Companies can prepare for product recalls by planning ahead and utilizing digital tools to reduce or prevent the negative impacts a recall can cause. By Peter Gillett
Thanks to the digital age, news can spread quicker than the speed of light, causing product recalls to stick around long after they’ve been settled. Take one of 2015’s biggest fads – hoverboards – for example. From one of the year’s most desired products to the most dangerous, with more than 500,000 units recalled due to catching fire. People are still wary of them.
Aside from technology, recalls can happen to any product at any time. From dolls with toxic lead paint to peanut butter contaminated with salmonella. And when recalls are poorly managed, it can severely damage a brand, its reputation and bottom line. While recalls aren’t always preventable, companies can prepare by planning ahead and ultimately reduce or prevent the negative impacts a recall can cause.
Modern Recall Best Practices
In order to navigate a product recall successfully in modern times, companies must modernize their approach to recall management. Follow these best practices to ensure your recall plan is up-to-date:
• Eliminate outdated processes
Using outdated spreadsheets and paper responses can result in miscommunication, slow processing time and added stress. Instead, use customer relationship management (CRM) systems to store and easily access accurate and up-to-date customer data. Product recalls can be easily managed on a dedicated recall response database and eliminate the need for complex, manually updated paper documents. These systems store all of your valuable customer information in a centralized location that can be accessed by internal key users who can update vital information when needed.
• Retailers should upgrade to automated and accurate reporting
In addition to the public, companies must also face government agencies when a recall occurs, requiring extreme accuracy. Recall authorities often request that companies dealing with a recall start to submit status reports bi-weekly or monthly. This process can be simplified with automated reporting which can include the numbers of:
• Consignees notified of the recall, as well as the date and method of notification. • Consignees that did and also did not respond.
• Products returned or corrected by each consignee contacted and the quality of products accounted for.
• Results of effectiveness checks that were made.This information is easily available with the help of a CRM database and can even estimate time frames for the completion of the recall.
• Step up your social media game.
When a product recall is announced, many consumers learn about it through social media. Whether the company has issued an official statement or not, consumers are made aware of the issue and often voice their concerns and anger. With only 140 characters, consumers can often spread the word quickly, and if a company isn’t prepared to address these consumers, more anger can arise. Make sure your communications plan is up-to-date and that whoever is in charge of social media is aware of the issue and has the resources to properly monitor and respond where necessary.
• Partner with an expert.
Having a trusted recall partner can make all the difference on how a recall is handled. Recall partners help companies determine responsibilities, assign roles and help handle operations, production, purchasing, customer service marketing and finance. They develop an online recall flowchart and message key customers, stakeholders and media with prepared templates.
Recall professionals will identify product locations and notify all affected parties, allowing companies and retailers to focus on their customers. Recall partners can also help with removing all the recalled products from the marketplace and with ensuring recalled products don’t re-enter the market and are properly disposed of. When a recall is wrapped up, your recall partner can help measure effectiveness, and advise where you can improve and how to best move forward.
• Conduct annual mock recalls.
On a quarterly basis, companies should perform a mock recall. To do this, simply choose a product for a mock recall, trace the product from its source and where it’s located. Verify communications systems during this process, from emails to addresses to telephone numbers. Document each mock recall and spot which aspects may have not been factored in and where a crisis strategy plan can be improved.
Plan for Success
Recalls are complex, and if there isn’t a proper plan to manage them, the process can become overwhelming, causing severe damage to a brand and its consumers. It’s important to remember that crisis communication strategies should be continually reviewed and updated as the digital world continues to expand. By ensuring you have digital channel experts in place, and use best practices, your company can defuse potential damaging situations and emerge as a stronger, well-rounded and experienced company ready for anything.
Peter Gillett is CEO of Marketpoint Recall, an international recall agency with locations around the world. It handles many languages across all time zones and has carried out national and international recalls for companies in many sectors.