What Ecommerce Store Owners Can Learn From Toyota

Written by  February 2, 2010

Unless you have been hiding under a rock or living in a cave recently you’re well aware of the issues big auto maker Toyota faced with recalling cars due to faulty accelerator pedals.

Watching this unfold I found three important things that ecommerce store owners can learn from it.

Toyota has put in place a method to remedy the accelerator problem and are working to correct it, but they are now also faced with what might be an even bigger challenge—rebuilding customer confidence.

Ecommerce store owners take note, here’s what we can learn:

  1. Speed. The speed at which they addressed the issue from the customers perspective was slow. It has been reported that many customers have vented frustrations over the slowness to respond to the issue, and the lack of a “public face” being tied to the issue.

    You see, as we know, customers expect a number of things and one of those is speed. Speed in shipping, speed in customer response times, and speed at correcting any problem if one should arise are just a few.

    When a problem arises customers want someone to stand up, take blame personally, and fix it fast. According to reports and feedback gathered from consumers, Toyota failed (at least in many consumers eyes) to address the issue fast enough. Yes, they are doing it now, and that is a good thing, but many customers confidence has already been shaking by the initial response time.

  2. Service. Customer service, quality, and reliability are some of the top ways Toyota has been able to distinguish themselves to this point.

    At least in the customers eyes, Toyota did not provide the level of service they (the customers) are use to when it came to this problem (again, initially). Toyota reports that they are indeed working on, and have remedied the issue, and are in the process of shipping out “the fix”, but as we’ve seen, some damage may have already been done in the eyes of the customers.

    Depending on how they handle this issue from here on out will determine how well then can rebuild customer confidence. Handle it properly and they should be able to correct the initial perception, but it would have been better to have addressed it from the start the way customers expected it to avert this confidence problem entirely.

  3. Growth. Growth of all business is welcomed. It’s what we strive for. Growing too fast however can cause problems.

    I heard one reporter say that Toyota set out as one of its objectives to overtake GM as the world’s largest car manufacturer. And they succeeded in doing that. But that success came with a price.

    It’s the old “quality vs. quantity” issue. The fewer of something you make (in general), the more attention you can pay to its quality. The more of something you make, the less time there seems to be to devote to quality (at least this is the way it tends to work out.) This is why sometimes you get better service from a small business (who knows you by name) over larger businesses where you tend to become just a number.

    In this case, Toyota grew, but they may have grown at the expense of quality—at least temporarily. It’s not always good to be the biggest—it quite often is better to be the best at what you do.

    If that means slower growth, then so be it. Your growth will breed quality and for that your customers will remember you.

So what can ecommerce store owners learn from Toyota?

  1. When issues arise, be fast and open to inform your customers of them, take blame if required, and correct those issues asap. It’s inevitable that at some point you’ll encounter customer service issues. It’s not a question of if, but rather when (even the best can’t avoid it.) How you deal with these issues when they arrive is what will determine your outcome.
  2. Grow your company at a rate that your internal operations allow. If the infrastructure is not there to keep up with growth, your company will have to sacrifice something to keep that growth alive and that sacrifice usually ends up hurting in the end.
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