Between 2019-2020, there was seemingly some growth in people’s awareness of commute safety through different commute styles. Particularly in Lagos, the car-hailing platforms faced backlashes (and still do) about accidents occurring from negligence, questions of safety, risk of kidnapping and robbery etc. Bike-hailing faced similar backlashes ranging from safety and risk of accidents to insurance in case any accidents occur.
I worked in bike-hailing and we had to continuously address the impending issues. Customers wanted answers to the seemingly unending questions and delays had realtime consequences. In addressing the risk of accidents, it was important to know whether or not it was a major issue particular to our brand. There was a massive growth in online reports of accidents from bike-hailing platforms. However, we needed to know if it was our issue or not. There was research conducted to determine the frequency of accidents; it was known that accidents occur in 1/10,000 of completed rides. This was incredibly low and definitely did not equate to the plunging reports. Consequently, it was safe to conclude that the problem was brand specific and not particular to our brand.
Sequentially, we embarked on a series of public addresses and promotions to steer the customers’ perception to favour us against competitors who are likely to be the protagonists in the safety and accidents problem. The addresses focused on safety measures put in place by the company to prevent such occurrences. Videos showing kits and kits’ safety were released and explained. Measures to be taken by customers to guarantee their safety were also promoted. That way, they know the right things to do and can help us in further ensuring their safety. Similarly, the 1/10,000 statistics was publicized to show that such accidents are outliers that are bound to happen; however, they are not frequent or likely to be severe.
Lastly, there was emphasis on insurance and where it comes to play. Customers were assured of being covered by health insurance. Hence, if the outlier happens, the company bears the responsibility. This was crucial as many customers needed to know that beyond first aid and little verbal or monetary assistance, there was actually a system to secure them. The health insurance played that role perfectly. Sequel to these, a first aid team was launched to swiftly appear at scenes of accidents and do the needful. Also, to make follow ups with all the parties involved on behalf of the company.
These measures proved resourceful over time as there was growth in patronage of the brand. Also, the company was able to steer public opinion to its favour as against other competitors. There was a distinction between the services rendered and the priority of safety was crucial. This incident was my first exposure to a crisis of such magnitude and it shaped my view of public communication and its relevance. It is very important and should not be brushed aside as many brands do. There’s a belief that the rumours will die down and customers will miraculously continue to patronize brands. Usually, this is not the case. When rumours die down, so does the brand reputation and brand patronage. To avoid such, the right communication tactics should be implemented and better be done quickly.