The recent E. coli outbreak linked to romaine lettuce is another reminder of how suppliers can best communicate product recalls with distributors. According to the FDA, about 126 food recalls occur on average each year. The FDA also states that recall notifications should be marked as urgent, include detailed instructions including the extension of the recall (whether it affects consumers or wholesellers), and should include a return response card/form. The return response is also required in most cases.
While not all product recalls are the same, the urgency of removing unsafe or under-quality products from store shelves is a common theme and is not always easy. Implementing certain initiatives become critical to prevent the escalation of any serious issues.
Urgently Communicating Next Steps
Sending the word out to distributors or retailers about a product recall can be easily accomplished with a mass notification system. A mass notification system is a single communications platform that allows you to send out notifications instantly to a select audience through multiple communication modes.
For example, if Widget Foods was affected by the romaine lettuce E. coli outbreak, they could easily notify their store managers by sending out an alert about the recall through text message and email. The alert can include a link to additional information or any documentation needed as part of next steps. The alert could also go to the Widget Foods’ internal employee portal through the RSS feed.
Easily Collecting Responses
While it’s easy to send out an email communicating the recall, the more difficult part of the process is making sure that the message was received and that proper next steps are being taken. One effective way of collecting responses is to send a feedback poll to the same list of affected facilities. A poll-based alerting feature within a mass notification allows you to solicit information and even location data from a select group of recipients through SMS text, voice, and email.
Going back to the Widget Foods example, they could send out a poll to their stores to find out how many have followed through with next steps. The poll allows them to collect consistent responses so that they can determine if further action is needed to reach unresponsive stores.
Maintaining Good Faith with Consumers
The most important aspect of a product is maintaining good faith with consumers. A multitude of online resources exist to inform consumers about product recalls, but one way to leverage a mass notification system is by using an SMS opt-in feature. By texting a keyword to a short code, consumers would be able to sign up for alerts specific to the products they purchase, instead of digging through lists of various items on a webpage.
You can use a keyword for multiple brands and can have multiple keywords. With optional automatic expiration, the subscription can be set to automatically expire on a specific date or after a specific duration.
What to Look for in a Mass Notification System to Communicate Product Recalls
When considering a communication tool for critical events such as product recalls, there are at least five features that should be included:
- Unlimited list segmentation – Lists can be segmented by region, store/distribution facility, or contact role
- Multi-modal message delivery – Notifications can be sent by a number of methods including voice, text message, email, social media, and RSS
- Simple Interface – It shouldn’t take more than two steps to send notifications to all communication channels simultaneously
- Two-way communications – Written/verbal responses should be possible to confirm receipt of messages
- Robust reporting – Reports should include documents such as detailed event logs and deliverability performance by mode for each notification
Whether you currently use a mass notification system or alternative to communicate product recalls, find out how to evaluate your current system and ensure that it meets the needs for critical alerts.
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