The recent Toyota recall catastrophe has many people wondering the how upper management at the gigantic automaker managed to botch this situation so badly.
But, while it’s easy to be critical of Toyota’s poor decisions, many small business owners might find themselves in a similar position should they be faced with a crisis of their own.
Dealing with a major product defect, especially one that could harm your customers, is a major task that every business owner should be prepared for.
“Have a product recall plan ready to use anytime, one that covers the operational, legal and public relations (internal and external) components of making a recall,” advises Jonathan Bernstein, President of Bernstein Crisis Management. “‘We’ll wing it’ is not a product recall plan.“
You obviously can’t plan for every detail, but it’s crucial to have at least a basic crisis-management strategy in place — before one happens.
Some of Bernstein’s essentials for dealing with a recall:
- Sooner is always better. You should make a public announcement, “the moment you know there may be a threat to public safety – not merely after you’ve already confirmed it!”
- You can’t change what’s happened, so take responsibility and minimize the damage. “Public backlash can occur for two principal reasons: distress that a product is somehow defective, and distress at the matter in which the recall was (or wasn’t) communicated. You minimize public backlash by being proactive and transparent, virtually eliminating the second principal cause of distress.”
- Use every possible communications channel. “Recalls related to public safety should be made using every possible communications channel, on- and offline. It’s better to over-communicate rather than take the risk that important stakeholders miss the message.”
- Empower all employees with accurate information and consistent messages. Every employee is now a PR rep for your company. Don’t try to control damage by restricting the flow of information internally — be sure every member of your organisation is equipped with the information necessary to represent the situation accurately and appropriately to anyone who asks.
- Don’t wait for regulatory agencies to get involved. Bureaucratic government processes “can often delay how much time passes before product consumers and distributors are notified — a delay which, in worst-case scenarios, can cause injuries or deaths.”
Finally, remember that the safety of your customers is your number one priority. Bernstein adds, “CEOs need to remember that the public expects them to do what’s right, not just what’s required… Companies like Bridgestone/Firestone, and Merck, learned that lesson the painful way.”
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