In June, IKEA came under fire after recalling 29 million of its dressers and chests due to child fatalities caused by the furniture tipping over. In terms of crisis, this was an unavoidable mess – but a mess that, if handled more effectively, could have been less problematic for the company.
Unfortunately for IKEA, this crisis is far from over as they publicly resist court orders to release information related to these deaths – painting the company as one that has no regard for the safety of its consumers.
Product recall announced back in June.
Over the past few years, IKEA has had its fair share of controversy (horse meat meatballs, “Divorcemaker” furniture, faulty outdoor candles), most of which seemed to be handled with seamless communication efforts.
However, the Sweden-based furniture empire’s most recent mishap was horrendously linked to the death of six toddlers, placing the company under considerable public scrutiny.
The company made a serious faux pas in its original press statement announcing the recall:
“We are announcing this recall today given the recent tragic death of a third child. It is clear that there are still unsecured products in customers’ homes, and we believe that taking further action is the right thing to do,” IKEA spokesperson. *
Why did the message fail? No admission of fault.
The extensive timespan between the deaths of the six children, plus multiple injury reports spanning from 1989 to today, caused people to question why the company waited so long to recall its dangerous products.
Yet, IKEA did not include any language of self-blame when addressing the public about the recall. Instead, it defensively made claim to issuing previous warnings “to communicate the importance of wall attachment,” and indirectly blamed the customer for not properly securing the furniture to the wall.
A better message would have focused on the company taking full responsibility of these incidents, as well as a sincere apology to its customers, especially the families of the deceased, for not issuing the recall sooner.
Update: Still in crisis mode.
It’s been two months since the recall, yet the crisis continues to escalate as IKEA recently resisted court orders to provide recall-related documents for a wrongful-death suit filed by the mother of one of the deceased children.
It seems IKEA keeps digging itself into a hole, baffling product liability experts who think the company’s behavior to be “unusual,” and garnering negative press and public criticism that surmise the company is hiding something.
But if IKEA had been honest to its consumers from the beginning, establishing that its product was unsafe and should be immediately removed, and if it had issued an apology taking full responsibility – which is yet to be seen – this crisis could have been minimized and not blown into the full-fledged catastrophe that currently plagues the company.
*Press release issued by IKEA in June 2016: http://www.ikea.com/us/en/about_ikea/newsitem/062816-pr-chest-and-dressers