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Coronavirus claims deserve utmost scrutiny, truthtelling

Establishing consumer awareness, ensuring consumer safety and promoting education are three critical customer service functions. As everything from product counterfeiting to coronaviruses becomes more front-and-center in the eyes of the public, companies need to step up their game to provide critical information and help safeguard the public as best they can.

A report at the end of last week piqued my curiosity. The headline read, “Can Lysol and Clorox products kill the novel coronavirus? The answer is … complicated.”

The article notes, “Lysol, Clorox and a host of other household disinfectants widely tout their ability to kill 99.9% of bacteria and viruses. The claim is right there on the label. Included in that 99.9%? Human coronavirus. It’s advertised on the back as a disease the product can disinfect from surfaces, along with two flu strains, E. coli and salmonella, among others. That sparks some obvious questions, mainly: Would it work for the new coronavirus that’s spreading around the globe? The answer, it turns out, is complicated. The US Environmental Protection Agency has some guidance: The disinfectants are thought to be effective against the novel coronavirus. But until tests confirm this, its ability to kill the novel coronavirus has not been scientifically proven.”

The article continues, “ Disinfectant products that have been proven effective in protecting against the other human coronaviruses are thought to be effective against the novel coronavirus, too, said Dr. Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security…But ‘definitive scientific confirmation’ that the wipes can defend against this specific virus can only come once it’s been tested against the strain, said Reckitt Benckiser, the company that owns Lysol and other hygiene brands, in a statement to CNN.”

This article raises the possibility that these products won’t protect fully against this newest threat. I’d hate to see people using the products confidently, thinking they’ve “bullet-proofed” when they haven’t. Of course, it’s about more than spraying surfaces, but that is one part of a critical picture.

What proactive efforts are these companies making to let people know that, in the interest of total transparency and accuracy, more tests need to be conducted—with results to be offered as they become available? If there are efforts underway to inform and caution folks, a Google search over the weekend didn’t show them.

In the interest of good (and in this case, critical) customer service, the more current and complete information provided, the better.

Lysol did offer some help on their website earlier in February. In light of this latest announcement by CNN and other media outlets, additional company-generated proactive updates and alerts obviously would be helpful.

What are ways companies can provide vital product protection updates and information tied to emergent and non-emergent situations alike?

  • Rethink label claims and disclosures. Often, this will require being less promotional and more cautionary on product labels. Until the coronavirus, the claim of killing 99.9% of bacteria and viruses likely was defensible to some degree. But, this latest outbreak reminds us of what we don’t know. Taking a more informative tone will serve customers well going forward—versus planting what may be false hopes as viruses continue to evolve and strike.
  • Launch additional media and social media campaigns to spread the word. Unfortunately, many people aren’t aware of the latest story. Of those who are, how many would drill down to the Lysol Coronavirus webpage (or similar sources) to get more intel? Understanding that there are practical limits, these companies can do customers a huge service by getting more current information into the mainstream.
  • Change company culture in general. Corporate America is largely geared to make promotional claims as big and dramatic as possible to engage consumers and sell product. As the world evolves to requiring more truth and less hype, companies can jump on the bandwagon and give their customers more reasons to stay with them by providing total transparency and accuracy. Companies that don’t increasingly will discover that their false claims are being discovered—imperiling consumer confidence and profits.


Do you have customer service snafus or stellar experiences to share? If so, feel free to comment on this post or email your thoughts to

Mark Lusky is a veteran writer, storyteller and author, with 40+ years of public relations, advertising, marketing and journalism experience.

Author of A Wandering Wondering Jew… and co-author of Don’t Get Mad, Get Leverage,  Mark (aka The Happy Curmudgeon) is the owner of a Denver-based marketing communications firm.

One reply on “Coronavirus claims deserve utmost scrutiny, truthtelling”

Boom! You nailed it. Honest and clearly stated information along with debunking false claims are what people want and need…and not just concerning Coronavirus. Thank you.

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