Grounded Boeing Angers A Whole Value Chain

Boeing’s having a tough run. The self-proclaimed world’s largest aerospace company is under “intense scrutiny” after two crashes involving its 737 MAX jets, with governments around the world grounding planes, massively affecting travel and airline operations. Boeing finds itself in the center of a terrible storm of angry consumers, buyers, and regulators.

Not The First Time . . . But The Worst Time

This isn’t the first time Boeing planes have crashed — but PR-wise, it’s the worst. What’s different serves as caution for all leaders, regardless of industry. The zeitgeist has changed: No company is immune to the demands of empowered customers, not even B2B companies like Boeing. In Boeing’s case, the empowered customers are not just airlines but also the flying public. B2B companies never really had to worry about public scrutiny with its volatile fury. In an industry’s value chain, they played safely in the background, behind their B2C buyer. In this case, airline manufacturers historically didn’t interact with passengers post-crash but instead worked with regulators. A US presidential tweet hurled the issue into the public realm, a virtual court whose norms disregard protocol.

Tired PR Playbook Disregards New Expectations

When Boeing tried to react with its typical PR playbook, its response was deemed slow and light on empathy, facets Boeing never had to worry about before because it was not dealing with consumers en masse. With Boeing as the new bad guy, airlines can raise summer prices, blaming the manufacturer, further angering a jittery public that is tweeting concerns. This downward spiral of brand crisis opened the door for a “Game of Thrones”-ish shareholders’ power play and a suit by Ralph Nader.

Update Your Brand Crisis Approach To Be Customer-Centric

Our research shows that crises like Boeing’s are becoming inevitable. Enabled with social and mobile tools, consumers are primed to share their opinions quickly. All companies, B2C and B2B, must take a modern approach to dealing with brand crises that addresses all customers in the value chain — even ones you never needed to care about before.