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02.14.19 | blog

How Smart Brands Protect Themselves Against Product Recalls

Recalls Happen…. Are You Ready?

How Smart CPGs Protect Their Brand

Nothing goes “viral” like a product recall. It is quite possibly the worst-case scenario for a brand to publicly announce that it’s product doesn’t function as intended and, even worse, that it is potentially unsafe to the customers who have purchased it. While recalls are never positive things, smart brands have strategies to reduce the negative impact and deliver a customer experience that is as effortless as possible. They know the pain points that can further aggravate customers during this time and can identify and defuse potentially sensitive situations. The best is even capable of creating memorable, positive experiences in the face of adversity.

No industry feels the impact of recalls quite as acutely as Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG). With agencies such as the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) finding upwards of 400 recalls annually, and consumers having a far-reaching platform to openly call out defective products through social media, manufacturers have greater accountability than ever before.

The challenges of managing a recall are multifaceted, complex, and obviously expensive. Beyond the sheer magnitude of resources involved in large scale product recall (planning, outreach, product replacement/repair or refund), there is the public backlash that can be fast and furious, and carry on for months, even years. This “aftermath” can be as costly as the initial recall itself, and if not well managed, more damaging to the brand.

Let’s consider some obvious, and not so obvious realities of the “recall aftermath” experience, and some suggestions on how savvy companies manage these.

Contact Volumes Will Spike

This is a given. Many companies underestimate the sheer volume of people that will NEED to talk to a live person once a recall has been announced. Accepting the recall at face-value is challenging for some. Others need further information. Others, reassurance, and some customers just want to rant. Whatever the reason for the call, nothing is more frustrating or scarier for a customer than trying to reach a brand that has given them bad news than long wait times, or worse, the dreaded “fast busy signal” of overloaded circuits.

Failing to make that simple connection in the time of need is a brand-damaging fallout of a recall that companies can easily fall victim to. Why? Well, even the best-prepared contact centers cannot feasibly provide support for 5x or 6x (or more) than normal volumes with minimal notice, unless it’s built into their DNA. Scalability like this takes traditional bricks and mortar center months if not years to achieve. (Inside secret, it’s totally achievable through a game-changing solution like that which Arise offers.)

Read More: On-Demand Flexibility Portfolio - Arise Evidence and Case Studies

Your Contact Types Will Change

Whatever type of inquires your centers were handling before the recall, chances are they will diminish dramatically and be replaced by “recall management”. While not always so, these communications can be short, direct, information based. Regardless of the recall strategy (replacement, repair, reimbursement or other), the communication with the customer will likely be highly scripted, highly regulated and call-back escalations will be required for anything that veers from what has been deemed the norm.

While it sounds a lot easier than a typical call, it can be a very stressful environment for the answering agent. Supporting an unhappy, scared, and potentially litigating customer requires extraordinary composure and high emotional maturity level.  Making an authentic connection within the strict confines of the call is tricky, and exhibiting the right level of empathy, professionalism, and confidence is a delicate balance that, once struck, can go a long way to building back brand loyalty during these trying times. During the mass volumes of calls, traditional contact centers may put anyone with vocal cords on the phones, but they do so at their own peril. Not everyone is equipped for this and further brand damage is very possible.

Your Call Metrics Will Change

When in a recall situation, typical metrics like NPS are not particularly helpful. While there will certainly be opportunities to wow the customer (and confident, intuitive agents will catch these), the goal is to get callers the pertinent information, professionally and confidently, and direct them to the right channels to process their recall action, efficiently and quickly. Optimizing responsiveness to waiting customers, and an acute focus on Average Handle Time is important. Speed to Answer and Service Level also become much bigger impacts on the customer experience overall.

If a customer satisfaction survey is to be administered during this time, a useful measure of contact center effectiveness would be to ask questions such as:

  • “Were your questions answered effectively?”
  • “Was the recall process explained to you accurately?”
  • “Were you directed to resources to get more information for start your recall process?”

Specific yes/no questions that reflect the agent’s adherence to the required recall protocol will help demonstrate compliance to process, which is important in post-recall audits that will likely ensue.

The Recall Can Be Rehashed for Months or Years

In today’s connected society, getting information to consumers is easier than ever before. However, once information is “out there” a brand’s ability to control how it is used, and reused, is dramatically reduced. Old “posts” are rehashed and shared daily and when this passes through a group of careless but well-meaning citizens who do not check dates, old events can become socially relevant again. Out of date recalls can and will drive contact volumes for months or years after announcements are made.

Smart companies can keep this in check through effective, highly-responsive social monitoring that keeps an eye on recall “shares” and proactively nips inappropriate re-circulation in the bud. Knowing that some activity will inevitably result in increased contact center volumes, smart social listening and responding goes a long way to minimizing severe volume swings.

Making Complete, Transparent Information Easily Available Will Improve Your Brand’s Ability to Rebound –Go Above and Beyond if You Can

Your contact centers will be inundated. Agents will try their best to restore brand confidence, but they are limited in what they can do under the circumstances. Extensive efforts should be made to ensure your product recall information is easy to find on your website. Clear instructions, professionally written, along with a sincere apology from your highest-level executive is really a minimum of what customers expect during these situations.

Customers appreciate the above and beyond efforts here, and smart brands will have a solid PR and loyalty strategy that can help them overcome the negative repercussions of a recall. Be clear, be humble, extend an apology and an offer, and be ready for some tough times on all your customer-facing channels.

Bonus: Forward Thinking Recall and Adverse Events Management

Amplifying your social media presence during a recall is a forward-thinking way to bring your recall strategy to the connected customer. While the phone remains a staple fallback during recalls, more customers are turning to social media to connect WITH you (as opposed to those talking ABOUT you) and failing to respond to them on that channel adds insult to injury.

One only needs to visit the Facebook page of an airline that experienced a major disruption to see an example of how a lack of social engagement during adverse events can backfire. Customers impacted by a flight cancellation will take to any and every place they can to convey their dissatisfaction, not only with the inconvenience experienced but also with the inability to tell “someone who cares”. Every airline’s main Facebook posts are inundated with random, unconnected messages from customers who are not being heard anywhere else. Often the same customers will post the same message multiple times in multiple places out of sheer frustration. They will also start talking ABOUT you, which is much harder to manage.  Having a socially-savvy team connecting with customers early on when recalls or adverse events happen goes a long way to reducing brand-detracting “noise” that they can create.

Recalls Happen…. Are You Ready?

Companies need a plan in place to handle these situations, or better yet, a partner that they trust to help guide their brand to the other side of troubled waters. Through our platform, Arise offers the flexibility and access to a caliber of support that can help you rebuild your brand during these trying times and beyond. Our solutions are for the day-to-day but our value is obvious in the midst of a crisis. Working with Arise today is like is brand insurance for tomorrow. 

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