It’s a fact – mistakes happen in all walks of life – but when a mistake by a company affects its users or customers, it may have serious consequences for the business.  In 2007, Bernard Matthews, the UK’s largest turkey producer, faced a lack of consumer confidence and falling sales when it failed to communicate promptly with its customers and the media to put right incorrect assumptions about its products.

Clear, timely and effective communication with customers is one key way to help soften the impact.  Just this month, Google has taken the prompt action of apologising to users and downgrading its own web browser, Google Chrome, in its search listings.  (BBC, 4th January 2012)

This was after it discovered that a recent marketing campaign conducted by a third-party agency had included the unauthorised use of sponsored links and postings, which is in opposition to Google’s fight against paid links and ‘thin’ content.

Although this has been a difficult issue for Google, by responding in this way, it has reinforced its business principles which should reassure its users.  At the heart of Bernard Matthews’ problems with consumer misperceptions was its slow response to the changes in its business environment.

The inaccurate and often damaging news reports, although frequently about other issues in the food industry (for example, the quality of school meals or an outbreak of bird flu), combined to affect public opinion, with the subsequent loss of trust in the company’s products.  This resulted in Bernard Matthews needing to implement a full business turnaround programme to get back in touch with its customers’ needs and rebuild their trust.

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