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The Fall of a Titan?

Toyota is “grasping for salvation,” according to Akio Toyoda, the grandson of the founder of Toyota and the current leader of automotive titan. He also is quick to say that the way they turn the business around is by making better cars, cars that people want.

An article in Business Week details Toyoda’s comments from a recent press conference. It also discusses that he has reams of customer satisfaction data at his disposal. Reading this, I instantly recalled my most recent car-buying experiences and the customer satisfaction surveys that came with them.

First, the discussion of satisfaction vs. loyalty. With the exception of financial services and automotive industries, most companies are way past that. Satisfaction is simply a low standard that has no correlation to the outcomes we are trying to achieve. I’m sure Toyota scores very high on customer satisfaction surveys. Maybe this is the latest proof that satisfaction is not an adequate management tool.

Second, how are Toyota and other carmakers using their customer satisfaction surveys? I see automakers advertise satisfaction levels everywhere—magazines, television, billboards, etc. Yet, after completing several of these surveys, I have yet to be contacted in an effort to resolve or further understand any of my complaints.

Third, every survey I have taken after buying a car has been accompanied by “strong-arm” tactics from the salesperson regarding the scores that I intend to give them. Let’s face it…they don’t want to know how we feel! They simply want high scores.

General Motors is now controlled by the U.S. government. Toyota is teetering and forecasting an $8.4 billion loss for this year. Maybe it’s time the car companies get serious about listening to us (their customers) and really get customer-focused. Maybe we are the salvation that Toyota is grasping for.

About the Author

Phil Bounsall

Phil Bounsall

As president at Walker, Bounsall is focused on the development and execution of strategies and operating plans designed to enhance Walker’s position as a global leader in customer intelligence. Bounsall also works with Walker’s client service teams to help meet the needs of Walker’s clients.

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