Mock recalls: How to ensure they are effective

Posted: Tuesday, February 11, 2020 by Global Food Safety Resource

By Steve Hather

No company wants a product recall to occur. It could cost millions of dollars depending on the size of your business and have a negative impact on your brand’s reputation. A poorly managed recall can even lead to reputation damage and the loss of potential future sales. If your business operates on B2B structure this could lead to a loss of key contracts. For B2C business, this could mean a loss of consumer trust and long-term sales.

To prevent these sorts of crises from occurring and to provide assurance that the company can manage a product recall effectively, most food companies conduct annual mock recall exercises. It’s also a requirement in order to meet most national, international and many major retailer’s food safety standards.

The focus of most mock recalls currently is on internal processes – particularly around how to retrieve product from customers or the marketplace. While good traceability and logistics, as well as meeting legal and regulatory requirements, are all important factors, mock recalls often leave out some of the most critical aspects of effective product recall management.

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A mock recall should also include how to deal with external processes.

The ultimate purpose of a product recall is to protect consumer safety, the reputation of the business and to provide a good platform to return to “business as normal” as soon as possible. Therefore, engaging with external players in a constructive dialogue is crucial to the success of any recall.

Whether you have a crisis or you smoothly handle a recall has a much to do with how you engage with key stakeholders –customers, consumers, regulators, media, shareholders, and partners — as it does with you how efficiently your internal processes are. The key to preventing a product recall escalating into a reputation crisis is maintaining and managing these relationships. To add greater value to your mock recall, you should include role-playing key external stakeholders such as customers and consumers, particularly consumers on social media, regulators, suppliers, industry associations and the media.

To get your senior leadership team prepared for managing a product recall means including not just internal processes but also having phones ringing, emails going back and forth with your customers, and consumers posting comments and questions on social media. This will do more to prepare your team and add so much more value to your business.

About the Author

Steve Hather is a product recall and crisis management coach, trainer and consultant. He is the director of CrisisClarity and has been working in crisis management for 30 years, including designing and developing the global incident management and crisis resolution program for The Coca-Cola Company and working with some of the worlds best known food brands to build their capability to protect their business and reputation.

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