You're the Worst Company in America -- Now What?

Last Updated Apr 19, 2011 9:01 AM EDT

Poor BP.

First, there was that tragic oil spill last year, which was followed by a disastrous cleanup effort and one PR blunder after another that culminated in the resignation of its CEO, Tony Hayward.

Yesterday it was honored for its incompetence by being named America's Worst Company by the Consumerist, which is owned by Consumers Union.

Alright, technically it was Consumerist's readers that voted for BP, and it was a close vote. BP edged out Bank of America, 50.87 percent to 49.13 percent. But still.

It's the last thing beleaguered BP needed as it struggles to recover from the worst disaster in the history of the company.

So what do you do it you're called the worst company in America?

Respond. Several requests sent to BP's global media relations team and by Twitter requesting a comment on the Consumerist award went unanswered. That shouldn't have happened. Why? In the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon explosion, BP sold itself to consumers as a more transparent company â€" as, indeed, many businesses today do. Refusing to acknowledge this slight doesn't exactly build trust.

Laugh about it. The award given by Consumerist is called the "Golden Poo." That's kind of funny, if not a little juvenile. Laughter is more than good medicine, the kind which BP is probably in much need of. It can work like a charm. Remember Sandra Bullock, who received both an Oscar and a Golden Razzie in the same year? She accepted both. In person. It made us love her even more.

Promise to do better. There's only one way to go from here for BP: up. Yes, it's trying to clean up the mess it made in the Gulf of Mexico and is busy repairing its image. Why not use this opportunity to again acknowledge its shortcomings and assure everyone they'll do better?

Seize the moment. There's no time like the present to show you understand that we live in a connected world where social media matters. Consumerist released its results at 12:30 p.m. Eastern time â€" ironically, only a few hours before the 2010 Pulitzers were announced. I contacted BP corporate within a few minutes of the news, and later by Twitter, and asked for a comment. It had hours to craft a response â€" any response â€" but chose not to.

BP had a golden opportunity yesterday to show that it understood the disappointment that its customers felt about the way it handled the oil spill and to assure them they would do better.

Instead, it squandered it behind a wall of silence.


Christopher Elliott is a consumer advocate, syndicated columnist and curator of the On Your Side wiki. He also covers customer service for the Mint.com blog. You can follow Elliott on Twitter, Facebook or his personal blog, Elliott.org or email him directly.
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Photo: Noah Scalin/Flickr
  • Christopher Elliott

    Christopher Elliott is a consumer advocate and journalist. A columnist for National Geographic Traveler magazine and the Washington Post, Elliott also has a nationally syndicated column and blogs about customer service for the Mint.com. He is at work on a book about customer service issues.

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