Product recall gone bad – Part I

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Categories: Food and Beverage, Product recall management
January 30, 2015
Product recalls are a headache to say the least

Product recalls are a headache to say the least

Try as you might to plan, prepare, and prevent it from happening, it’s likely just a matter of time before you hear those hated words… PRODUCT RECALL. Whether it’s a defective product, contamination or human error, product recalls are a fact of life in business and bound to happen eventually.

The true problem is not within the recall itself. Your company’s real exposure will be measured in how you handled the recall and the lasting effects it has on your products and company reputation.  If you hope it goes away or deny deny deny until the FDA kicks down the door, you put your company’s good name and financial future at risk.

The key is to attack it head-on and be prepared. If you treat it as an opportunity to show the strength of your company and products. Your customers will reward you with loyalty and positive (and free) publicity.

It won’t happen to me!

So you haven’t had a recall to date…congratulations! Your company is operating just as expected and you plan on continuing that way. However, if a product recall happens tomorrow, next week or next month, does your company have a plan in place to quickly and efficiently deal with a recall from top to bottom?

Here are some key questions you should have answers to:

  • How fast can you identify that a recall is required?
  • Which products are affected and where are they located?
  • What steps will you follow to recall the affected products?
  • Are the roles and responsibilities within your company clearly defined?
  • How will you inform your customers?
  • How will you inform your employees?

If your answer is “I’m not sure”, get help or face the wrath of your customers and shareholders. In a lot of ways our businesses grow and evolve in the same way we do, by experience and going through the ups and downs of our industry. Yet, a product recall is a dangerous place to learn a hard lesson that you may not be able to recover from.

Customers are like elephants

Like elephants, customers have long memories. They also have the social media tools on hand to spread the word quickly, so the lasting effects of a recall can be devastating or elevating.

Customers will remember not only the product recall but also how your company handled that situation and how it personally affected them. All shared across the social media stratosphere!  Did you communicate well? Did you remedy the matter? Were you prompt in taking action? Or did you hide until the regulators forced your hand? Through blogs, twitter, and other social media platforms, your collective customer will remember for a long time.

Built to last?

Say you survived your first product recall. Product was pulled, replacement products shipped and refunds given as needed. Have you survived well enough to carry on “business as usual”? Or have you permanently tarnished your brand to the point that your customers have started to jump ship? Another big question… can you repeat the process in case there is another product recall?

In Part II, we’ll show you how a product recall can go well, each and every time, by building a plan and following it to come out stronger in the future.