Managing product recall risk: consumers

Following on from last week’s post featuring Zurich’s online product recall risk management game, we thought (based on some fairly shirty feedback from an individual with a disappointingly low score) that we’d provide some additional information that may be helpful.

There are five stages in the game, which correspond with stages in the manufacturing-consumption process, each with a series of risks that you need to categorise. The different stages are: Manufacturing, Packaging, Distribution, Retail and Consumer. Since most people working in PR are looking at the relationship with consumers, we’ll start there and work backwards over the next few posts.

Here are four of the five risks identified by Zurich (I’m not going to give them all to you because where’s the fun in that??):

  • Thorough crisis planning to ensure effective communications with consumers in the event of a recall. This is particularly important because in the event that the recall is safety-driven, you want consumers to stop using your product immediately. Your crisis planning needs to ensure that once you’ve made that decision, your consumers can be reached as quickly and effectively as possible.
  • Consumer traceability. All that stuff in B2B press releases about on-demand ordering and just-in-time delivery is great for keeping inventories low, but also incredibly useful for isolating particular shipments or batches of product. Make sure your comms team has this information for preparing any communication materials – an easily identifiable batch number can save a lot of heartache when it comes to communicating which products are actually affected by a recall.
  • Clear customer complaints procedure in place. Frequently, companies only learn they have a product issue when they start receiving an influx of consumer complaints. Your complaint management process should cross-reference complaints from multiple sources and look at complaints that may be described differently but potentially linked.
  • Specific risk management measures if the product is used by a vulnerable customer base. It’s important to consider if your product is used by a particularly vulnerable consumer, for example the elderly, young children or perhaps expectant mothers. You may need to take into account additional steps in your communication – maybe contacting care facilities, or neo-natal departments of hospitals.

Now you’ve read this, go back and see if you can improve your score.

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