. We have on occasion provided a Value Transfer Tool which can calculate a theoretical impact based on the number of affected customers and the duration of the incident.