For many companies, social media is both a blessing and curse. It is a relatively inexpensive way to promote new products and increase brand awareness. It helps businesses learn more about their customers. On the other hand, complaints and poor reviews can be potentially damaging if they aren’t navigated correctly. That’s especially true during a crisis such as a product recall.
In our recent whitepaper, we explore the ways companies have approached social media during a product recall and the reactions they have received. By repeatedly sharing recall information across multiple channels and ensuring a team is ready to respond to posts expressing concerns, companies may reduce the impact of recall fatigue, decrease call volumes, and effectively demonstrate their concern for the safety of their customers.
But when it comes to food recalls, there are added challenges. When consumers fall or cut themselves, they typically know exactly how it happened and what product they were using at the time. On the other hand, when they get sick, they can’t always determine the source of the issue. Is it food poisoning or “a bug?” If it was food poisoning, was it a pathogen already present in the food, or was it mishandled by the person who prepared and served it? Many consumers may experience an illness and then hear about a recall involving bacterial contamination in a food they consumed, leaving them to wonder if that product was responsible. Some will even draw that conclusion when, in fact, it is highly unlikely that the affected product is the culprit.
When those consumers voice their suspicions on social media, it leaves the company in a difficult position. They can’t say with certainty that the product didn’t cause the illness, but they can’t take responsibility for something that may not be their fault, either. Many companies have navigated this skillfully by responding directly to these consumers, expressing concern for the person who isn’t feeling well, and asking them to provide a phone number so they can be contacted directly. This can be more effective than requesting that the customer call the hotline because it puts the responsibility on the company to take action, which may be viewed more favorably by both the person who posted the complaint and anyone who may read the exchange. In cases where the contaminant was not found in the final product but rather in the facility, it may be worthwhile to reiterate that point as well – being careful not to come across as dismissive.
Because the social media landscape is crowded – and because messages are short-lived – social media is only one aspect of recall communication. Press releases, posters, direct notifications, and scalable contact centers are still required. But companies should include social media in their recall plans. And those who have already taken that step should examine how their approach has worked so far and make adjustments where needed. By employing social sharing best practices, companies can help maintain consumer trust to emerge from the recall with customer loyalty intact.
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