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Subway’s sales have plummeted over the past few years and has been through a number of crisis situations. In 2020, a lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court in California from two disgruntled Subway customers claimed that the tuna salad wasn’t tuna, and might not even be fish.
Subway’s PR department went into cleverness overdrive to push back against the lawsuit, tweeting, “Keep fishing folks, we’ll keep serving 100% wild-caught tuna.” A fun Twitter exchange with Jessica Simpson also played off her 2003 “Chicken of the Sea” gaffe. Customers could get 15% off footlong tuna salad subs by using the code “ITSREAL.”
Subway’s headquarters sent out clever tweets, and even a promotional message. However, it didn’t mention the trust issues customers have complained about over the years. Remember when an Irish court declared that Subway’s bread wasn’t bread? Or how about the time someone claimed their footlong was, in fact, an 11 1/2 -inch long? Let’s not even talk about Jared.
As the company has been on a steep revenue decline for close to a decade now, it might be time for Subway to ditch the duck-and-counterpunch routine, and instead address their current crisis while also making some fundamental shifts in their communication style.
Each business will have its crises points. But it is how leaders handle the crisis that really matters. You don’t want any mistakes in dealing with your “fake tuna crisis”.
These are the four lessons Subway’s failures can teach us about managing a crisis.
Transparency is key
Subway had a clever communication strategy, but it failed to build trust with its seafood source sources. Subway did not provide any testimonials or sourcing information. Subway should be less clever, more transparent and authentic in its communications. Film the seafood suppliers who bring in your catch of the day, and instead of writing clever tweets. Transparency is not a problem if it’s an issue.
Learned lesson: Communicate openly with customers. Although you may want to avoid addressing a problem (or, in the case of Subway, to try to rebut those who are pointing fingers), trust can be built when communication is open and honest.
Pledge to do better
Subway must not be a victim of cleverness or avoidance, but should take fundamental steps towards solving the problem. Following Chipotle’s 2015 E. Coli outbreak, the company took major steps to improve and guarantee its food safety protocols. It developed an independent Food Safety Council to evaluate its food safety, staffing and training, among other areas, to mitigate the issues that led to the outbreaks. To be fair, Subway has made a more detailed statement about sustainable fishing practices, but the language on its website still speaks about long-term change, as opposed to immediate action steps.
The lesson learned: After acknowledging the problem, it is important to immediately take steps to show your shareholders, customers and employees that you are serious about making things better.
Revert to basics
If the 1985 “New Coke” disaster taught us anything, it’s that sometimes companies need to stop innovating and get back to their fundamentals. Subway’s menu has been stuffed with soups and flatbreads. Subway also lost sight of what helped it grow: fresh, simple sandwiches made right before the customers. Subway’s motto, “Eat Fresh”, calls for immediate action.
The lesson learned: Many companies do many things but in a substandard way. It is important to excel at only one thing. Subway makes sandwiches. Your company does what? Refocusing your attention on the core of your business is key to getting out of crisis.
Keep up with the times
Sustainable food sourcing and healthy eating are key to a sustainable future. These aren’t buzzwords; these are real concerns that customers care about. Whole Foods recognizes that customers today care about sustainability and so they put the information out for them to view. Though the brand has improved, the impact that Subway’s lack of tuna sourcing information had on consumer confidence is real. It doesn’t only inspire distrust, it also looks out of touch.
The lesson learned: Being aware of and adapting to the current trends is not about being politically correct or following every trend. Recognizing fundamental changes in society is key to making your company part of the conversation. Keep your eyes on the core of your business and be open to changing circumstances. It is not a good idea to be left behind.
It is entirely up to Subway to decide how they deal with their latest crisis. You can still prepare yourself for the worst by learning these powerful lessons now and how you can impact your company.
Publited Sat, 21 August 2021 at 21:14.42 +0000