Righting a wrong – rebuilding trust

Righting a wrong – rebuilding trust

In my regular column on technology trends for TechJuice, I wrote about the catastrophic consequences of technology going wrong.  In this blog I wanted to use the same example to touch on how companies rebuilt trust after getting something wrong.


A precautionary football tale

In my TechJuice article, I wrote about recently going to a football match where a new ticketing system did not work.  This led to huge queues for Southampton’s first game back at the St Mary’s Stadium since March 2020 and people unable to access the stadium until 20 minutes or more after the match had started.

The club’s response was initially very decisive: at half time during the match, it issued an apology on its website and announced this to the crowd.  It offered all “general admission ticket holders” a full refund for the game and promised a full enquiry, committing to providing information about the refund by “early the following week”.

I heard this announcement at the game and was surprisingly impressed by the club’s swift action. This apology went further than a simple “sorry” – it told people what the club was going to do and offered speedy remedial action.


Walking the talk

However, later on the same day the club issued a further statement.  It added little in terms of detail and instead rowed back from the simplicity of the first statement, offering less clarity with sentences such as: “Due to the volume of refunds, please bear with us while we process all transactions.”

Having set out clearly that they would update supporters in the “early part of the week” the club then failed to do so.  It took until Thursday for the company to confirm the process for refunds – arguably failing against the self-imposed target of “early next week”. This was a mistake.


Best practice when things go wrong

Things go wrong for all companies.  When advising our clients how to respond to criticism or a mistake, we recommend the following:

  1. Issue an apology, but not before you know why something went wrong and what you are going to do to put it right. An apology without context can seem hollow.  In this case the club did well to swiftly promise action; although the second statement muddied the waters considerably and was arguably unnecessary.
  2. Ensure you meet your promises. Once you have promised action, deliver on it to the timescale promised.  Your reputation is already at stake – do not risk it further.
  3. Follow up with a full explanation when you have one. In this case the club promised a full investigation but did not commit to sharing that with those affected – a critical part of rebuilding brand trust.

All companies make mistakes.  Explaining why these have happened is a critical part of giving context to customers and helps build brand empathy, sometimes to the point that the relationship between company and customer can be improved.  It is important to offer more than an apology; to explain, to contextualise and to put right.  In this case the club got a bit right but a lot wrong.

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