Corporate crises such as product recalls are inevitable. The key to surviving a recall is in how you prepare for it and react to your customers and the general public during this critical time. The right formula helps companies deal successfully with the inevitable and come out on the other side in a stronger market position, with an even more loyal customer base.
Being prepared for a corporate crisis
Planning for something that’s not guaranteed to happen can be difficult; however, the likelihood of a recall at an organization is high, as is a loss in market value without a bulletproof plan to deal with disaster. Denial and inertia during a recall will only aggravate a negative situation. Being prepared for a crisis gives you the best chance to protect your brand and allows your reaction to be concise, credible, and effective. When a damage mitigation strategy has been devised ahead of time, you have the tools and the know-how to act fast, which is crucial during the initial “sink or swim” moments following an emergency.
A successful contingency plan contains many elements, so it’s important to involve someone from each department in the decision-making process. Each person brings his or her unique perspective to the table in terms of the customer relationship and your product/services. Manufacturers will be focused on the product error, whereas a salesperson will be concerned with customers’ fears and questions. They are equally important.
Once the plan is in place, mock recalls should be organized at least once a year to test the process, from initial call to executive reporting, and individually by country, to check that all systems are ready to go at a moment’s notice.
Communicating during a product recall
When a recall hits the news, it’s inevitable that it will cause panic among your customers, especially if the recall is a result of an injury or a fatality. It’s at times like these when your customer service strategy will be truly put to the test. Here are some points to consider:
- Handling communication effectively with customers, employees, and stakeholders throughout the process is paramount to ensure they are kept up to date with the right information. This communication should convey the correct messaging and tone to represent your company and brand transparently and in the best possible light.
- Customers will have questions that need to be answered almost immediately, so make sure you have a global network of call centers that are taking calls and dealing with the public—before they go on social media and share their experiences with other angry customers.
- The people taking calls should be in-house employees or a well-trained, outsourced staff that understands the company’s values. Language requirements must be met for a global reach; native language speakers are more effective and lessen the risk of important information being lost in translation. To preserve trust, agents must be genuine in their approach and listen carefully to customers to meet their needs.
- The main way to prevent a loss of trust is to make sure your customer representatives are knowledgeable about the recall. They need to know the ins and outs of the problem to be open and honest with customers.
- A clear channel of communication throughout the entire organization is vital, as the distance between a customer service rep and the CEO can be long in terms of business structure. Service reps must work together closely during such a disconcerting time to prevent panic. Remedial actions must be taken quickly and efficiently to maintain a positive brand reputation and loyal customer base.
Technology is your friend (sometimes)
When a crisis occurs, social media can either make or break you. Everyone sees, hears, knows, and shares everything about global brands instantly today. The good news is that proper responses to bad news can be communicated just as quickly.
Before an emergency, make sure your customers can contact you using any platform, device, or method of communication—and you’ll be there on the other end. Responding to tweets takes minimal effort on your part, but it reassures customers and makes them feel secure and supported. Establishing your company’s humanity and knowing how to project it through online platforms helps you communicate effectively even before a crisis hits.
Finally, in the panic of an emergency, don’t overlook the opportunity to collect and analyze valuable customer data. While collating reports for a crisis project, such as measuring traffic to see the number of customers affected and who has responded, you should be collecting other valuable information about customers. The data collected through call centers can be fed back through your chosen communication channels to improve your crisis process and conduct brand reputation analysis and future marketing campaigns. This turns a negative company journey into a learning opportunity for process improvement and growth.
Learn the secrets of outstanding customer service with AMA’s training solutions.