What if data protection gets in the way of your research?

A retailer contacts your company: a consumer claims to have found multiple needles in your product. Due to privacy reasons, you are not allowed to contact the consumer to obtain additional information. What now? It happened to one of our members.

As a company, you want to keep your customers happy. Complaints are the perfect opportunity to identify areas for improvement within your company. Therefore, it is important to be able to communicate with the consumer who expresses the complaint.

In this case, a consumer claims to have found several needles in a can. Given the exceptional nature of the complaint and given the potentially dangerous nature of the foreign object, further investigation is an absolute must. Because the complaint reaches the company through a retailer, it makes direct contact with the consumer more complicated. When the retailer inquires whether direct contact could be made, there is a deafening silence. The truth never came to light.

Of course, internal investigation is still necessary. Go to the factory, check internal complaints and conduct a test to verify the truthfulness of the claim. Next, evaluate the consistency of the story. Finally, you can contact us to verify how realistic the claims are.

What can we learn from this incident?

Invest in a professional first line

Your first line plays an important role in handling complaints. Therefore, it is wise to invest in their training: your first-line staff must know how to respond to sensitive complaints and what information to gather. If this step goes as planned, you will be able to focus on the heart of the matter: complaint investigation.

Thoroughly investigate every sensitive complaint

As a business, you'd rather not receive sensitive complaints, but they can be a growth opportunity. Do not just trust the consumer's word, but thoroughly investigate every complaint. Listen carefully, gather evidence and try to discover where things could have gone wrong. Once you have all the facts, you can address the complaint appropriately.

Always double-check your approach

Some complaints are so uncommon that you might consider malicious intent. Therefore, always double-check your approach as a QA manager with a board member and/or external specialist. Also, do not forget to inform the involved stakeholders.

How can we help you?

Your first line, crisis ready in only 60'

During our ‘first line’ training, your employees are being trained on how to respond to sensitive situations and contact with the outside world. The training consists of three parts:

  • participants have a week to follow the e-learning (20')
  • followed by a telephone call with a number of role plays (30')
  • finally the participants receive one week to complete the test (10')

The company receives a report with their results. In a next phase, we can also test the trained first lines during a spot check. Each employee receives individual feedback.

Your complaint, our advice

While your company prefers to receive as few complaints as possible, we at Food Security are confronted with complaints from various food companies on a weekly basis. Last year, we gave advice on complaints and/or crisis situations in at least 58 cases. Thanks to our expertise, we thoroughly assess your sensitive complaint. Do not hesitate to double-check your specific approach with us.


"Jaarlijks wordt een ledenvergadering georganiseerd waarbij hot topics zoals bijvoorbeeld cybersecurity, food defense, … naar voor komen (ook op basis van suggesties van de aangesloten leden) en waar er mogelijkheid is om ervaringen te delen met andere voedingsbedrijven."

The Belgian Chocolate group

Simulatie oefening

"Jaarlijks hebben we een gesimuleerde crisisoefening die door Food Security werd voorbereid en begeleid tijdens de dag zelf, uitgevoerd. Hierbij worden de leden van het crisisteam (en hun vervangers) ondergedompeld in een onverwachte situatie die on the spot moet worden behandeld. Deze oefening heeft ervoor gezorgd dat (bij een echt voorval dat we hebben gehad) de betrokken mensen hun taken en verantwoordelijkheden kenden, wisten welke info snel moest opgezocht worden, dat bepaalde teksten voorbereid waren, dat de juiste communicatie kon gebeuren, …. De debriefing bij elke oefening legt de onvolmaaktheden bloot dewelke dan weer materiaal zijn voor trainingen daarna."

The Belgian Chocolate group

Ready to reinforce your company against a crisis?

We offer you an external and objective view on the facts 24/7, including an evaluation of the situation and advice on how to handle it.