You know your reputation has taken a big hit when a Google search for “Toyota jokes” returns a host of really funny one-liners. “Toyota - This One You Ought to Tow Away” and “Toyota — putting liability in reliability.” Poor Toyota? No empathy from me. With its resources, I’m sure Toyota has the world’s most talented crisis management practitioners at its beck and call. But they couldn’t have done a worse job at handling the sticky accelerator recall issue.
What happened? I don’t know, but they made several big mistakes.
- Toyota failed to act decisively to address mounting safety problems.
- Toyota didn’t take responsibility for the problems; it minimized customers’ concerns by pointing fingers at suppliers (and even drivers.)
- Leadership took too long to apologize for its role in the debacle
- Toyota didn’t outline an action plan on how to fix the problem
When a crisis hits, customers need information. They want to know what is going on, who is taking responsibility and how to fix it. But time and time again, corporations big and small spend lots of time and resources trying to minimize the problem rather than embracing it and dealing with it.
Toyota will recover from this. But it won’t be soon and it will be costly. Their reputation has taken a tremendous hit. And customers’ trust in the brand is as rickety as a Prius’ brake pad.
What Toyota needs to do now is get accurate information out to its customers quickly and often, and to articulate its 150% commitment to addressing these safety issues. Forget the corporate image ads. Give me information. Tell me when and where I can get my husband’s Camry fixed. And make it easy for me. And apologize for the inconvenience. Then apologize again. I’ll forgive you one day. Maybe.