Toyota’s Plan to Repair Its Public Image

We have all heard about Toyota’s recent mass recall of 12 different vehicle models.  Recently, I was driving my non-Toyota along the interstate and heard a radio ad from Toyota, speaking about the recall.  Predictably, the male voice on the radio apologized for the recall and assured listeners that dealerships were working extended hours to fulfill repair appointments.  What was somewhat surprising about the ad—and thus, what set it apart from the typical ads that one might expect from any major company that screws up—was the undeniable tone of earnestness.  In the 30 seconds that this warm, friendly male radio voice spoke about Toyota’s commitment to regaining consumers’ trust, you got the impression that he really meant it.

The tone of that radio ad was identical to the tone in the Op Ed letter from the President of Toyota to the Washington Post.  Apologetic, sincere, and forthcoming—armed with a specific plan to achieve the goal of regaining, and then retaining, customer trust in the quality of the product and the reputation of the brand.

What struck me most about this Op Ed piece was that Toyota’s current situation is very much like an enormous service recovery opportunity.  Service recoveries happen every day in every industry.  Most especially, they happen in the hospitality industry, which prides itself on delivering positive guest experiences, even out of instances of failure.  Though Toyota’s service recovery is much, much larger, the same principles apply:

Did Toyota give their customers their complete attention?  Yes.
Did Toyota apologize?  Yes.  Over and over again.
Did Toyota anticipate the customers’ needs?  Yes.
Do customers feel as if the complaint were handled by a friend?

My guess for the last one, based on the tone of the Toyota President’s letter, and the transparency of the response, is yes.

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