Recall Protocol—From Chaos to Calm in 6 Simple Steps

Although it happens regularly, the jarring realization that your product made it to market with a defect is unfamiliar territory for many enterprise businesses.

Unlike the big automakers who've got recalls down to a science, you may struggle to take the appropriate steps to mitigate the situation and move on quickly.

So how does it work exactly? While every situation is unique, the following blueprint for success can help you handle a recall and get on with business as usual.

Step One: Adopt A Devil's Advocate Mindset

While most product ideas are fueled by inspiration, imagination and visions of positive outcomes, avoiding a recall requires an infusion of skepticism into the process.

The question "what new innovation can propel my next product to the top of the consumer mindset" should also include the follow-up, "what could possibly go wrong?"

The devil's advocate is an ally in this process, and the more potential pitfalls you identify, the higher the likelihood you'll avoid a product recall altogether. After all, the easiest way to handle a recall is to ensure it doesn't happen in the first place.

Step Two: Prepare for the Worst so You Can React Quickly

Despite the best efforts of developers, engineers and fabricators, recalls will happen, and when it's clear your product contains a flaw that must be addressed, it pays to be prepared.

Doing so will help you react quickly. In this product recall blog on, the authors point out that "quick reactions to product defects allow companies to address the issue before other media outlets."

In a recall situation, you want to control the narrative, so having a prepared statement or holding media interviews or a press conference if the recall is significant enough should be your first course of action. The goal is to have these interactions on your terms.

Quick responses show customers, shareholders and other stakeholders that you're taking responsibility for the recall and putting their need to know a priority. Here's where social media can be a big help in getting statements and recall updates out quickly.

Step Three: Alert the Authorities

While addressing the need to communicate, keep government authorities in your industry in the loop. This is especially important—and required—if recalling food items. These experts may assist you by providing their guidelines for recall procedures.

Step Four: Stay Visible, Available and Accessible

A recall will generate questions and demands for information that should be dealt with by an expert, namely you. This is not the time to delegate.

By making yourself available and being the face of the solution, not only can you deal with these in real-time, but your leadership throughout the process can also serve as a springboard for greater trust down the road.

Sure, you may take some lumps and the process may be challenging, but a light at the end of the tunnel that shines bright awaits business leaders who endure.

Step Five: Prepare to Be Accountable

Recalls can take a heavy financial toll on a business, but you can prepare beforehand by dedicating a line-item amount to account for them.

This can cover the cost of refunds that can jump-start rebuilding customer trust. Funds can also go toward research, development, and retooling costs of safely getting your product back to market.

Product recall insurance may also be available to businesses that qualify. These typically cover a range of circumstances specific to your product and industry, so be sure you get the appropriate coverage. As with any insurance, it pays to have it before the crisis.

Step Six: Bounce Back

While a recall can halt a product in the marketplace, it's not necessarily a death knell. In fact, if handled adeptly, a recall can be the springboard to greater success for a new and improved product.

The effort will require coordination between product, marketing, and PR teams to create an optimum environment for reintroduction. Whether it's a multi-media campaign, social media-focused effort, or another approach, emphasizing quality and the new, improved product is a critical step to success.