Aldi Australia boss uses Facebook video to address tap safety concerns: How should you connect to customers directly?


Communications experts have praised discount grocer Aldi’s response to recent allegations of above-regulation lead content in one of its water tap products, after the company’s chief executive took to Facebook to alleviate fears the product could cause health risks.

Earlier this month, media publications around the country reported on tests from the Queensland Building and Construction Commission (QBCC) for lead content of Aldi’s Spiral Tap, alleging the product had 15 times the permissible amount.

At the time, Aldi told SmartCompany it had done its own testing and found the product had safe levels of lead. Yesterday, the company released another statement, confirming it had done additional testing and there was no cause for concern.

“Aldi Australia is pleased to confirm that the Spiral Spring Mixer Tap, sold as a Special Buy on 10 June 2017 has passed additional testing against AS/NZS 4020:2005, which is required for the Australian WaterMark certification and is the testing method under the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines,” Aldi said in a statement.

“The additional test was conducted by a laboratory accredited by the National Association of Testing Authorities for this Standard, meaning that the product is safe for use. This result is consistent with previous independent testing, which was conducted prior to sale.”

However, the company did not stop there in terms of a response, taking the unusual approach of posting a video response on social media from Aldi Australia chief executive Tom Daunt.

Speaking from the company’s customer service department, Daunt outlined the actions taken by the company upon hearing of the allegations and confirmed to shoppers there was no issue with the taps.

“I have great respect for the dozens of independent and certified testing facilities around Australia that partner with Aldi, to ensure that only the safest products reach our shelves,” Daunt said in the video.

“I’m pleased that this issue has now been addressed and I sincerely hope that Aldi’s thorough investigation of this matter provides you with further confidence in the quality of our products and our processes.”

Communications expert and director of InsideOut PR Nicole Reaney told SmartCompany while Aldi’s initial response to the allegations was a bit sluggish, the video response and comprehensive statement demonstrates the company was taking the issue seriously.

“Utilising their chief executive like this demonstrates they’re taking the issue seriously, especially as there were significant potential health risks,” she says.

“When there’s a serious concern for the organisation it’s always good for the chief executive to talk directly to customers and advise what steps are being taken.”

Although the response was solid, Reaney believes it could have been improved by seeming a little more natural, noting it appeared that Daunt was reading the speech from a script and saying there’s a “fine line” between presenting the facts and being relatable.

Additionally, she thinks comments from an expert would have helped assure customers there are no issues.

“I would have had experts or someone who could verify the information as it helps to appease customers in the sense of confirming the facts they are getting in situations like these,” she says.

Putting the video on Facebook is a strong way to generate a positive response says Reaney, as many people following the brand will likely be fans.

While other retail brands might be able to reach customers through loyalty programs and the like, Aldi’s lack of a program means their channels to contact customers are reduced, meaning some might be being left in the cold.

“Facebook is one channel, but it does cut out a certain demographic, such as the elderly public. That’s why it’s advisable for businesses to always use multiple communication platforms,” she says.

Serious issues warrant responses from the top

For businesses looking to bolster their communications strategy, Reaney says presenting responses from chief executives is a good approach, as long as the issue is serious enough.

“If it’s a technical issue, it’s better to have a specialist within the organisation to present it to the audience,” she says.

“If an organisation is going to implement a video communication – it’s advisable to keep the wording simple, conversational and relatable – while still demonstrating genuine concern.

“Whenever it comes to any issue, it’s about demonstrating you understand public sentiment and concern and laying out all the steps you’re taking to sort it out.”

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Steven Hather
Steven Hather
5 years ago

While the PR experts are all praising the CEO of Aldi for getting the message into social media about allegations of lead in taps that it has sold – something that I also applaud by the way, Aldi has not resolved the conflict with the QLD Building and Construction Commission which started the incident in the first place.

According to the Daily Telegraph, QBCC remains concerned about the safety of the taps but Aldi has threatened to take legal action against them if they make any further public statements. Aldi’s alleged attempts to bully its detractors will not instil a level of confidence in the eyes of consumers. It’s sounding a lot like a “my scientist is smarter than yours” debate which will only fuel the problem.

This is a good example of good communications but a poor strategy, something that many companies – and their PR consultants, are yet to understand. I’ll give you an A for effort though Tom!

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