Retailers are in the front line when recalls and safety issues occur and there are lessons to be learnt from how Whirlpool has handled the problems surrounding its Hotpoint, Indesit and Creda tumble-dryers, argues Borshch Electric sales director Phil Cox
We have sold a very large number of tumble-dryers from Hotpoint, Indesit and Creda since 2004.
As soon as we were notified of the modification, we took it upon ourselves to contact any customer who had purchased one within the past three months from our stores and we informed them of the modification and registered their appliance with Whirlpool.
At that time, we again explained the importance of following the instructions and cleaning the filters on a regular basis. We physically did not have the resources to go back further than three months, so we also issued notices on social media via our Facebook page, with copies of the notices sent out by Whirlpool.
At this point, we found customer confidence in the product and brand was still high and we had no real issues. Then the press got hold of the story and put their usual spin on it, with advice not to use the dryers at all, to camp out at the shops they were purchased from and not leave until they had received a full refund and had the machines collected.
Clearly this did nothing but cause understandable panic and anxiety among the customers who had been convinced that they now owned a ticking time bomb that was unsafe to use. No mention whatsoever that this problem occurred in a very small percentage of cases and mainly if the appliance had not been correctly maintained by way of regular cleaning of the filters – as per the instructions.
A clear concise report from the press backed up by the manufacturer would go a long way towards assisting the public in such times.
We have had a large number of calls from angry, frustrated and irate customers who, after watching or reading various press reports, quite simply do not want a potential fire hazard in their home.
One customer was allegedly told that the modification could take up to 12 months and they should take the appliance straight back to the shop for a full refund. In the meantime they were not to use the appliance unless they were physically next to it. It’s not great company practice to accuse customers of lying, so we were left with little option other than to refund the appliance on this occasion.
Do I feel we have been let down by Whirlpool? Yes! Due to their lack of foresight in announcing a modification on such a huge number of appliances when they clearly did not have the resources in place to cope with the customer response.
It’s one thing to set up a website to register your product, but then to tell consumers that they would need to wait months for Hotpoint to contact them to then arrange a date for the modification that could take a further 12 months to be carried out is entirely another matter.
The strain this has put their engineers under is huge, and it has impacted seriously on the normal everyday service provided by Hotpoint/Indesit – it’s taking them longer to answer the phones and attend to normal service calls.
In general, I do not feel that recalls have been handled well by the industry. Not enough information or support is given to the retailers when such recalls occur.
We are on the front line, we sold the appliance and we are generally the customer’s first port of call when such instances arise.
Yet we are given no real support, no authority to authorise exchanges if we feel it appropriate and no dedicated support helplines from the manufacturers to which we could then refer the most difficult customers.
The press also give little support to manufacturers when an issue has been identified. Surely, it is in everyone’s interest to get the correct information out to the customers as quickly and accurately as possible?
- See product safety Analysis here