Fickle Consumers

That’s right, we consumers are a fickle bunch. Today we buy from company A because we heard some great things about them, and tomorrow we run for the hills and look for the local products, because local is in. We like to follow fads, and we’re actually pretty good at doing that.

Companies are well aware of the consumer attitude and loyalty (or lack thereof). As a result, some companies will go to great lengths to earn the loyalty of their customers, while others assume that the loyalty cannot be acquired. Which attitude is correct? Both and neither.

A few weeks ago, I wrote about one company, with what essentially amounts to a monopoly, and how they handled, or didn’t handle, a major image fiasco. In that case, the attitude was that customer loyalty is not relevant, since the customer has little choice but to use their service.

This article will be looking at another company with an image problem, but a completely different attitude – Toyota.

On account of a faulty design in a component of a car, Toyota was forced to issue a recall of hundreds of thousands of vehicles to address safety issues. The explanation for how such an oversight might have occurred in a company that was formerly known for its quality is quite simple. As the company grew, it exceeded its ability to maintain the same standards that brought it former success.

However, when it came time to deal with the product recall, the company did not look to excuses. The recall began with an apology for having let everyone down. The incident was not downplayed, but was addressed in full. What might have been a valid excuse was not discussed.

At the end of the day, Toyota may have lost some potential clients for the next few years. However, several people I’ve spoken to stated that they would continue to drive Toyota cars, because the company was open about the issue, and took appropriate steps to remedy the problem. I drive a Toyota (not affected by the recall), and would buy another.

What this shows is that the consumer isn’t always fickle. Sure, we change our minds arbitrarily, sometimes without any good reason. But sometimes, we do have loyalty to a particular brand, and so, when that brand makes a mistake, we look at how the mistake was handled before deciding whether or not to jump off the wagon.