While government agencies are responsible for issuing product safety alerts, recalls, withdrawals and product label changes that may effect consumer’ health, much of the responsibility for alerting consumers still falls on the shoulders of the company recalling the product. The government notices are only issued on the Internet or over a newswire service and if it is a well-known brand with multiple impacted units, the alert may be picked up by major news outlets and result in increased consumer awareness. But the bottom line is that for all but the largest brands, alerting consumers in the event of a recall is a major hurdle to overcome.
As we briefly mentioned already, notification from the government is not a wide scale effort to increase public awareness of the recall. It is merely to get the facts into the public domain. From there, it is up to the organization to ensure the consumers are notified and that the affected product is returned or disposed of properly. Consumer safety lies in the balance of how quickly and effectively an organization can notify them so any delays can quickly snowball into much larger issues from a safety, as well as a public relations, standpoint.
The mass media is obviously one way consumers can learn about a recall. However approaching the media is not a strategic move for manufacturers. Most notably, publicizing the recall ends up being a double-edged sword in that it notifies a lot of unaffected consumers and isn’t an effective way to notify consumers that actually have the product. It’s pure luck if a consumer with the product reads the article. The result is inefficient consumer notification and increased damage to the brand. In some cases it is the lesser of two evils, the other being safety issues resulting from lack of knowledge about the recall.
The ideal tactic is to directly contact consumers that have the product to ensure that they know about the issue and can take the necessary steps to return or destroy the product. This also enables the organization to inform the consumer of the fix, whether it is a repair, replacement or refund. This not only contains the brand damage to affected consumers but also increases the chance of retaining their trust and loyalty.
Customer loyalty cards are a great way to track which customers have purchased a product and contact them directly. They can provide the basis for an easily accessible database of customer information that is updated in real time with purchase history and contact information.
For appropriate products, companies should also consider assembling a warranty registration database for the same reasons. Plus, if the product is a big enough purchase to illicit the need for a warranty, it’s generally entering the realm of a more brand conscious consumer. That means their trust and loyalty is more important to an organization’s long term sales and much tougher to regain following a poorly handled recall.
The final key to both of these initiatives is to ensure that the databases are appropriately maintained. Gaps in customer and purchase information, poor participation rates and the inability to quickly breakdown and access the information needed can negate most of the benefits of the programs and will leave an organization starting back at square one.
Bringing in an experienced recall expert to help in this process can also have a huge bearing on the impact to an organization’s bottom line. They will not only insure consumer alerts are as effective as possible, but they also handle the logistical burden of sending them, receiving replies and sending subsequent follow ups that are often needed to meet regulatory standards. This enables the organization to stay focused on other business objectives and avoid costly disruptions to normal operations.
Another barrier for organizations today in getting consumers’ attention is ‘recall fatigue.’ Even if an organization is able to get the facts in front of the consumer, they often shrug it off for any number of reasons. With increased safety concerns and more effective government oversight, the number of recalls is immense. This number is only going to continue to grow and this hurdle will keep getting higher. For that reason, it is often necessary to send consumers multiple notices to prompt action on their end. Tracking these notices and response rates is often a necessary step to providing key metrics that will satisfy regulatory bodies.
A recall partner can play a major role in alleviating stress from an organization by overseeing the process of alerting consumers in the event of a recall. They have the experience and the know how to help organizations put the recall behind them as quickly as possible and move on with minimal brand damage.
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