10 reasons to add CPSC to your listening system before March

Process for publishing a Consumer Products Safety Commission report. Image courtesy of the CPSC.

We all know how important listening is these days, right? I don’t think I have to explain the value of monitoring the Web for brand mentions, the opportunity behind direct-to-consumer conversations or what can happen if you don’t have a listening system in place. We’re to the point now where people/companies are really trying to better define their listening system based on specific needs. Part of that is keeping track of evolutions that change the listening game. And there’s a potentially huge one coming in the next few months.

Have you ever heard of the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC)? I hadn’t until a few weeks ago. Just being brutally honest. A client brought it to my attention because she heard CPSC was going to start sharing a lot of the customer feedback they receive through a public database sometime in early 2011. If you work for or with a consumer brand, like the client I was talking to, this news she shared should make red flags pop up and prompt you to dive a little deeper.

So that’s what we did and here’s some additional background I can share. CPSC is an organization, in its own words, charged with “protecting the public from unreasonable risks of serious injury or death from thousands of types of consumer products under the agency’s jurisdiction.” So what does that mean to you and your clients?

Well, when customers come across a product they think is unsafe, they can file a complaint with the CPSC. In the past, the company would be notified but the customer submission would stay private. However in March, that is going to change. The CPSC is going to institute a new process that allows customers to make their complaints public through its online database. That means a complaint that was between the customer, CPSC and the company in the past could now potentially be available for anyone with an Internet connection to find.

I sat in on a CPSC Webinar this week to find out more about the upcoming database changes. Here are the top 10 takeaways I think you need to know as we head toward March:

  1. The database goes live in March. But it will soft launch Jan. 24. Test it out early and make sure your company/clients are registered.
  2. Responding in a timely manner will be important. Once a customer files the complaint, CPSC will have 5 days to notify the company. Then the company has 10 days to comment before the complaint goes live. But, CPSC says it must review all comments. So if an organization waits right until that 10-day mark to respond, its comment may not go live at the same time as the complaint, though it will likely be added soon after.
  3. Customers can upload photos and documents to their complaint. A picture says a thousand words, right? On Facebook, users interact with pictures over text updates 10 to 1. Enough said.
  4. Anonymous reports won’t go public. A customer filing a report can chose whether or not to share his/her name. But if he/she doesn’t own comments and submit a name, then the company will be notified, but the report will stay private.
  5. Your company needs to register with CPSC in order to comment on reports. The primary company contact can grant access to other company reps and is encouraged to do so. Initial registrations in January may take a while because of the volume of requests CPSC is receiving.
  6. Your company can claim that a report has confidential or proprietary information. When reviewing a customer complaint, their are options at the top to notify CPSC that the report has confidential or inaccurate information. Make sure when doing this, you use the buttons and separate notification process (see images below). Don’t just post about this through a general comment.
  7. You will be notified if a report on your brand is submitted. An e-mail will be sent to the registered contact and any other contacts who have access.
  8. Real-time commenting won’t be possible because comments mus be reviewed by the CPSC. It seems this will be true for any comments customers would add as well. CPSC did say that if you have a comment you believe is urgent, you can contact them directly, reference your submission needs to be expedited and it may go through faster.
  9. I’m guessing standard listening/monitoring tools like Radian6, Sysomos and Collective Intellect won’t catch entries in the CPSC database…at least for a while. I could be wrong, but it usually takes time for these vendors to adjust their tools to listen inside walled gardens. And this is a semi-walled garden in that you have to register to participate. Should be interesting. If anyone from a monitoring vendor has a thought here, please let us know.
  10. Ming Zhu is the CPSC rep who presented the Webinar. He said he is open to receiving questions via e-mail, so feel free to send them his way. If you want to leave questions in the comments, I am preparing a list of follow-up questions to submit as well and am planning a second post on this topic to answer those questions.

Hopefully you find the above tips helpful as we move closer to the public consumer complaint database becoming a reality. The one additional point to consider is brands that are actively listening, engaging with customers on service issues via online and social media channels may be able to stem some complaints that would otherwise be submitted to the CPSC database because customers know they can reach the company through other channels.

This is an issue that will no doubt continue to evolve and really should be looked at as another opportunity to show customers your company is listening and responding. But like monitoring across other social platforms, companies will need a response protocol for how to manage CSPC complaints. Maybe you can work this new platform into a governance policy and response protocol that already exists. However you choose to handle it, one thing is for sure — We can all learn from each other on this one, so please share your experiences, good or bad, here or via another platform so we can discuss what works and what doesn’t when it comes to this evolution in customer service.

  • Had you heard about the CPSC database before now?
  • What other questions do you have?
  • How will you suggest your clients monitor CPSC moving forward?

Additional images from the CPSC Webinar

Proces to report an unsafe product. Image from the CPSC Webinar.

Filing a report in the CPSC site. Image from the CPSC Webinar.

Companies can mark a submission confidential or inaccurate. Image from the CPSC Webinar.

Businesses need to register in order to be notified of customer reports and to comment on them. Image from the CPSC Webinar.

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  1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Lauren Fernandez and JGoldsborough, JGoldsborough. JGoldsborough said: CPSC's making its consumer report database public n March. http://t.co/CcVOZgy 10 reasons 2 add it 2 your listening system. #pr20chat [...]