Learning from Some of the Biggest Business Fails of 2017

From devastating hurricanes wreaking havoc across the U.S., to the NFL and Charlottesville protests making headlines, 2017 was certainly a tumultuous and rollercoaster of a year. Unfortunately, many companies took a ride on this rollercoaster, leading to some major social media, security and PR failures.

Here are a few of the biggest business fails from 2017 and some tips to avoid following in their footsteps in 2018.

Protect Yourself Financially

A number of cyber attacks made headlines in 2017 after millions of consumers either had their personal information and/or financial data leaked or compromised. Last year, one of the biggest cybersecurity breaches that hit businesses and consumers was the Equifax data breach, which impacted an estimated 145 million people. Ultimately, former Equifax CEO Richard Smith met before Congress for several days of questioning related to the breakdown in security safeguards that led to the company’s massive hack.

While the cause of the Equifax breach is still unknown, there is a clear lesson to be learned from it and the many other cyber attacks that occurred in 2017: protect yourself. In particular, the incidents highlight that while cloud storage is popular for businesses and usually reliable, it still requires backup. Fortunately, there are a number of services that can provide you with the extra security you need. For example, Mozy offers cloud backup and data restoration services for businesses of all sizes.

Put Your Customers First

In April 2017, United Airlines experienced one of the worst PR disasters in recent history. After overbooking a flight from O’Hare International Airport in Chicago to Louisville, Ky., the airline bumped several passengers off the plane after they had already boarded.

One passenger, in particular, refused to leave the plane, causing airline security personnel to forcibly remove the man from his seat. A bystander recorded the incident on their cell phone, which showed the man being dragged off the plane, causing a major uproar on social media and across major news networks.

The use of force exhibited by United Airlines personnel was extreme, and the incident serves as an example of how companies can let greed get in the way of how they treat customers. Airlines frequently overbook flights, because they know it’s likely that some passengers will not show up.

But is showing extreme force and carelessness ultimately worth it if the incident blows up in a company’s face? When faced with similar decisions in 2018, put yourself in the shoes of the customer. Or, even better, collect ongoing customer feedback to keep their opinions in mind.

Be Sensitive to Others

It may seem obvious that a company should be sensitive to different cultures and beliefs. But Pepsi majorly missed the mark after airing a commercial that, to many, made light of the Black Lives Matter protests taking place across the U.S. The 30-second spot featured celebrity Kendall Jenner deciding to leave a photoshoot in favor of joining a street protest.

But when Jenner and the other protestors reach a police barricade, she innocently offers a Pepsi to a police officer, inciting cheers and smiles from the crowd. Of course, this elicited disapproval from many sides. In particular, Black Lives Matter protestors believed they were being mocked, and that issues such as police brutality were being reduced to a joke.

On the other hand, some thought Pepsi was trying too hard to be relevant and should’ve stayed completely out of politics as a soda brand. Pepsi quickly took down the video and issued an apology shortly after releasing it.

There are many lessons to be learned from this snafu, but a major one is to be sensitive to public interests. In the age of social media, it’s easy for statements, advertisements and more to be misconstrued and start a conversation. No matter the size of your brand, ensure you’re getting multiple points of view on any content that will be commercialized and could be considered controversial.

While entrepreneurs can learn a lot from business success stories, they’re bound to pick up even more insights regarding major blunders and snafus that have made headlines for all the wrong reasons. Pay attention and see what your company can learn from these missteps. In most cases, there are plenty of preventative steps that can be taken to avoid these issues from escalating out of control in the first place. Be forward-thinking to safeguard yourself and be on your way to a successful 2018.

Photo Credit: Image provided by Social Monsters with permission to use. 

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