Bad Driving Equals Bad PR
Do you remember that guy who cut you off in traffic, forcing you to step on your brakes to avoid an accident? The one who threw leftover lunch out of the window? The argument you got into with the driver who blocked you in the parking lot while unloading? And do you remember whose logo was painted across the side of their vehicles?
In June 2014, a Walmart truck crashed into the van of comedian Tracy Morgan, killing one and injuring four. The truck driver had been awake for over 24 hours and pleaded guilty to vehicular homicide.
For Walmart, the incident turned into a long, expensive PR headache. The total price tag has not been disclosed, but according to court documents, Walmart may have paid the victims and relatives some 100 million dollars. In addition, the case was repeatedly discussed in the media, and it was only last year that Walmart settled a related lawsuit involving two insurance companies. With every article, the retailer’s name was connected to dangerous driving.
A Third Ready to Boycott
But it does not have to be a big headline news story to harm brand image. A (potential) customer associating rude behavior with a specific company can be enough. Positive recommendations or interactions can matter more to consumers than advertising. These interactions may include driver behavior.
There are numbers to support this. More than 90% of people questioned in a study in Finland said driver behavior impacts the reputation of the company he or she works for. Up to 30% of the respondents either had already boycotted a company because of driver conduct or had considered doing so. It turned out that the negative impact of bad behavior was bigger than the positive effect of good manners.
The conduct under scrutiny varied from the annoying to the dangerous. “Parking in the wrong place, outrageous overtaking and driving through a red light are experienced more negatively than speeding,” the study found.
Most fleet drivers follow all the rules and behave impeccably, but anyone can have a bad day. Sometimes we forget that no matter our job title, we all assume the position of Brand Ambassador when we interface with the public. If your company operates a fleet of trucks, vans, and/or cars, how your drivers act while offsite not only impacts the condition of your vehicles and the number of citations received, but also how people in your community perceive your entire organization.
Awareness and Training
How can you stack the odds in your favor? First off, consider your company and your brand. What do you want to communicate? Are your employees aware of this? Offering employees training that outlines your company’s mission statement and values, and engaging employees, making them feel they are a part of this brand, is a good starting point. Listening to their experiences on the road is another way to identify problems requiring attention.
Driver’s Alert routinely fields calls from concerned motorists who have witnessed unsafe driving acts while out on the road. Complaints range from aggressive driving and inconsiderate parking to littering, public urination and spitting. Over the years, Driver’s Alert has found that merely informing a concerned motorist that the company in question will counsel a driver and possibly assign training, can turn a negative experience into a positive one. In short, displaying a 1-800 ‘How’s My Driving?’ decal on your company’s vehicles shows the public you take driver safety very seriously.
How we act in public is becoming increasingly important as our surroundings are replete with cameras. Drivers can be documented running a red light or parking illegally. And anyone with a smartphone can video record an unpleasant interaction and upload it to social media in seconds. The right video can go viral quickly.
Raising awareness and offering your staff the right tools is a step in the right direction.
Help your fleet drivers become better brand ambassadors with this eLearning course: Driving Your Brand
This article includes information from Driver’s Alert’s online training course “Driving Your Brand.” This eLearning course is designed to help employees becoming better brand ambassadors by understanding the importance of good driving, professional appearance, courteous behavior and social media best practices.
About the Author
Eva Nyman grew up in Finland, but has lived in Belgium, France and Hungary. She holds a degree in journalism and communication from the University of Helsinki and has worked as a reporter for ten years. She feeds her fascination with history and current affairs with books and her love of nature with hikes. She’s passionate about traveling, particularly slow journeys, and her dream is to visit every corner of the world.