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The Future of Recalls

With a new year upon us, most of us set new goals and wonder what the future will bring. When it comes to product recalls and the regulations that surround them, change often comes slowly – but it does happen. There are several emerging trends that are expected to continue into 2018 and beyond. Many of them are focused on ways to increase consumer awareness and response levels.

New electronic alerts.

In 2017, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) integrated food recall information into its FoodKeeper app. They aren’t alone. Certain apps are dedicated exclusively to providing recall alerts. And some retailers are incorporating recall information into their own apps and promoting the feature as a public service. As consumers increasingly move away from desktop internet in favor of mobile devices, this trend will likely continue. But with all the other mobile notifications from social media posts, task reminders, fitness tracking, and more, cutting through the constant noise will remain a challenge.

Customized recall information.

While recall notifications from apps are a step in the right direction, consumers are increasingly seeking out personalized information regarding their particular interests and needs, whether it is news about a favorite sports team, a hyperlocal weather forecast, or tailored travel alerts. Recall notifications will likely move in that direction, too.

For example, rather than receive as-they-happen or periodic updates on all food recalls, a consumer with a severe allergy to milk would be able to request alerts only for those recall causes. Pregnant women, who are at far greater risk of complications from listeria, could receive notifications regarding that specific type of contamination.With so many recalls being issued nearly every day, customized alerts would help focus consumers’ attention and prevent recall fatigue.

More direct notifications.

Alerts and customizable reports will benefit all stakeholders, but consumers still have to opt-in to receive the information. Even when they do, they will inevitably receive numerous recall alerts for products they have never purchased. Direct notifications sent only to those affected are still most effective way to inspire action.In the past, these were limited only to consumers who filled out warranty cards. With increased loyalty programs, tracking consumer spending and matching purchases to specific lot numbers much easier, and far more effective. Already, many major retailers are sending alerts specifically to their affected customers – and only their affected customers.

Despite reaching a much smaller audience than blanket notifications, these specific alerts tend to cause a much higher influx of web traffic and call volume. As this trend continues, manufacturers will have to prepare for this new reality with customized recall-specific websites and customer service agent surge capacity.

Calls for new regulation aimed at raising response rates.

In 2017, the Consumer Product Safety Commission held a recall effectiveness workshop to discuss possible methods for encouraging more consumers to take action when recalls are issued. Among the ideas: creating safety classifications, similar to the Class I, II, and III designations for Food and Drug Administration recalls. Increased urgency for the most serious recalls may mean increased media coverage and social media sharing, which helps raise awareness and, in turn, response rates. The current anti-regulation climate may stall this move, but there will likely be a continued push for new approaches that may help protect consumers.

Increased over-the-air fixes.

Changes to the notification process are the near future for recalls. With the move toward connected “smart” devices and products, more and more manufacturers will be able to bypass this step altogether by sending out a fix in the form of an over-the-air software update. The auto industry is already beginning to see this trend play out.Of course, this benefit will only apply to a limited number of industries and products. And even among the smartest of products, issues will arise that require a more traditional remedy. But as over-the-air fixes increase, recall fatigue may be reduced.

Thanks to advancements in technology and communication, there are important changes on the horizon when it comes to product recalls. But no matter the trends, the fundamentals for effective execution remain: timely decision-making, expert guidance, and – above all – advanced preparation.

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