A consumer is seriously injured by a product and your company faces an unexpected and imminent reaction. 

  • What do you do when faced with an unexpected response? 
  • How do you prepare your consumer service for the unexpected?

It is Saturday evening, 6 p.m. Sommelier Inge C.* (*fictitious name) uncorks a bottle of bubbles for a couple celebrating their wedding anniversary at her restaurant. 

She takes a glass bottle from a box of six bottles of the house brand. As she uncorks the bottle, a huge bang follows. The bottle explodes, leaving a large, gaping incision on her arm.

She has to leave the restaurant and is taken to the emergency room, where doctors treat the deep cut wound. There they are amazed at the force of the explosion.

After contacting your consumer service, Inge confirms that she did not drop the bottle and it was intact when she grabbed it from the box. You respond empathetically and quickly

An employee takes the glass shards and another bottle from the same box for analysis, which shows that there was nothing wrong with the other bottles. Nevertheless, the bottle must have been damaged in transit or at the point of sale. You communicate this to the consumer as well.

Case closed.

Or not? The following morning, your reception staff alerts about a consumer who was ranting violently on the phone about the exploded bottle. 

She stressed that "she could have been dead," "her business is in jeopardy" from the incident, and that she will definitely take "further action."

As a company, how do you prepare for such an unexpected consumer reaction?

Keep records

Keep detailed records of every action and communication with the consumer. Document all steps clearly, including certificates, time-stamped photos and videos. 

If necessary, retrieve the consumer's foreign object as evidence. If the consumer will not hand it over, go to their home and issue a receipt.

Pro tip: Use an alias when communicating through consumer service to ensure your employees’ safety. This prevents verbally aggressive consumers from looking up their private information.

Want to learn more about in-person visits with consumers? At our Lunch & Learn "Sensitive Consumer Complaints," Eric Kazmierczak, former Consumer Claims Manager at Spadel, will testify about his 30 years of experience handling consumer complaints at home.

Inquire about consumer expectations

At initial contact, ask what the consumer expects. Perhaps they want a refund or stay informed about the investigation. 

Also ask if the consumer is satisfied with the solution offered. This helps prevent further escalation. Preferably, conduct this communication by phone to better gauge emotions and reassure the consumer immediately. Written communication often comes across as less empathetic.

Keep a cool head

Do not be intimidated by consumer threats. Make it clear that they are free to take legal action or contact the authorities. Be transparent in communication and stand your ground. 

This will help your company appear strong and confident even when authorities get involved. If you were not at fault, you also have nothing to fear.

What if a consumer complaint goes to court? At our Lunch & Learn "Sensitive Consumer Complaints," Food Law attorney Aude Mahy (BFSO, Daldewolf) will give a session on litigation for sensitive consumer complaints.

How can we help you?

Learn to deal effectively with sensitive consumer complaints

What if a consumer has a verbally aggressive response? What should you do when your company is bombarded with hate mail and threatening calls? When do you stop communication?

As a company, you must be prepared and have the proper responses ready in advance, even when you are put on the spot by an unexpected reaction. We help you by organising the following:

Sensitive Dialogue with Consumers Training: Develop skills to communicate effectively with consumers in challenging situations.

Lunch & Learn 'Sensitive Consumer Complaints': Sign up for our Lunch & Learn where various experts provide practical tips on dealing with sensitive consumer complaints and litigation.

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.