Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Did Carnival Cruise Lines Do Anything Right?

It's hard to say what, if anything, Carnival Cruise Lines did right in the hours and days after the Costa Concordia ran aground and rolled on its side off the coast of Italy Jan. 13th, but the Costa Cruise subsidiary that operated the cruise ship, did a number of things correctly.

The investigations are getting underway, and the ship's captain has been held in an Italian jail since the disaster.

Beginning Saturday, Jan. 14, Costa Cruise's website carried a series of statements, including the
latest one Jan. 24 and the statements were for the most part appropriate: http://www.costacruise.com/B2C/USA/Info/concordia_statement.htm although there were a lot more questions that needed answers.

And on Jan. 16, an unidentified spokesperson, (appears to be the President) for Costa Cruise Lines appeared in a YouTube video expressing his sympathy and condolences to the victims and their families and defended the crew and its response, while implying the company would work with the investigators to determine what happened. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KNqAq2bHtFc&list=PLCFEC80D99741E604&feature=plcp&context=C3ac7430FDOEgsToPDskK516ywc1gCQ4ETsdiw88e

Most of the time, that should be the only public statement from the President or CEO.  A previously identified company spokesman, who has had media training, should then be designated as the on-going spokesperson for the company.  This should be a senior executive or manager, and he or she should have gone to the scene to represent the company.

And that spokesperson should have been updating passengers, employees and the media regularly on the status of the survivors, what is being done to stabilize the ship and prevent a catastrophic environmental spill of half-a-million gallons of ship's fuel.

Answers to those questions have been few and far between. 

The ship's captain claims the company ordered him to run close to the shore for publicity purposes, and so far, I've not seen any denial from the company.  And it would be appropriate for the company to at least say it is considering the captain's future with the cruise line.

A week later, there is no sign of any reference to the ship wreck on the Carnival Cruise Line website. Carnival is the parent company of Costa Cruises.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Spying On or Monitoring the Opposition

Australian government agencies have been attacked recently because they admitted they paid a company to monitor the on-line activities and public postings of environmental activists, and the federal police routinely monitor anti-coal mining groups and others through their websites, blogs, Facebook and Twitter posts.

Our counter-part down-under, Tony Jaques, in his most recent "Managing Outcomes" article raises some questions that perplex me.

We strongly recommend to almost all our clients that they should be monitoring what anybody and everybody says about them in all media....print, broadcast, and on-line.

Whether you are a small mom & pop business, a not-for-profit, a Fortune 100 Company or somewhere in between, it is foolish and dangerous not to be aware of what your supporters and critics are saying about you.  It is no less unreasonable for government agencies to do the same, as long as it is legal and ethical.

What could be more legal and ethical than to read what is being said about your organization in any and all public forums?

Now, to the perplexing part.

Tony points out that an Australian "Greens" activist Bob Brown has charged the government with "spying on conservation groups"and says they are trying to "criminalize political protest."

I think Mr. Brown should look at the world around him and recognize that when he is writing or talking about the government or any other organization, in a public forum, he not only should expect them to pay attention, he should be offended if they are not paying attention to what he has to say.

Tony also raised a question about the potential damage to a company's reputation if its monitoring of opposing viewpoints is misunderstood or misrepresented.

You can read Tony's column at: http://managingoutcomes.wordpress.com/2012/01/16/spying-allegations-tarnish-legitimate-issue-management/

I would argue that many organizations are more likely to be criticized and raked over the coals if they "are not" listening or paying attention to what others are saying about them.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Zappos Customers Got Zapped

The e-mail to Zappos shoe, clothing and bag customers began:  "First, the bad news..."

The bad news was that a hacker or hackers stole 24-million customers' personal information, including the last four digits of consumer credit card numbers. As big a "hit" as it was, it still pales in comparison to the 77-million customers' data stolen from Sony Play Station Network last year.

The second paragraph of the Zappos customer e-mail began:  "The better news...." "the database that stores your critical credit card and other payment data was NOT affected or accessed."

The company responded relatively fast with its blast e-mail and suggestion that every customer create a new password...and even created a link from their HOME page to "create a new password" page.  There, in tiny print it also says:  "You'll pay nothing if unauthorized charges are made to your credit card as a result of shopping at Zappos.com."

While the company has been moving in the right direction, it has done one thing that is relatively unheard of in today's business crisis world.  Zappos TURNED OFF their customer call center phones and are only taking questions by e-mail. 

CEO Tony Hsieh reportedly informed employees by note, "Due to the volume of inquiries we are expecting, we realized we could serve the most customers by answering their questions by e-mail."

In the customer e-mail, Hsieh concluded, "We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience this may cause."  And then suggests customers e-mail passwordchange@zappos.com with any comments or questions!

Friday, January 13, 2012

EEOC Takes A Page Out of Plaintiff's Attorney Handbook

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is beginning to act like scores of so-called "plaintiffs' attorneys" and advertising for "plaintiffs" or people who think they may have been discriminated against when they applied for a job.

A quick Google search will find lots of examples of law firms advertising for clients to sue someone...such as "The Food Poisoning Lawsuit Center."

Now EEOC is soliciting similar "victims" both on its website and in local newspaper adds.

They have recently launched two major "employment discrimination" cases and one of them is accusing Bass Pro Shops -- in the words on their website -- "If you applied for a job at any Bass Pro location and think you may not have been hired due to your race or national origin; or if you have any information about the EEOC's lawsuit, please contact the EEOC at this special phone number . . ."

The EEOC's more aggressive approach will likely do two things -- bring real and opportunistic victims out of the woodwork to bolster the feds case against companies, AND encourage all those "plaintiffs' attorneys" to step up their own marketing and expand the causes they promote and capitalize on.

Our first advice is not to discriminate, but even if you have not discriminated against anyone, someone may decide to try to extort you and the EEOC's new approach could add to your grief and challenge of defending your company.