Customer Satisfaction techniques for crisis situations apply to many stakeholders, not just direct customers. Toyota faced its shareholders for the first time since the start of the recall crisis.  The three proven customer satisfaction techniques for problem management of acknowledge, apologize and show action  apply to meetings and communications with all kinds of stakeholders: customers, shareholders, dealers, employees, the community of drivers and even the community of pedestrians and those occupying buildings next to roads, and so on..

In an Associated Press Article titled ‘Toyota President apologizes to shareholders”, the three proven customer satisfaction crisis control elements form part of the report.

1. Apology: Toyoda not only apologized verbally, he bowed deeply in front of shareholders, a sign of remorse and humility in Japan.

2. Acknowledgment of the problem was demonstrated  by the quote  “We believe our most important task is to regain customers’ trust.”  Executive Vice President Shinichi Sasaki stated that Toyota had failed to fully understand the feelings of customers about safety. ( I think this was an understatement. ..maybe politically correct, but a gross understatement)

3. To Show Action, Toyota executives talked about improvements and changes being made:

a. Augment quality controls.

b. Appointment of outsiders to assess Toyota ‘s  quality measures and transparency. Clearly Toyota had two major the technical problems and second the honesty and communication of the technical problems in the best interest of the driving public (not just its own purchasers). Transparency is important to fix the second of these issues.

c. Study how drivers were actually using Toyota vehicles.  (Editorial comment: It is always a good practice to understand your customers but it is unclear why this would affect quality control issues.)

d. Exhibit  management commitment by eliminating the financial bonuses for the  Directors on the Board for a second year in a row.

During the shareholder meeting, the cost of recalling 8 million vehicles and its aftermath was set  at $4 Billion for the fiscal year just completed. That does not include any additional costs this year and the  possible costs of over 200 pending law suits and other government actions.

The JD Power listings for Toyota slipped badly this year. Toyota used to be on the top of the rankings.

If there ever was a poster child for the cost of poor quality and lack of attention to customer satisfaction techniques and processes, Toyota would certainly be one of the leading contenders.

As Mr. Toyoda said, Toyota has to regain customer trust. The trust was lost due to quality and communication problems. The road back will be much longer.


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Adele Berenstein

Adele Berenstein is an Experienced Customer Satisfaction Executive, recently retired from a Large Global IT Organization after a long productive management career including Sales, Marketing, Services, teaching and education center management and most recently, 19 years in customer satisfaction management. She turned around divisions with customer satisfaction problems, implemented measurable improvements and management systems, and implemented programs to prevent problems from ever affecting customers.

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