With all the high profile recalls in the news this year, there is more urgency to modernize the recall process for better handling of recall or withdrawal situations. Although there are many factors that determine whether a recall “goes well” or not, the ones where action is taken quickly and accurately have lower impact on brand reputation and consumers. At-risk product needs to be removed from the supply chain – and fast.
Fast and accurate action requires fast and accurate communication. Gathering information about the affected product and contacting affected customers is a huge job that can often take too long. That needs to change for the sake of protecting consumers. Fortunately, there are technology solutions available now to make faster and more accurate recalls a possible target.
The Recall Formula
Most companies think of recalls as a product-centric process. All the information that needs to be communicated during a recall has to do with the recalled product: the identifying codes, lots, dates, the reason for recall, and so forth. Communicating about the product is what moves the recall forward, as the information moves across the supply chain to those affected.
In order to communicate product information, companies also have to think about recalls in terms of customers. Where did the product go? Who is affected by the recall? And, what should they do with it? Products are intrinsically linked to the customers who buy them, and a recall can’t happen without knowing where the product went so that communication can get to the right place quickly.
In essence, recall communication comes down to a simple formula:
Product + Customer + Disposition = Recall Information
When every step in this equation requires manual labor, it looks something like this:
Gather product details + gather customer contact information + send product details and disposition instructions to customer = recall communication is complete.
Just looking at it is exhausting.
Data Driven Recalls
Thankfully, there’s a new way to manage the process. Over the course of building Recall InfoLink, I’ve worked closely with IT professionals, standards bodies, SaaS entrepreneurs, regulatory agencies, and others who think primarily in terms of data. Their input to the recall process has added an important dimension to understanding the communication that needs to take place and the way information can be shared to drive action.
Although recalls should never lose the focus on product and customer-centric information, shifting to data-driven communication helps the recall be actionable. With the existence of technologies to support data transfers in new and innovative ways, data can be leveraged to achieve faster and more accurate recall communication.
With a data-driven approach, product details are understood according to global data standards, which means the same identifiable data is recognizable by everyone. A data-driven approach to customer information means up-to-date contact and purchase information can be accessed easily and used by communication platforms via file upload or system integration. From here, automatic communication, response, and reporting is simple with the tech solutions that exist.
Ultimately, fast and accurate communication is enabled by good data practices.
Gone are the days of seemingly endless phone calls to a printed list of customers, a script of details to read to each one, and a manual record submitted for credit or regulatory purposes.
I love to tell people about a client of ours who is a shining example of all this. As a mid-sized retail chain, recalls used to take days of work. A flashing red light in the office would signal the start of the process, followed by a marathon of phone calls – five managers working down the list of customers, reading a script to each. Three days later they would complete the task, only to turn around and begin taking incoming calls about disposition and credit requests.
Now? It takes one staff member about 15 minutes to complete the outbound communication, and the same person can download an action-taken report for credit purposes with a few clicks at any time. The process is completed in hours instead of days, with a more consistent outcome. The risk of human error after countless phone calls is now accomplished with a standardized message in the hands of customers within seconds of each other. The labor of gathering credit data is handed off to a system that does it automatically and correctly.
This is what a data-driven recall looks like from inside a company, but the effects are even broader. With information in the hands of customers so quickly, they are able to take action and remove products much sooner. Consumers are protected, risks minimized, costs and damage reduced.
Tech solutions that transform the recall formula into a data-driven message that motivates action aren’t just a good option, they are vital to the protection of consumers and brands. We can’t afford to have recalls spread out over the course of weeks or months because information is hard to get, is given incorrectly, or isn’t acted on. It is time to go all-in on data based systems that allow accurate information about affected products to get to customers – and fast.