Even when you take the highest level of precaution and dedicate efforts to safe practices in the workplace, product recalls are still a reality in the manufacturing industry. More than 2,500 product recalls take place in the US annually, a staggering figure considering the number of parties involved in delivering a product to its end user. Planning for these contingencies is absolutely necessary, but supply chain risk management practices will only take you so far when the real thing hits.
While you can’t go back in time, there are procedures you can implement to handle a nationwide recall if it happens. Here are some guidelines to help you meet the challenge:
1. Identify, Investigate, and Report the Recall Specifics
Once you receive notification of a safety hazard involving one of your products, you must act quickly to investigate and determine the source of the problem. You’ll need to know which items are defective and why, such as a product design flaw or an issue in the manufacturing process. This will help ensure that you set the proper scope for the recall.
In addition, you’ll need to report the situation to the proper governmental agencies. Your reporting duties depend upon the product involved and its use by consumers.
2. Trace the Defective Product Through the Supply Chain
You must put the proper infrastructure in place to respond to the recall, including a web page describing the details of the affected products. Coordinate with fulfillment centers and customer service to handle product registration, and work with facilities management to ensure no further shipments go out.
Still, you’ll need to trace the product through distributors and retailers, with instructions to hold affected goods and remove them from the shelves. It’s unlikely that you’ll be able to reach all end-users of the recalled products, but credit card transactions have made tracking easier.
3. Spread the Word in a PR-Appropriate Fashion
The whole point of a recall is to retrieve as many of the defective items as possible, so this means informing the public of the error. Doing so isn’t easy considering that such public statements can be damaging to your company’s reputation and impact your brand. Still, consumers tend to trust businesses that are honest about product recalls, so all is not lost.
Start your PR approach by determining who will make the announcement; it’s best to have a C-Level executive relay the message. Make sure you reveal the full extent of the recall and convey the worst case scenario if the products remain at large. In your message stay positive and focus on the future.
4. Respond to the Immediate Needs of Customers
As part of your PR strategy during a product recall, it’s important to remember that the customer comes first. Obviously, compensation for financial losses will be necessary, but you must also allay fears they may have about repeat incidents. Be specific in the measures you’ve taken to ensure the error never occurs again and keep them connected with customer service for support issues related to the recall. Social media is a good platform for quickly communicating with customers your efforts.
Handling a nationwide manufacturing recall is a complicated process, but taking a step-by-step approach to supply chain risk management can help you alleviate the nightmare. Keep the lines of communication open and put the safety of your customers at the forefront. It’s not possible to change the past, but you can prevent a product recall from becoming a full-blown catastrophe.
About Michael Wilson
Michael Wilson is AFFLINK'S Vice President of Marketing and Communications. He has been with the organization since 2005 and provides strategic leadership for the entire supply chain team. In his free time, Michael enjoys working with the Wounded Warrior Project, fishing, and improving his cooking skills.