A lot is being said and written about Toyota’s recall of thousands of its units due to faulty accelerator pedals. The media is talking. Customers are talking. Late-night talk show hosts are talking. But Toyota itself? It’s not talking.
To be fair, Toyota spokespeople are talking. It’s just that they’re not saying anything. Peruse this ad that ran in this Sunday’s paper, and you’ll see what I mean.
While I have no doubt that Toyota’s intentions are good and that the company’s priority is the safety and satisfaction of its customers, one would never know that from the way the company is behaving. Its take-it-slow, let’s-get-to-the-bottom-of-this-and-have-all-the-pieces-in-place-before-we-go-public approach isn’t doing much in the way of maintaining trust. Customers have urgent questions now. Is my car affected? Is it safe to drive? When will it be fixed? What assurances can the automaker give me it is safe?
With all the questions that abound, not just from Toyota owners but from dealers, the media and the general public, this close-lipped approach is proving to be a violation of the trust Toyota has spent decades earning among the car-buying public.
The reality is this: if you’re not out there telling your story, somebody else will be. And you never know who that’s going to be. In these days of Social Media, where anyone with an Internet connection has a microphone, there’s going to be no shortage of commentary. But without a corporate voice, there’s no filter for this information, and the public is left with the uncomfortable feeling that, “There’s something Toyota’s not saying.”
Why is it when there is some major auto recall that the manufacturer gets sweaty palms about the whole notion of transparency? It is the ONLY thing that will contribute to maintaining/rebuilding the trust that is necessary to regain its former position. One need only go back to the Tylenol tampering episode of 1982 to see how it can be successful.
Adopting a “you-know-what-we-know” stance, if taken with the interests of the customer in mind, would go a long way to soothing buyer/owner/dealer anxieties and also nip a lot of the media finger-pointing and speculation in the bud. Accept the fact that you’re going to be fodder for late-night comedians for a while. Don’t stress the fact that some of the answers you’re giving are uncomfortable or uncertain. Trying to do business behind a curtain during a time of crisis management is opening the door to long-term erosion of loyalty.
Toyota’s #1 asset during this time is its base of loyal customers. But how can your most passionate owners stand up for you if they don’t know what’s going on?
From a practical standpoint, there’s a lot Toyota could commit to in order to minimize the damage to its reputation. Offering a 10% discount on new models when owners trade up from a recalled model. Offering an industry-best 10-year warranty, retroactive to 2009 models. Offering free upgraded loaners immediately to those affected.
But above all, be transparent. Take the attitude of, “If I were a customer, how would I expect the company to take care of me?”
It’s the feeling that “there’s something they’re not telling me” from all stakeholders here that is sewing the seeds for discontent.
Posted by Mickey