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.

How Doing a Recall Right Can Boost Your Brand Image

By Stacey Tomasoni

Stop thinking of your recall as just a pain in the neck.

If you do practice good product recall management — with a solid strategy in place and enough resources —, a recall could be one of the best things that ever happened to your organisation.

Think I’m crazy? Put yourself in your customers’ shoes. If two companies recall a product, would you rather deal with one that sends you to seven different customer service representatives and keeps you on hold for 30 minutes – or one that immediately responds to your concerns in a professional manner?

Your customers are thinking the same thing about your brand. If you’ve been good to them until now, customers will appreciate you handling your recall with grace. The faster, friendlier and more forthcoming you are with information, the likelier they’ll be to stick with you after the recall storm has passed. Here are a few things to consider for effective product recall management that can boost your brand image.

Product recall management RISK 

Four factors can make your customers think highly of you during a recall: reassurance, immediacy, seamlessness and keenness, or RISK. Clients that have worked with Datacom on product recall management find demonstrating these qualities when engaging with customers results in fewer complaints. A few organisations have even received positive comments about their product recall management approach.

Practising reassurance as part of an effective product recall management strategy means letting your customers know two things as early as possible: how your recall affects them and what they need to do. The easiest way to start a panic about your recall is by keeping customers in the dark. Key in this piece of product recall management is immediacy, or reaching out to affected customers as soon as possible, so they know if they are or are not affected.

Seamlessness fits into how you structure customer relationship communications during product recall management. Don’t send customers to a slew of different phones numbers, web sites or service centres to get their questions answered and their recalled products fixed. Make it as easy as possible for customers to pre-qualify for your recall.

Keenness in product recall management is showing earnestness and diligence in your recall. Don’t have apathetic customer service representatives speaking to hysterical customers. Don’t fail to follow up with the customer. Take responsibility during product recall management and proactively engage your customer base.

Have a multi-channel strategy for product recall management

One of the ways to practice RISK during product recall management and potentially boost brand sentiment is by engaging with customers across channels — phone, email, SMS, chat and Twitter, for instance. Offering communication through these channels makes customers feel like you’re working for them. You’re interacting with them on their time, in their preferred communication method. Customers who can chat to a customer service representative after work while they’re scanning status updates on Facebook are less likely to find your recall disruptive to their time and nerves.

Making product recall management effective while preserving or boosting brand image is no small task. To cover all your bases, consider an outsourcer offering product recall services that can give you an extra hand. Product recall services offered through Datacom offer a centralised way to reach out to customers, manage recall progress and report on compliance. Our extra product recall services can mean the difference between a recall that costs you time, money and customer loyalty and one that not only makes current customers happy, but attracts prospective ones as well.

Stacey Tomasoni has worked with Datacom for four years in a number of critical executive roles across the business. Her current role as General Manager, Australia has seen her lead large-scale operations across multiple sites, driving a number of positive business outcomes for both Datacom and its clients.

Stacey specialises in a number of areas, including rapid deployment of resources to respond to unexpected events, adoption of multi-channel resources, with a focus on self-help and call elimination, and using social media to listen, react and engage.

Product Recalls: Just Another Reason to Monitor Your Online Image

By Stacey Tomasoni

Datacom General Manager Andrew Peel wrote back in May about the importance of social media monitoring for your brand — especially if you’re a business in Australia, home to the biggest users of social media in the entire world, according to Nielsen.

Knowing who’s saying what about your organisation online means you get to celebrate the praises and quickly address the complaints. It lets you track brand sentiment — is it going up or down? —, determine where you sit in terms of reach and engagement compared to industry competitors and cultivate a loyal online following of customers, prospects, employees, media members and brand evangelists.

Then there’s those (hopefully) once-in-a-blue-moon events requiring you to guard your online image especially well. These are disruptive, often crisis-response-level, events that could swiftly undo all the good work you’ve done to build your stock online and off. Among these events lies the dreaded product recall, something hundreds of Australian businesses faced last year.

Many businesses try to distance themselves as much as possible from a product recall. But by practising proactive product recall management and responding to conversations immediately, you can preserve your online presence during a recall. Social media monitoring holds the key to ensuring product recall management is successful.

Product recall management benefit No.1: You retain control

Bad or controversial news travels quickly. If you let the online community decide that your recall is scary, sinister or an indicator of poor quality assurance throughout your organisation, you’ll have an uphill battle from the start. Remember, the most disgruntled customers often have the loudest voices.

Tracking cyber chatter through advanced software that scans social sites for company and product mentions lets you find the conversations about your recall and respond to them immediately — before they spiral out of control. With the help of the social media monitoring service’s analytics team and your marketing department, you can identify which conversations to partake in and inject your own messaging — and the right information — to diffuse the fear and aggravation. Customers and the public will hear the non-dramatic version of the product recall situation and be able to then make a judgement based on balanced information. This will only help in your product recall management.

Product recall management benefit No.2: You steer people to the right information

Say, for instance, you find a customer affected by the recall who has no idea what to do. If you’re using social media monitoring, you can ease the individual’s fears and give him or her the information they need. The same can be said for unaffected customers, who may be taking to Twitter to ask anyone who will listen what they should do about their non-recalled product. If there’s a recall web site set up or a pre-qualification system in place to rule out non-affected customers, you can disseminate this information across social media as part of your product recall management strategy.

Product recall management benefit No.3: You take the conversation offline

If customers complain about your product recall online, knowing immediately when a negative comment goes up on Facebook or in a forum can help you quickly deescalate the issue. Often customers who get a quick response will remove the disparaging online comments themselves. You can then engage with the customers over the phone or through email and cut the chances that they’ll write additional complaints. That’s effective product recall management.

The same goes for journalists who might be nosing around about your recall. If you see journalists posting call-outs for recall-affected customers on Twitter, you can contact them to discuss the situation offline and possibly prevent it from being broadcast in the media. Through the social media monitoring services available with Datacom’s recall service, we were able to help one major company avoid any negative press during its recall and ensure proactive product recall management.

The bottom line for businesses: Having a social media monitoring plan in place for your brand before your product recall hits puts the ball in your court. Your organisation will be able to respond proactively, get the right message out to the right people and practice holistic product recall management. With all the hard work that goes into recalling a product, knowing that your brand is being looked after online gives your business a bit more breathing room.

Stacey Tomasoni has worked with Datacom for four years in a number of critical executive roles across the business. Her current role as General Manager, Australia has seen her lead large-scale operations across multiple sites, driving a number of positive business outcomes for both Datacom and its clients.

Stacey specialises in a number of areas, including rapid deployment of resources to respond to unexpected events, adoption of multi-channel resources, with a focus on self-help and call elimination, and using social media to listen, react and engage.