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Pet Food Recalls Can Take a Bite Out of Companies

What type of recall is most likely to overwhelm internal contact centers with distraught, often inconsolable, callers? One involving a children’s product? Perhaps the elderly?

While those recalls are far from exempt from high call volumes, pet food recalls present by far the most challenging consumer response.

This may seem surprising at first. But when you look at consumer behavior and sentiment, it actually follows recent trends. Figures from the American Pet Products Association show that annual spending on pets more than doubled from 2001 to 2016, increasing from $28.5 billion to $66.75 billion – with food making up the largest share of those expenditures. And according to a recently-released poll, 69 percent of Americans consider their pets family members. About one in five (23 percent) view them as children. Nearly all – 94 percent – say they feel protective of their pets.

Aside from the statistics, there are other factors to consider. Pets typically eat the same food and treats each day, meaning consumers are highly familiar with the brands they purchase. When pets get sick, they lack the ability to describe their symptoms to owners and veterinarians alike. And when animals get sick or even die as a result of a pet food recall, the media is quick to pounce – putting the issue top of mind.

On top of all that, many common contaminants, such as salmonella, have caused illness in the humans who handled the product. Taken as a whole, it isn’t surprising that pet parents are often left feeling especially vulnerable.

Given the issues involved, pet food recalls also carry the highest potential for brand damage. To mitigate the risk, companies should consider:

  • Call center capabilities – When consumers are already on edge, they shouldn’t be kept waiting on the line for hours on end or, worse, dropped entirely. Responding swiftly is crucial to maintaining brand loyalty.
  • Sensitivity training – Agents dealing with concerned pet owners must be prepared to react with both compassion and consistency. That often means specialized training is necessary.
  • Appropriate remedies – Because consumers take pet food recalls seriously, it is important to choose a remedy to match. An experienced recall management partner can help guide companies through the process and flag any remedies that could be viewed as inadequate.
  • Product processing – Especially in cases where pets are harmed by recalled products, there may be legal action to recoup veterinary costs and other expenses. Companies must determine how affected products will be returned and quarantined during that time.

New advancements in testing are helping to identify pathogens in pet food, so the threat of such a recall is real. Whenever possible, planning in advance and selecting specialized recall insurance is the best course of action. Whether companies have a detailed plan or not, they will have to take quick, appropriate action to land on their feet.

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