July 2017 | Commentary | Reverse Logistics

5 Steps to Preventing Brand Damage When Your Product Fails

Tags: Reverse Logistics, Logistics, Supply Chain

Michael Good is Vice President of Marketing and Sales Operations, Stericycle, 317-713-2293

A poorly handled product recall can devastate your company's reputation, market share, and bottom line. With proper planning and systems in place, however, companies can effectively manage recalls to mitigate risk, as well as prevent brand damage.

The key is not to think of a product recall as a singular event, but rather as a cycle or series of inter-related events that should be planned for. The events that comprise a total recall can be broken into a five-step methodology for more effective planning and execution.

  1. The need for a plan. Before a recall event occurs, it is crucial to develop a recall plan. Having a robust plan will ensure the response is as efficient as possible.

    Developing a recall plan forces a company to consider every step in the recall process, including notification, retrieval, processing, and reporting. Companies should make sure their recall plan clearly defines the roles and responsibilities of each member of the recall management team.

  2. Notification and response. Mismanaging notification and response can jeopardize health and safety, ratchet up consumer anxiety, and increase legal liability. Lines of communication must be open at all times. Messaging must be clear and consistent, and demonstrate concern.

    With the right planning in place, a recall can be up and running in 24 hours—with all the communications requirements such as contact center operations, confidential data registries, traceable direct deliveries, safety alerts, and web-based tools that help customers access the information they need to stay safe.

  3. Recall retrieval. Removing affected product from store shelves, the supply chain, and even directly from consumers' homes is a detailed task, and most companies lack an effective method for completing it. In some cases, entire product lines may be pulled out of an abundance of caution, unnecessarily raising the manufacturer's recall costs.

    In-person effectiveness checks at smaller volume stores and distribution centers can help ensure recalled products—and only recalled products—are off the shelves.

  4. Processing and disposal. Strict regulatory statutes govern the complex undertaking of removing, processing, storing, and destroying recalled products. This process requires a pre-planned infrastructure with top-notch security, complete return integrity, and the surge capacity to handle the influx of product.

    Data visibility for labeling and tracking products through the recall lifecycle is also critical for this step.

  5. Sustainability. Companies must destroy and dispose of recalled products in a way that protects the environment. Sustainable recall best practices designed for minimal environmental impact can reduce costs and generate goodwill.

    It is important to identify alternative options for recycling or end-of-life product optimization of products that would otherwise be disposed of.

Companies that are prepared to address these five steps when managing a recall ensure their brand reputation is ultimately strengthened—as opposed to irreparably damaged—by the event.






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