In my lifetime, I’ve witnessed dozens of companies fall off the charts, teeter on the line of bankruptcy, sell out, earn a less than desirable reputation, lose customer loyalty, etc. It happens. Most companies succumb to a storm or two every now and then. The economy fluctuates. The competition across the charts is expanding. People’s needs and wants change. Something bigger and better rolls in. Companies fail to keep up with the demand. Recalls. The list is extensive.
During these storms, there are several areas of focus. This would include examining what brought the company to its current state, locating the weak areas throughout the company, and correcting the issues for the ultimate comeback. Also on the list is maintaining customer loyalty through these storms and reestablishing loyalty once the storm passes. Is that possible? Yes. However, it takes a lot of time, effort and strategic planning.
Last year, Chipotle took a hit when news spread about several E. coli outbreaks. Over 2 dozen patrons were hospitalized and health officials alerted consumers stating the problem wasn’t over yet. Chipotle cooperated and voluntarily shut down all locations in the 2 states that had been affected with E.coli. In a November article by Susan Young, she states, “Chipotle spokesperson Chris Arnold’s statements, along with posts from the company’s Twitter account, offered information and direct responses to consumers about the voluntary closings of more than 40 restaurants due to “extreme precaution for the public’s health.”
During this storm, Chipotle’s sales took a nosedive. According to PR Daily, “Chipotle posted its first quarterly loss in the wake of last year’s highly publicized E. coli breakouts. It showed a net loss of $26 million in the first quarter.” What’s the company doing to reengage and maintain customer loyalty? Last month they offered free burritos and, the newest perk, is a loyalty program. And, rumor has it they’ll be adding a new meat blend to their menu.
How about a storm on the fashion front? A few years ago, designer Betsey Johnson hit a few rocky patches and profits declined rapidly from their peak in the mid 2000s. In 2012, Betsey Johnson filed for bankruptcy, was forced to lay off over 300 people and closed almost all of her retail locations. However, with much determination, Betsey Johnson rebuilt her company by offering lower-priced fashion without sacrificing her well known style. By doing this she widened her target customers, made fashion more affordable and met customer demands. Today, she’s still going strong.
Another company that weathered the storm and maintained customer loyalty was Domino’s. Sales were falling and so was their customer base. They wanted to know why and listened to what the customers had to say during their brutally honest campaign. After much deliberation, admitting fault and making their turnaround public, they began rebuilding from ground up and revamped their entire menu. More recently, they dropped the word ‘Pizza’ from their brand name to reflect the expanded sandwich and pasta menu. The changes all the way around proved to be a success.
As the saying goes, “You may not be able to control every situation and its outcome, but you can control your attitude and how you deal with it.” The same applies to companies. There isn’t a company out there who’s exempt from hardships. Truth be told, when the storm hits, maintaining customer loyalty is dependent on how the storm is weathered.