BP CEO Tony Hayward appeared before the the US Congressional Hearing on June 17, 2010 to answer questions about the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Tony Hayword’s opening speech contained the three major elements of crisis management: Acknowledge the Problem, Apologize, and demonstrate the action being taken. See the video at http://www.theglobeandmail.com/video/tony-hayward-testifies/article1607722/.

The elements that were strong were his commitment to find root cause, to compensate locals for their losses and the multiple action plans in place and the dates when progressive increases containment would be in place. BP announced yesterday that they had set up a $20 Billion fund, independently administered to help the victims of the disaster and the cancellation of dividends to investors.

This tried and true method of containing customer satisfaction issues did not seem to work. Why?

1. The 3 actions (acknowledge, apologize and demonstrate action)  was the right formula but it was very late coming.

2. The damage is severe, from the family and friends of the men who died, to the people affected economically and in other ways by the oil spill, to tourists who won’t be able to enjoy certain beaches they had planned for their vacations.

3. Early efforts to contain the oil spill  resulted in multiple failures, leading to pent up frustration.

4. The impact of the oil spill is reaching a broader audience than at the start of the oil spill. (beaches around the gulf coast)

5. Tony Hayward has not used the best Public relations tactics to date. There has been much finger pointing to other parties (ie  it not our fault)

6. The US  committee sent a letter to Tony Hayward asking that he respond to evidence that BP cut costs by using more risk prone procedures without enough risk mitigation. Mr. Hayward refused to accept any liability or even admit that mistakes were made. He claimed in his prepared remarks that he wanted to find out why this happened and there are several studies on going to try to determine root causes. He awaits the results of those studies.

While the video is all that is public, the reports in the press say that hearing did not go well. A very frustrated committee were gunning for Tony Hayward.

There was even an incident at the start of the hearing by a woman claiming that Tony Hayward should be charged with a crime and sent to jail. She interrupted the proceedings as they started. Mr. Hayward had to restart his opening remarks due to the interruption.

Tony Hayward didn’t respond with the candor and honesty expected of him.  He was well prepared by legal and PR as to what he could and should say and what he shouldn’t say. That came across as evasive.

Sometimes it isn’t even the words used:  it is the attitude  From what I see in the video Tony Hayward was quite aloof. There does not seem to be much emotion. A news article reported that the evasions, delivered in flat and impassive tones,  further infuriated committee members.

Contrast his speech to the one President Obama gave earlier this week

Aside from the messages in the speech, notice the emotion shown by the President that increases his credibility and sense of caring.

The tried and true customer satisfaction mitigation process of Accept, Apologize and Demonstrate action, needs to have an additional element: Really Care.

What is your opinion?


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Adele Berenstein

Adele Berenstein is an Experienced Customer Satisfaction Executive, recently retired from a Large Global IT Organization after a long productive management career including Sales, Marketing, Services, teaching and education center management and most recently, 19 years in customer satisfaction management. She turned around divisions with customer satisfaction problems, implemented measurable improvements and management systems, and implemented programs to prevent problems from ever affecting customers.

3 Responses to “BP CEO Apology falters despite proven Customer Satisfaction techniques”

  1. Ossie Lammert Says:

    Apparently the oil spill has stopped leaking but based on all the other stuff they have been covering up and lying about I highly doubt its the last we will here fo this problem. This is with out a shadow of a doubt the largest and most expensive natural disater ever. It makes me sick to see some of the pictures.

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  2. Adele Says:

    Thank you for your comments.

    Stopping the leaking is an important first step. BP can hardly do anything right until the oil stops gushing out. Very sadly, this is a major environmental disaster. It remains to be seen what can be done now to start setting things right again.


  3. Malcolm Frascone Says:

    With the hundreds of millions of oil that has already leaked into the ocean todays small step forward somehow just does not carry the same effect for me as it does with others. How can we prevent this in the future and how can we hold the oil companys more accountable. The cost will be billions of dollars and it appears they are only willing to put in a few hundred million to clean up there own mess.


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