Product recalls are an unfortunate and too common event. Recalls arise as a result of issues identified during use that were missed during product development and testing and are verified through company- and third-party testing. Children’s products (especially car seats), automobiles and automotive products, and medical products are a few that grab headlines due to the potential danger users might face.
No industry is immune. Outside of safety issues, there are other circumstances that might necessitate a recall. Products may be improperly constructed, fail to perform under certain conditions, or lack parts or usage instructions. In these cases, they may be completely unusable, have a negative impact on customers’ perception of a company, or create additional, expensive work for customer service. For these reasons, it’s crucial for companies to quickly identify the issue, internally discuss possible solutions, and act if a recall is deemed necessary. Conducting a product recall is not a decision companies take lightly. To perform an efficient and effective recall, a few things must be in place.
Customer Information and Product Location
Forrester has said we are in the age of the customer and to be successful, companies must know who their customers are and the products they possess. Granted, this can be challenging in light of the General Data Protection Regulation. Nevertheless, companies interested in having a relationship with customers as well as driving improvements to the customer experience must overcome this hurdle by collecting and responsibly maintaining their customers’ data.
Besides offering the means of contacting customers, it’s important to collect additional information related to product use if particular usage scenarios might lead to failure. Those additional characteristics can assist in identifying just those customers likely to experience a problem.
Collecting all this information isn’t easy. Customers don’t automatically opt-in to share their information. One technique companies use to collect customer contact information and product usage details is through warranty registrations. Besides being a means of capturing the relevant data, warranties also drive greater confidence as it demonstrates a company stands behind its products.
An additional complication is that most products are sold through distribution. This creates opportunities and challenges. Distributors must maintain good records throughout the entire distribution process of the location of products–sitting in a warehouse, on the shelf in a store, or in a customer’s hands–so that the appropriate parties can be notified depending upon where a product currently sits.
Well-run contact centers are always looking for patterns in their contact data. The sooner a pattern can be identified, the sooner a means of responding to and possibly mitigating an increased customer contact volume is possible. This is only achievable through ongoing analysis of the reasons customers are calling, chatting, and emailing.
Like any other problem, a recall starts with the discovery of a defect reported by customers. A single report is an anomaly, two means a pattern might be forming, and three and more means a full-fledged problem is developing. As a problem is identified, this is where a connected customer service team makes a difference.
Connected Customer Service
When customer service is connected to other parts of the company, it means they can share visibility into issues with other departments to drive conversations about issues and co-develop solutions. This collaboration–with manufacturing in the case of product quality issues or missing parts, documentation if the issue is poor instructions, etc.–drives the identification of the root cause as well as to devise an appropriate solution. If a workaround isn’t possible and safety, quality, or high costs to customer service are likely, a recall becomes the suitable option.
Recall or not, note that connected customer service means driving issues to a full solution. Cross-team discussion occurs. Tasks can be assigned to teams outside customer service responsible for resolving the issue. Progress is tracked throughout until permanent solutions are realized.
Not every problem might constitute a recall. A company might determine it’s more appropriate to take the additional volume of customer contacts rather than perform the recall. That may be the best solution once customer service has collaborated with the appropriate internal teams, the situation has been analyzed, and options evaluated. With customer service connected to the rest of the company, decisions are shared and transparent.
For companies, recalls can be challenging. Poorly executed, they shed a negative light not only on their products but their inability to resolve the situation quickly and effectively.
But companies can be prepared. It starts with collecting customer information and ensuring their distribution chain keeps good records. Constant analysis of the reasons customers are contacting customer service makes it possible to identify large issues sooner. Ensuring customer service is connected to the entire company helps to ensure rapid triage and response. Recalls are not easy, but fast, timely actions will help maintain customer confidence and loyalty.