Managing Customer Expectations During a Product Recall

Our recently released white paper Preparing for a Product Recall: 3 Crucial Steps to Saving Money, Time and Customer Loyalty shows how your business can emerge from a recall situation unscathed ifyou plan correctly. Securing the right resources and technological support and striving to maintain good customer service can ensure you keep all customers happy while dealing with the many factors of a recall.

But to be clear, there are parts of a recall over which you have less control — for example, the phase where you must rely upon external field technicians to go out and fix or remove your recalled product. There’s a chance technicians will not be able to make it to some of their appointments or may run late. Mishandling these situations might cause an appointment backlog, put your recall off schedule and produce some unhappy customers — the last thing you want, as these customers might abandon your brand and tell their friends to steer clear of your business.

While these situations can’t always be planned for in advance, communicating quickly and proactively is much more in your control and is ultimately the key influencer on customer satisfaction. Here are two actions you can take to manage customer expectations and keep their loyalty.

1. Let the customer know as soon as there’s a problem

As the book Satisfied Customers Tell Three Friends, Angry Customers Tell 3,000: Running a Business in Today’s Consumer-Driven World by consumer-behaviour specialist and marketer Peter Blackshaw shows, individuals now have incredible leverage for spreading the word about an unsavoury customer service experience. The book uses as a prime example the case of a customer who recorded a hostile conversation with a sales rep at a major company and posted it on YouTube, where it got more than 60,000 views.

Your organisation can avoid becoming an Internet sensation for the wrong reasons by reacting as soon as you know a technician can’t make an appointment, which gives your customers time to reschedule their day. This is often hard to do if you’re relying on your internal staff, who are likely already working overtime on your recall and their regular jobs, to communicate to customers. Leveraging an outsourced customer service centre can fill these gaps by establishing a conduit between customers and field technicians to ensure communication flows quickly.

With Datacom’s recall services, our outsourced customer contact centre staff knows which customers have been contacted and know where and when technicians are scheduled to go out. If a technician can’t make a call, we will tell the customers — through a phone call or an SMS — immediately and let them know when one will be available that day. That’s good customer service.

2. Don’t repeat your mistake

The recall process inconveniences the customer more than anyone else, yet many organisations forget this fact. Datacom recall experts say the No.1 thing companies do poorly in the product recovery phase of the recall is expect customers to settle repeatedly for timeframes that may work for the organisation and the technician, but not the customer. A customer might endure multiple rescheduled appointments – which may have involved them going into work late or leaving early so they could be home for the technician — only to go back into the queue with everyone else. If you were this customer, how would you feel if you heard for the fifth time, “We don’t have a technician in that area till Friday — you’ll have to wait till then”?

Research shows being as convenient as possible for your customers boosts their loyalty. A study of 75,000 customers reported in the Harvard Business Review found that “reducing their effort — the work they must do to get their problem solved” helps build customer loyalty. If you make your recall too difficult for your customers, they will spread the bad news— nearly half of customers in the study said they told 10 or more individuals about a negative experience they had with a brand.

To maintain loyalty and avoid online mayhem during the recovery phase of the recall, organisations should consider implementing a “one strike” rule for customers who have experienced broken appointments. Making sure that another technician is dispatched to them immediately or the next time the customer is available is key in this piece. Doing this even if it means calling in extra recall resources will help. Spending a bit more money to ensure a customer is satisfied now is more cost-effective than losing that customer’s business — and possibly that customers’ friends’ and family members’ business — when your recall is over.

Keeping the channels of communication open and owning up to mistakes during your recall will do more to keep a customer than ignoring them. Make every customer count, and they’ll stick with you through the recall and beyond.

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