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To many people’s surprise, Lululemon’s stellar Q1 revenue was overshadowed by another big announcement during the company’s earnings call this week: the departure of its longtime CEO Christine Day. The retailer announced that after five and a half years, Day is leaving the Vancouver based retailer.

It didn’t matter that Lululemon beat analyst expectations: Day’s departure dominated the headlines and the subsequent social media chatter. The news also made investors nervous, pushing stock prices down after hours.

With a cult-like following, Lululemon could have avoided its current situation if it had detected issues earlier. In particular, the company could have engaged its customers before the crisis to come up with better messaging. Here are 3 ways customer engagement could have helped this beloved brand:

  1. Know how your customers feel about your leaders

    Looking at how customers, investors, media, and industry insiders reacted, it seems like Lululemon underestimated how much people respected Day. Sure, the company has had its share of recalls recently, but Day’s long and solid tenure at the company makes her a credible figure.

    Do you know if your customers like your company’s top leaders? You can monitor what the media is saying about your CEO, but unless you ask your customers directly, you’ll never know for sure. One idea is to ask your insight community how they feel about key people in your organization and track those attitudes over time. Having this information will help you predict how customers will react when executives leave your company, allowing you to adjust your messaging and approach accordingly when that time comes.

  2. Discuss possible solutions with your customers

    Lululemon’s customers and investors seem concerned about two things: why Day is leaving and if her departure is a sign of bigger issues. For some reason, the company and Day herself aren’t doing a great job answering these questions and assuaging concerns.

    For most brands, it’s not a question of if a crisis will emerge—it’s a question of when. Don’t wait until you have to deal with crisis; start engaging customers to discuss possible solutions. Think ahead and use your insight community to have open conversations about frustrations or challenges your customers have with the brands they typically adore. This information will give you insights into the kind of issues that matter to your customers and the response they expect from brands during a crisis.

  3. Discover where your customers hang out

    The fragmented social media sphere requires you to figure out where your customers hang out online if you want to reach them before, during and after a crisis. It might be a safe bet that they are on Twitter and Facebook, but what about the other platforms? Knowing where your customers hang out online and how they’re using these platforms will help you better target your response when crisis strikes.  

Lululemon will probably eventually get back on its feet, but it will take some time to recover its lost share price. In fact, it might be a tough road ahead for this high growth company until a new CEO is in the place. (The funny job posting is a good first step.) The lesson for brands is simple: prepare early and continuously maintain a two-way dialogue with your customers to anticipate crises in the future. 

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