How companies like United and Wells Fargo can win back consumer trust–John Hauser

MIT Sloan Professor John Hauser

MIT Sloan Professor John Hauser

From The Conversation 

It’s every CEO’s worst nightmare: For whatever reason, the CEO’s company is engulfed in negative publicity that threatens to damage its brand name, harm sales and alienate customers for months or even years to come.

The negative publicity can hit suddenly, seemingly out of the blue, or it can come in relentless waves, over a prolonged period of time, like a series of storms battering a coastal area, one after another. Wells Fargo and United Airlines have both been facing such an onslaught in recent weeks and months.

How does a company respond? How does it go about repairing a damaged brand name and winning back customers?

While I know very little about these particular situations apart from what I’ve read, seen, and heard via various media outlets, I know how difficult it is to change consumers’ minds about a company and its products – and how winning back “trust” is easier said than done.

Five years ago, my colleagues – Gui Liberali of the Erasmus School of Economics in Rotterdam and Glen L. Urban at the MIT Sloan School of Management – and I jointly published a study, “Competitive information, trust, brand consideration and sales: Two field experiments.” Here’s what we learned.

Regaining customer trust

Over two years, we closely tracked four marketing field experiments by an American automaker whose brand had suffered from decades of negative publicity over the quality of its products. The experiments focused on company actions to earn back trust.

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