Don’t let a recall become a social media storm!

With food recalls increasing and averaging one a day over at the FDA website, and a steady trickle of consumer product safety recalls as well, it’s mind boggling that so many CPG companies are handling recall response so poorly.  By poorly, I mean that consumers are not getting quick resolution from official corporate channels such as the corporate website or the consumer care toll free number–but are airing their frustration on Facebook and Twitter. Within 24 hours, the frustration has gone viral and turned into a social media storm.

In many recent cases, a recall has generated so much traffic that jams the phone lines and/or crashes the brand’s website. Sometimes, the website is down, but the social media team is still directing their angry commenters to log a complaint over at the website. It is painful to watch the frustration unfold.

Then, the consumer care team stokes the fire of consumer anger by sending rebate coupons that don’t work at the supermarket

Nicole's Comment

Or don’t line up with the products that the consumers had to toss, or don’t work in the sales channel of choice or the state of residence of the consumer who receives them.

<complaint 4

It doesn’t have to be this way!

Most companies have the means of capturing the product, quantity, state of residence and retailer in their CRM systems. Whether their systems have the capacity to handle the increased load during a recall is another story.

In a food safety situation, lot or batch traceability is critical, and required by domestic and international regulations. Full traceability enables manufacturers to limit the recall to only those production lots with quality issues. The ERP system must provide full forward traceability through the distribution channels, and backward traceability into the supply chain.

Process recall readiness gaps exist in the area of documented processes, roles and responsibilities, and the pre-existence of a disaster response handling project plan/timeline.

If your business faces the threat of a product recall or another similar crisis in consumer confidence, are you really ready to handle it? Take a short self-assessment, and see how you score across the key readiness categories.

The Lake of Unclear Benefits

lake of unclear benefits

Source: harrypotter.wikia.com

So the decision comes down, your company is moving forward with new ERP. Congratulations on your decision; just remember, a year or so from now, that ERP implementations are potentially the next great, bloody spectator sport. They are not for the weak or those lacking determination. Decision made, presumably based upon a business case that documented the expected benefits and how you are going to get there. If so, continue. If not, then you’d probably better back up a bit and get all of your bunnies in a row because, in either case, now you have to communicate why you are doing this project.

So whom do you have to communicate with? How about: anyone who will be impacted by this project. Certainly that includes directly impacted end-users and their supervision and management. It also includes people in other organizations that may not be included in the initial project, this might be HR or some other organizaton. Why communicate with them? Because they will hear about the project and will naturally have questions about it, including why they are being included in the scope of the change, especially if they are unhappy with current systems and processes.

What needs to be communicated at this early stage? Frankly, it does not have to be complicated. It almost always begins with “We are moving to new ERP because…” and then you simply fill in the blank. This is also a good time to develop a good 15-20 second answer. Why? To get the key points across quickly. That said, you absolutely MUST be ready to provide details regarding what specific goals exist, by area/location, and how you expect to get there. Elevator speeches can only go so far – it takes details to calm people who are fearful of change.

We actually get asked frequently, “why do we have to communicate so early about the reasons for our new ERP project?” Our answer is pretty simple: because if you don’t, people will fill in the blank themselves. And you won’t believe what they will come up with, most of it from the depths of fear, distrust, or native suspicion. Here’s what we’ve heard people come up with:

So, why are they doing this to us (again)?

To get the company ready to sell (and all of us are going to lose our jobs)

To increase automation and efficiency (and all of us are going to lose our jobs)

Here we go again, more churn, churn, churn and someone else gets the butter (and we are all going to lose our jobs)

Get the point? If you don’t provide a good answer in advance, people will answer their own questions in the most negative possible way.

Your communication of the reasons or rationale for moving to new ERP is merely the start of a good communication strategy and plan – not the end of it. Oh, yeah, if you don’t have a comprehensive communication strategy and plan, it is most definitely time to get one. And for pity’s sake, if you don’t know how to do this, call someone who does. Everyone who depends on the future ERP system will eventually be grateful.

Lack of concerted communication to end-users about the reasons behind the implementation, the anticipated benefits stemming from successful adoption and the ways in which each individual end-user and executive are impacted will affect project success or failure.

Mitigation Step: Create and follow a comprehensive organizational change management plan – at the very least, get an expert involved to do an assessment of readiness and challenges.