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A Lesson About Trust

Any hope Boeing had of reversing a recent streak of negative headlines was grounded again when news of a mechanical issue broke late last month. Unfortunately for the aerospace company, this latest incident serves as yet another example of why trust and transparency should be at the forefront of communication for all businesses.

The Seattle Times reported on Nov. 27 that the fuselage of Boeing’s new 777x airframe experienced a tear during a stress test performed last September. The positive news for Boeing is the rupture likely isn’t significant enough to warrant any retests. The less-than-positive news, however, is that knowledge of the tear became public only after the Seattle Times acquired photos of the damage. What those images reveal are findings both more severe and counter to what the company shared previously.

A lack of transparency has developed into an unfortunate trend for the industry leader. In the aftermath of a pair of Boeing 737 Max airplanes crashing within five months of each other – accidents resulting in more than 340 combined deaths – the company has been accused of failing to disclose important information regarding safety issues and system flaws in its aircrafts.

These events have cast a cloud over a business with deep roots in the Puget Sound. Boeing first began operations in Washington state in 1916. More than 100 years later, it serves as the state’s largest private employer and is directly responsible for injecting roughly a $100B in revenue into the economy.

Despite that legacy, the fallout from recent events has impacted Boeing’s reputation, particularly within some of its most important markets. NPR recently reported that confidence in Boeing among airline pilots has been shaken, in part, because of the company’s failure to adequately disclose important information regarding their aircrafts.

Airline passengers are feeling unnerved, too. More than 80 % of responses to a survey included in that same NPR report said they would “avoid flying on a 737 Max in its first six months back, and more than half said they’d pay a higher fare just to avoid flying on a Max.

Rattled reactions from consumers and stakeholders result when they aren’t sure they can believe what a business is telling them. They’re also a reminder of why transparency and honesty are at the core of the Standards of Trust that power Better Business Bureau Northwest + Pacific. Consumers rely on companies to clearly disclose information that may impact their decision to purchase a service or product. Boeing’s continuing turmoil is an unfortunate example of the consequences for not supplying those details.

Whether it’s an international aerospace company or a small business serving a local community, any organization is capable of suffering a setback. The key to surviving those struggles with consumer trust intact is for businesses to communicate with honesty and transparency on ongoing issues that may impact a consumer’s decision to buy. Because when honesty and transparency are absent, what results is likely just more bad news.

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Written by Ben Spradling

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