Customer Loyalty, Brand and Expectations

Toyota’s past recall of 5.3 million vehicles with more to come has tested the customer loyalty of Toyota products. Even though the problem of sticking gas pedals appeared to be known for a while, the company did not give it the necessary attention. In time, this little customer service nuance became a customer relations disaster.

Public relations to car industry experts continue to discuss the long term customer loyalty effects. Some will say this is just a bump in the bigger picture of Toyota's loyal customers. My sense is Toyota has a far deeper problem that being this one:

Customer expectations of the Toyota Brand extend to executive management believing in Toyota products and more importantly in the Toyota Brand. Now since the executive management, the CEO, of Toyota, does not drive a Toyota this has give loyal customers a pause for concern.

Can you imagine for a moment what would have happened if the Ford CEO drove a Lexus or a BMW to a major news conference discussing a significant recall? What message would that had convey? Would you have faith in anything being said by that individual?

When business owners to CEOs (management) do not support their own products or services their brand, this sends a very direct message to their customers both internal (employees) and external (paying clients). Additionally, when significant customer service issues are ignored, these behaviors will come back and bite you on you know where.

Yet there is an important lesson to be learned here. If you are the small business owner, chief executive officer, sales manager or sales person you must “walk the walk and talk the talk. Saying your products, services or your company is the best is one thing. However, taking action of your talk is another. The CEO of Toyota failed to "walk his talk" and that will be remembered for a very long time.

This debacle of customer service only reaffirms why businesses and professional sales people need to have a clearly articulated and communicated values statement within their overall strategic action plan that they actively demonstrate.

Toyota has slide show on their website devoted to their values One slide makes this comment "Want more reasons to believe? Look around." If I was a Toyota customer and looked around seeing the CEO driving away in a black Audi, would I have faith in the values of Toyota, their products, their services or their brand? I think not!


SMB coach, sales and organizational culture authority, Leanne Hoagland-Smith is the People and Process problem solver for forward thinking leadership who want to dramatically improve their business and sales results. What this looks like differs for each SMB and why a phone call to 219.759.5601

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