Crisis PR: Third Toyota Customer Letter Falls Flat

toyota recall

Customer letter No. 3 from Toyota arrived on the scene today.

Like the previous two – analyzed in “Open Letter to Toyota Customers Hits Pothole” and “Toyota’s Second Letter to Customers Stays on the Road,” this letter was published in major dailies and on the company’s Web site.

Unfortunately, the third time was not a charm for Toyota.

The headline offers a promising start: “Toyota’s Pledge To You.”

But before going further, let me ask you a question. If someone says I’m making a pledge to you, what do you expect to follow?

Right.

You expect to learn about the actual content of this pledge.

Not Toyota.

Instead, the initial paragraph takes a drive down nostalgia lane:

More than 70 years ago, Toyota was founded with one mission in mind — to provide our customers with the safest, most reliable vehicles in the world. That’s why 80% of all Toyota cars and trucks sold in the United States over the last 20 years are still on the road today.

At least the second paragraph shows a modicum of empathy:

We’re proud of our heritage and recognize that, lately, we haven’t lived up to it. All 172,000 Toyota employees and dealership personnel in North America are working around the clock to make things right for you and earn back your trust.

But the core of the body copy, which consists of four bullet points under the subhead “Here’s what we are doing” really just rehashes customer service basics.

The third bullet in particular caught my attention:

When we learn about a problem our customers are experiencing, we’ll investigate without delay, and we’ll quickly address any safety issues we find.

For the second time in three posts, “Huh?”

Customers are supposed to be impressed that NOW you’re going to “quickly address any safety issues …”

I’m going out on the limb and predicting this “magnanimous” gesture is not going to win a whole lot of goodwill.

Even with Toyota’s volume discount, the ads in The Wall Street Journal alone are running around $200K a pop. It’s baffling with so much on the line they can’t get the narrative right.

Yet, take a look at how the letter closes:

And we believe that the best companies learn from their mistakes. We know we need to do better. We are committed to doing just that.

Bravo.

This is how the letter should have started, not ended.

P.S. We took a shot at building and curating a “Toyota Crisis PR Resource” page. If you have thoughts or content for the page, by all means send them my way.

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  1. toyota-recall-pr.com March 25th, 2011 10:43 am

    [...] Crisis PR: Third Letter from Toyota Falls Flat [...]

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