When a recall strikes, one of the first things companies think about is the reaction from their customers. And that is not only understandable, it is also wise. It takes far more time and money to gain a new customer than to keep one, and executing a recall well is crucial to maintaining loyalty. But one often overlooked aspect is the impact on retail customers. They are the middle man between manufacturer and consumer – and that makes them a vital piece of the puzzle.
During a recall, especially a high-profile one, consumers often turn to the familiar and local. For consumer products, that typically means the store where they purchased the product. For that reason, retailers should know about the recall before their customers do. They do not want to be seen by their shoppers as uninformed, and if they receive calls and in-store visits with questions about a recall they haven’t been notified of, they often feel they’ve been put on the spot.
Aside from the optics, there are practical reasons for informing retailers first. If affected product remains on store shelves, they need to pull it right away. Companies can also take the step of sending an outside field force to manage this process. In addition to taking the burden off of retailers, this helps ensure it is done completely but without an impact on nonaffected product. It is easier to keep a recalled product from being sold than get it back from consumers once they already purchased it.
But notifying retailers is only the beginning. Communications must be detailed and specific. Simply being aware of the recall when a customer asks isn’t enough; they must also be able to provide that customer with clear instructions from the manufacturer. This includes information on how to obtain a refund, repair, or replacement; what to do with the affected product in their possession; and who to contact with concerns. Keep in mind that the business model for retail stores means moving product through as quickly as possible – not quarantining it for long periods or in large quantities. While customers will try to return recalled products to stores no matter the instructions, in most cases, retailers must be able to direct customers elsewhere. That may mean shipping the product directly back to the manufacturer, using a local recycling center, or working with a call center to schedule repairs.
Another often overlooked aspect is geographical challenges. Of course, global recalls are more complex, but that can also be the case in certain U.S. states and territories. For example, due to their infrastructure and transportation challenges, retail locations in Hawaii, Alaska, and Puerto Rico require unique solutions.
In addition to keeping crucial retail partners happy, executing a recall effectively at every level is important to maintaining credibility with consumers as well. Ultimately, the recall will reflect on the manufacturer more than any other stakeholder. That is what makes recall preparedness so important. Especially in a high-risk recall, time is of the essence. Only by developing and practicing a robust plan in advance can recalls be initiated and managed smoothly and compliantly – for retailers and consumers alike.
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