The consumers are different and the products worlds apart but there is a common thread.Â When the sudden acceleration issues with Toyota vehicles first emerged, the company hedged on a floor-mat cause, opted not to make disclosures and filings, and generally hoped the problem would just go away.Â It did not, has still not, and the recent data concluding that drivers are to blame in some accidents should not result in oh-what-a-feeling there at Toyota. When Apple customers, emerging from the queues with their latest iPhone, began to complain that the phone antenna did not work as they held the phone a certain way, Apple gave a classic Henny Youngman one-liner in response, â€˜Well, then, donâ€™t hold it that way!â€Â Apple also hoped that the whole thing would just go away.Â Â It did not, has not, and the ongoing explanations have not offered either reassurance or solutions. When Dell began to receive complaints about its computers failing from mathematicians at the University of Texas, Dell had a classic response, â€œWell, you have to quit doing so much math!â€ and hoped it would all go away.Â It did not and has not.Â Dell has finally reached a point of introspection and admission of fault.
Â What do you learn from all three companies?
Â 1. Â When a customer complains, do not attribute the problem the customer has found toÂ the customerâ€™s lack of skill or intelligence.
2. Regardless of your personal and company doubt, explore, explore, explore until you have done a root-cause analysis that makes sense and fits with the information customers have given to you.
3. Go public, go public, go public.Â The irony about forthrightness by companies is that the more information they release, the less interested the media are.Â When companies are honest and forthcoming, the media conclusion is,Â â€œNo story here.Â Just a company telling the truth.â€
4. If you have made a mistake, say you have made a mistake â€“ early and often.
5.Â Fix it.Â The cost will be more than recovered through the goodwill you earn in the press as well as in those customers who began with a simple complaint.Â This is a forgiving nation.Â Dismissiveness, denial, and doctored data are the stuff of brand destruction.