Infection fears leave businesses facing wave of customer boycotts
As businesses prepare to reopen their doors following the latest national lockdown measures, new research reveals that many companies across the country are facing millions more in lost revenues due to customer fears around infection risk. According to the nationally-representative survey into 2,000 members of the public, almost two thirds (65.1%) of customers will boycott restaurants, bars, pubs or hotels with a poor reputation for hygiene and infection control, indicating that this impact is likely to be felt most strongly in hospitality.
The findings also revealed that more than one in three (34%) people would both never use offending businesses again, and also tell as many people as possible to avoid these businesses too, through channels such as word-of-mouth and social media, further increasing reputational damage. The research was carried out by infection control specialist JLA, as part of its “Infection Insights” campaign to raise standards across the industry.
According to the research, winning customer trust will be key for businesses looking to retain and grow their customer base over the coming months, with 87.6% of Brits now deeming it important that a business has a good reputation for hygiene and infection control. Furthermore, 58.1% of these proclaim a positive standing for hygiene “extremely important”. This indicates that hygiene ratings – traditionally a significant indicator of quality for many businesses – have also become more important than ever before in the eyes of the public.
A further 33.6% of the public admitted that they are less likely to use a business with a poor reputation for infection control, with only 6.3% of the population stating that hygiene and infection control ratings are still not an issue for them.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, it was revealed that the events of 2020 have prompted a nationwide change in attitudes towards hygiene and infection control overall, with 77% of the public holding greater concerns in this area than a year previously – attributing this change directly to COVID-19. Notably, four in five customers (80.5%) also report that tangible proof of businesses prioritising hygiene and customer safety, such as an industry accreditation mark denoting infection control excellence, would be reassuring.
Ben Gujral, CEO at JLA, commented: “The events of the past year have laid bare the potential consequences for companies that do not demonstrate the highest standards in infection control, as well as the growth opportunities for organisations that do invest what is needed now to reassure worried customers.
“Expectations of the businesses customers will trust their money – and their health – with are virtually unrecognisable from even a year ago and, as our findings demonstrate, consumers will be quick to condemn any business that does not meet their heightened standards when it comes to infection control.
“At a time where businesses across a range of industries need the continued loyalty of their customers more than ever before, it is crucial that they use the coming weeks to action all possible infection control measures to put their minds at ease. Those that take the time to do this now will reap the benefits once doors are able to reopen properly, offering potentially millions in boosted revenues, as well as the loyalty of customers both old and new, for years to come.”