Imagine a world where there are a handful of recalls a year. Each one would be big news, even if it involved a relatively low hazard or small number of products. But that’s not the world we live in. In fact, there are more than 3,000 recalls every year in the U.S. alone – roughly nine per day. At that pace, it’s no wonder response rates are often very low. But just how low depends on many factors.
As a general rule, the less expensive the product, the lower the response rate. According to data from the Consumer Product Safety Commission, for example, items sold for less than $20 will typically receive a response rate of less than 5%. Products sold for more than $100 often receive a response rate of anywhere from 25-75%. It’s a large range because there are so many other factors involved as well.
Another key factor that determines recall response rates is the type of product, specifically what it is used for, who uses it, and how often they use it. Products meant for children or pets, for example, often receive more attention when they are recalled, which can lead to higher response rates.
When a consumer hears about a product recall for the type of item they use only once in a while, they may not remember what brand they own – or even that it is tucked away in a closet somewhere. Products used nearly every day, such as hair dryers and coffee makers, are always top of mind. And because consumers look at the brand name regularly, it is easier to make the connection and act on the recall.
The length of time between when a product sells and when it is recalled can have a huge impact on response rates. In some cases, products may have already been consumed or disposed of. In other instances, they may be lingering in a closet or with a new owner. For example, a couple with a new baby at home will typically use many different products designed specifically for infants. As the child gets older, those items may be stored away until the next baby arrives. In these cases, it is easy to see how a recall is lost in the shuffle. If the recall is announced while the product is tucked away in a closet, it will typically go unnoticed, and busy parents rarely think to check on product recalls when they dust them off and put them to use again.
In other cases, children’s products are sold or passed down to another family. Typically, product information and registrations aren’t included in the hand-me-down, making it more difficult to reach affected consumers.
This is an example of why high response rates are dependent on multiple factors happening at once. Children’s products are more closely scrutinized because they are meant for a vulnerable population, but that can easily be negated by another factor.
In general, serious or sensational hazards, such as fire and explosion hazards and strange foreign objects in food, typically receive more attention from the public, which can lead to higher response rates.
It can be difficult to predict exactly what types of stories the media will cover heavily, but when it happens, it can be a double-edged sword. On the one hand, no company wants their name in the news because of a problem. However, increased coverage can help boost response rates, and when the recall is managed properly, the negativity can be minimized.
It is important for companies facing a recall to be aware of all these factors. If low response rates seem likely, it may be necessary to seek out experienced recall management partners who can help maximize consumer compliance to avoid recall reannouncements, legal risks, and costly brand damage.
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