In 2014, General Motors lost $4.1 billion and was tied to the deaths of over 100 people (Isidore, 2015). The cause of this calamity was a faulty ignition switch designed by GM and installed in several of their cars. The ignition switch had a detent plunger that was too short, allowing the key in the ignition to easily turn from the on to the off position. Sometimes, the ignition turned to the off position, turning the car off at inopportune moments… like during a car crash. In these cases, the car was turned off and the air bags were disengaged and did not deploy, contributing to the deaths of at least 124 people (Isidore, 2015). Costs tied to the recall ran up $4.1 billion in 2014 alone and left a void of trust between GM and consumers.
Recalls like GM’s constitute a company crisis. During these crises, companies engage in communications strategies and marketing tactics to repair their image and generate leads; and they recover. However, while several articles have been written with respect to the effectiveness of various communications strategies and marketing tactics companies can use, little attention has been given to the sales force… and it should.
Interestingly, there’s a dearth of research on the effects of crises on the sales force. A few colleagues and I have begun research to answer these questions, but the research is in its infancy.