Posted by ajamison 2 years, 9 months ago

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Last Friday I received a call from a family member who saw a story on the news pertaining to Ford Motor Company. They shared that there was an alleged brake recall on the 2013 and 2014 F-150 models. We own an F-150 within that range and ironically, my husband has been commenting on the brakes for a few weeks now. Given this new information and that our two young children are frequently in that vehicle, I was concerned and wanted to get more information.

I called the dealership to share what I had been told and wanted to know if our truck fell into that category of the 420,000 trucks being investigated. The woman responded with, “it’s being investigated.” I waited for her to elaborate or share additional details, but there was nothing but silence.

As a PR professional, I cringed.

This woman has likely been fielding calls all morning. I image she was probably irritated by the flood of inquiries as a result of the latest news broadcast. At least that’s how it came across during our conversation.

While the U.S government is currently investigating complaints, this is a serious concern for customers who might be impacted. In my opinion, the woman’s tone and response came across as insensitive. While I know she’s not in a position to share details, this would have been a more appropriate response:

“We understand your concern. The situation is currently under investigation. Please know that the safety of our customers is our #1 priority. If there are any recalls, we will inform those affected immediately.”

As a customer, I would have appreciated this response over the one-liner I received.

It’s important for organizations to remember that it’s not just the spokesperson who’s fielding questions. Any employee who has contact with those outside of the organization should be prepared to respond. While the experts should be the ones answering specific questions, others should be prepared to provide a status update or acknowledge the situation like the example above.

In addition, recalls aren’t uncommon in the automotive industry. After all, Ford has a section on its website dedicated to safety recalls. Their PR team has undoubtedly prepared for these types of scenarios. I encourage companies to provide training to other team members who might be asked questions similar to the situation I encountered. While you might not be able to provide details, incorporating key messages, acknowledging their concern, reiterating your commitment to safety, etc. will certainly help.

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