This post is sponsored by Premiere Response.
In the age of social media, it’s easier than ever before for brands to connect with consumers, but striking the right tone when dealing with recalls, data breaches, launches and other high-volume events can be a tall order. In this interview, Premiere Response co-founder and Executive Vice President of Customer Engagement Beth Ziff discusses how crisis and issues management has evolved and how working with a customer relationship management firm can give brands an edge when dealing with recalls and other issues.
How has crisis and issues management for food, beverage and consumer packaged goods brands evolved along with technology? What experience have consumers and retailers come to expect when dealing with brands?
Self-service options and artificial intelligence-assisted services have advanced almost as quickly as consumer preference for a seamless, technology-supported solution has. While in some instances an issue a CPG or food and beverage brand might face will demand a high-touch human interaction, creating alternative, automated channels for consumers to report their issue, confirm their purchase and receive a redemption code, product replacement, or other compensation will reassure consumers that you care, that you’re managing the situation and that you’re doing it efficiently. This ensures consumers don’t have to spend any more time than necessary to get a resolution. This has the added benefit of keeping your “A-Team” more available for contacts that require a higher level of skill and service levels.
What are the benefits of working with a customer relationship management firm rather than dealing with these matters in-house?
We work with some of the largest consumer brands in the world and we get this question a lot. What we often say is we know service, customer experience, CRM/data collection and customer satisfaction inside and out, and you know your brand, company operations and unique business goals inside and out. Working with a (well-referenced) outsourced provider — especially during a crisis — allows everyone to focus on what they do best! We have designed protocols for and managed recalls, PR or media crises, unexpected high-volume events and other issues for countless brands across CPG, food and beverage, entertainment, health and pharmaceuticals, and other industries. We implement tried-and-true processes that are continuously refined and improved with changing regulations, consumer behavior, technology and service offerings. This might be your brand’s first crisis. You don’t have to tackle it on your own. Why not go into it with a firm that knows the ropes!
How do recalls and other issues offer brands an opportunity to build trust and brand loyalty?
It might be surprising to hear, but recalls and public issues are often the best time to build consumer loyalty for your brand. Marketing teams spend millions of dollars communicating brand benefits to differentiate from competitors and earn customer loyalty. In a recall situation, the customers who care enough about your brand or product to let you know they were affected will reach out to you. It’s your opportunity to thank your best customers for providing input, and if they’re unhappy or negatively affected by the situation, you have the perfect opportunity to turn the situation around, make them happy and reassure them. You have a chance to show consumers that you care, you’re transparent, you care about your customers and you’re working quickly to do what’s right.
What should brands keep in mind when navigating positive high-volume events, such as launches or re-brands?
Keep in mind that your most loyal customers will have opinions. You might not change course as a result of those opinions, but they will want to be heard. If you have a successful new product launch or rebrand, you might have traditionalists who want to tell you what they don’t like about your new product or what they miss about the “old” brand. Create a means (or several) for these comments, grievances (or compliments!) to be captured, tracked and analyzed. Report trends internally and cross-functionally and thank your customers for bringing their thoughts to you. Be prepared to provide coupons or special redemptions as a thank-you. And remember, a thank-you for a positive comment goes a long way. A thank-you for a negative comment also goes far, but the minimum is listening and acknowledging that the customer took the time to share their point of view. Make sure the thank-you isn’t tone-deaf, like a coupon for a product you recently reformulated and they contacted you to tell you how much they hate it! You’d be surprised how often this happens!
What channel is best for communicating with customers during a high volume event?
All of them. Have a consistent message and response to customers wherever they reach out. If they are using social media, have the conversation there. We teach consumers how to behave, and many have learned that ranting on social media gets a faster and more complete resolution than an email or a phone call. Meeting customers where they want to be levels the “complaint playing field” because you are responding and resolving their needs in their preferred channel, instead of transitioning the conversation to another channel. Obviously, when more information is required your customer can send personal information or other details in a more private channel, but the minimum requirement before asking for more is to manage their concerns as completely as possible within the initial outreach.
When is a recall over? How do you get back to business as usual?
Recalls create tremendous spikes in volume. But there are moments within each event, depending on the reason for the recall, where volume will peak within a day or two and last for two weeks to a month, then level off. Recalls include a series of moments representing higher than normal volume, for example, the initial intense increase in contact volume will be followed by an increase in fulfillment. After the spike comes the clean-up, including resolving escalated issues/claims, sending coupons/refunds, getting product back on shelves and reminding consumers the product is back in stores and online. As clean-up comes to an end, it’s your indicator to resume business as usual.
As co-founder and executive vice president of customer engagement at Premiere Response, a division of American Customer Care, Beth Ziff has created customer service and omnichannel contact center solutions for millions of customer contacts across multiple industries (including consumer packaged goods, food and beverage consumer products, electronics, and healthcare). She has led contact center operations, navigated more than 100 crisis events, and re-engineered recall preparedness processes for many of the Fortune 500.