Magazine article Management Today

Act Swiftly to Keep the Customers

Magazine article Management Today

Act Swiftly to Keep the Customers

Article excerpt

Never, ever lose the customer's confidence. If things start going wrong, act swiftly, decisively and unilaterally. These precepts should be so well understood that it seems pointless to reiterate them. But for anyone watching the Government's jaw-droppingly awful handling of the BSE crisis, it is clear that they can't be repeated often enough.

The first mistake was the half-cock response to the scare in 1990. The reaction was to slaughter only infected cattle. Compare this with Eire where the 124 notified cases of BSE (there have been 158,882 in Britain) resulted in the slaughter of 15,000 head of cattle between 1990 and 1995. The UK's failure to appreciate the fragility of public confidence was unforgivable.

The second mistake was to imagine that consumer confidence is happy to wait on the words of scientists. Just ask Unilever. Once the scale of the loss of consumer confidence in Persil Power became clear, Unilever realised there was no option but to withdraw the product, irrespective of what the scientists might have to say. When there's a run on a bank, only an idiot would ask depositors to hold back until the chief economist has concluded whether the bank is actually insolvent.

The farmers also have also shown stunning ignorance of the facts of commercial life. Their response to the market's demand for cheaper produce was to cut corners in their supply chain costs thus reducing the quality of their product. Their view that customers have now got what they were prepared to pay for is totally unacceptable. …

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