Toyota Customer Service Backfire


Many companies use customer feedback or ‘voice of the customer’ research to find out how their customers feel about their experience. The theory is that there are two benefits to doing this. The first is that you get valuable insight into areas you can improve. The second is that customers get the message that you care about what they think.

The best way to do these surveys is with a live individual conducting the survey. That’s the way our company conducts them, and the way most world class-customer service organizations prefer it. Well, yesterday, we got a first-hand look at how poor execution of a well-intended idea can backfire.

The day before, my wife had taken her car to the local Kanata Tony Graham Toyota dealership for service, and had a lousy experience, so when the ‘voice of the customer’ call came, she was eager to share her thoughts. Unfortunately, in its cost efficiency wisdom, Toyota has chosen to use an automated customer feedback system instead of a live one, so my wife found herself talking to a robot. After duly following the instructions, she pressed “2” to leave a live message. 20 seconds into describing her experience, the robot hung up on her.

THAT left her with a warm and fuzzy…

Toyota is making the mistake that far too many companies are making. They’re getting cute.  In the very process of trying to connect with their customer, they push their customer away. For the sake of saving a few bucks on having a well-trained person making phone calls, they lost the opportunity to recover from a service failure. And in the process, managed to actually make things worse.
Unfortunately, there are far too many people in the business world convinced that machines can replace people when it comes to customer experience. They’re wrong.
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