One year on, has P&O Ferries recovered from the mass redundancy scandal?
March 17th, 2023, Christien Pheby

One year on, has P&O Ferries recovered from the mass redundancy scandal?

On March 17, 2022, P&O Ferries laid off 800 staff and immediately announced plans to replace them with third-party contractors – sending its brand perceptions to historic depths. Nearly a year later, has public opinion of the company made its way back to the surface?

Data from YouGov BrandIndex suggests that perceptions of P&O Ferries are improving, but remain some way off where they were before the scandal.

Comparing net Index scores (which take the average of our Impression, Value, Quality, Reputation, Satisfaction, and Recommend scores) from 17 March 2022 (13.2) to 15 March 2023 (-1.2) shows an overall decline of 14.4 points. It’s a far cry from the nadir of -34.4 (19 April 2022) but it highlights the lingering impact the story has had on P&O Ferries’ brand.

Delving into other metrics shows a decline in Impression scores (which measure overall positive and negative sentiment towards a brand) from 19.0 to -2.5 over the same period. It’s a deterioration of -21.5 points, but an upgrade on the low point of 14 April 2022 – when P&O Ferries’ image sank to -56.1.

Replacing hundreds of full-time staff with contractors also appears to have a serious impact on Quality scores. These measures declined from 14.7 – solidly positive – to -1.0 (slightly negative) between 17 March 2022 and 15 March 2023. Again, an improvement on mid-April last year, when scores plunged to -31.4.

But has the redundancy story affected overall satisfaction with the brand? Our data suggests it has. Customer satisfaction scores dropped from 13.7 to 6.6 (-7.1) between March 2022 and 2023 – with a low point of -2.3 (April 14), although it should be said that these scores have been net positive since June.

P&O Ferries still has work to do in terms of repairing its image but may console itself that – in terms of direct customer experience with the seafaring brand – they have returned to a state of broad positivity. Consideration scores, which ask whether a consumer would select a particular brand out of a list, have seen a smaller deterioration from 12.2 to 9 (-3.2), but are also still positive overall.

How the redundancy scandal affected P&O’s brand image among former (and never-were) customers

One year on, the redundancy scandal also appears to have had a major impact on brand perceptions among two important groups: customers who’ve used P&O Ferries in the past, and customers who’ve never used P&O Ferries. In March 2023 both potential target audiences have a far worse opinion of the brand than they did in March 2022. Since neither of these groups have recently enjoyed the customer experience that is shoring up the brand’s current Satisfaction scores (see above) it’s important to understand how these segments perceive P&O.

The brand fares better among former customers, with most metrics still net positive despite the redundancy scandal. But they have had further to fall: Impression scores, which were at 43.3, have crashed to 3.4 (-39.9), as have Recommend scores, which went from 32.1 to 3.6 between March 2022 and March 2023 (-28.5). The mass redundancies took perceptions of P&O Ferries’ quality from 30.4 to 2.9 (-27.5), while perceptions of value for money declined from 11.1 to -1.3 (-12.4). In 2023, Consideration remains strongly positive among former customers (when scores were 27.0), but it has seen a drop of 8.4 points compared to 2022 (18.6).

Index scores, our measure for overall brand health, tell the story most succinctly: between March 2022 and March 2023 they cratered by 26.8 points, falling from 31.3 to 4.5.

Among the never-were customers, opinion was less positive to begin with – and the deterioration in brand perceptions less dramatic. But it’s still fair to say that P&O Ferries is worse off than it was a year ago. Impression scores have gone from positive (8.1) to firmly negative (-5.1), for an overall drop of 13.2 points. With a near 10-point drop from 4.9 to -5, Recommend scores have seen similar movement, as have perceptions of P&O Ferries’ quality (which fell 11 points from 7.9 to -3.1).

The brand appears to have gotten off relatively lightly in terms of Consideration, declining from 5.2 to 4.5 (-0.7), but Value for Money scores have gone from a near-neutral -0.3 to an outright negative -7.1 (6.8). And perhaps most tellingly, brand health has gone from a generally positive 5.1 to a comparatively poor -4 (-9.1).

Overall, while P&O Ferries has shown signs of a partial recovery in public opinion, the mass redundancy scandal is continuing to sour its image among former customers, could-be customers, and the wider nation. For now, the brand is still navigating choppy waters.

Image: Pexels