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TinotopiaLog → Blaming the Customer ( 4 Mar 2002)
Monday 04 March 2002

Blaming the Customer

The Wall Street Journal reports (subscription required — the WSJ is well worth it) that Toyota has changed its warranty policy to cover engines that seem to have problems with oil sludging.

Formerly, dealers have refused to repair the engines under warranty unless customers could produce receipts proving that they’d changed the oil at the right intervals for “severs operating conditions”. Now, it appears that they’re just fixing the cars.

The column says, in part:

There are lessons to be learned here. One is that any car maker — no matter how sterling its reputation for quality — must think hard about responding to complaints with policies that effectively blame the customer for things gone wrong. It could be that the customer is off-base. But customers aren’t as powerless as in the past to fight back. That puts a different spin on the cost calculus for a manufacturer confronted by a problem like Toyota’s. Let’s say for argument’s sake that all 3,000 Toyota customers who reported engine-sludge problems are truly at fault for totally neglecting proper maintenance. It would still be cheaper for Toyota to replace all these engines for free than to risk significant, ongoing damage to its reputation. That reputation is worth hundreds of dollars per vehicle in extra profit, because many consumers will pay more to get a Toyota than a comparable vehicle from a weaker brand. “You don’t want to be blaming your customer,” says Mr. Rodland.

Why don’t more companies understand this? Most of the companies I deal with seem to delight in blaming the customer, and providing the mimimum service or product that they’re legally bound to. My mobile phone provider, for instance, isn’t contractually required to actually provide any phone service at all.

Posted by tino at 14:09 4.03.02
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