Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Who has done well out of the snow chaos?

An interesting move by BAA boss Colin Matthews, who has today announced he is giving up his bonus after the snow chaos debacle at Heathrow airport. The past few days have been a case study in crisis preparedness. Too many have got it wrong. Mr Matthews is now paying for BAA’s poor planning.

Good crisis handling starts in addressing an issue before it escalates to a level to become a crisis. One way to achieve this is through effective communications. If your operations department forget to order the anti-freeze then your communications team may, to some extent, be able to come to your rescue. A lot of effective crisis communications is about transparency and speed. An organisation looking like it is doing all it can to solve a crisis, is likely to protect its reputation far better than one which just gets on with the job of actually solving the crisis.

Sticking with airports, the Telegraph have an interesting analysis of which airlines have done well in keeping their passengers informed during the chaos of the last few days. It will come as little surprise to anyone who flies frequently in Europe that British Airways do well while Ryanair perform terribly.  BA, along with Lufthansa, has invested in digital media to keep its passengers up to date with fast moving events. This small investment is likely to pay back very quickly with increased customer loyalty if this analysis is correct.

Eurostar have been hit badly by powerful images of queues of stranded passengers having to be kept warm by supplies provided by the Salvation Army. Images that are much more reminiscent of war time, Blitz hit Britain than the Britain of the 21st century. This is the second winter in a row that Eurostar has been affected by the adverse weather. They need to put in place more robust systems and processes to deal with customer demand but also communicate more effectively.

So what about the politicians? Philip Hammond has done well without hugely enhancing his reputation; he has been accessible and visible throughout. He even managed to make a statement about the new high speed rail line in the midst of the chaos.  The pictures of him engaging with a disgruntled passenger at Heathrow could have been terrible but instead showed a politician listening and responding. Most importantly it looked like he cared when BAA amongst others didn’t.

Labour has tried to make an impact but have looked churlish in calling for resignations and blaming a lack of strategic planning. Someone should point out to Maria Eagle that today’s strategic plans were devised in the months and years when Labour politicians filled the role of transport secretary.

In short, no one has profited through the misery of the last week seeing their reputation hugely enhanced. However, as with all crisis situations badly handled, some have seen their reputations considerably diminished.

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