Chrysler misses chance to build customer loyalty, consultant, expert says about recall refusal

What’s the best marketing that money can buy?  It’s the customer service and support you provide.  Specifically: how you stand behind your existing customers. What could possibly matter more to someone considering buying your product–again, or for the first time–than how you address issues with the existing products you already have out in the marketplace?

Customer experience breakdowns are uncomfortable, and it can require good companywide training to learn to resolve them successfully. But you’ll find an opportunity hidden inside your company’s worst moments: the opportunity to bring a customer closer to you by showing how well you handle what can go wrong for them.

You can learn to handle customer service breakdowns so masterfully that, in most cases, the problem and its resolution can actually help you to create truly loyal customers who will become advocates for your brand, moving forward.

This is good news, because breakdowns are unavoidable in every industry. An ice storm forces you to miss a customer’s shipping deadline. A computer system goes down. A key employee walks out on you with no notice—on the only day you couldn’t possibly arrange coverage.

Or, it can be even worse: A waiter drops an entire tray of fruity drinks into a well-dressed customer’s lap.

Or, wait–it can be even worse than that: You could be Chrysler, and your customers could be dying, tragically, in the back seats of  your vehicles, due to a design defect. Not a new one, but one that was brought to your attention in 2009.

Believe it or not, even this horrific situation contained an opportunity for Chrysler to build customer loyalty.

Let me explain.

NHTSA has now famously asked Chrysler to recall the Jeep Grand Cherokees that are disproportionately and catastrophically catching on fire (the “Pintos for Soccer Moms,” as safety advocate Clarence Ditlow calls them). In response,  instead of refusing to do the recall, the new Italian owners of Chrysler could view this as an opportunity to say, in effect,

“We are a new Chrysler.  Better engineering, better management, and, above all, greater corporate responsibility.  We have an unusual, if expensive, opportunity to demonstrate this corporate responsibility by appropriately handling the defect in our product, even though it occurred under the previous management.”

This approach would have been, of course, highly expensive.  And it would have been the best marketing that money could buy.

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Micah Solomon is the business keynote speaker, author, and customer service consultant termed by the Financial Post ”a new guru of customer service excellence.” Solomon offers keynote speaking and consulting on customer service issues, the customer experience, and company culture — and how they fit into today’s marketing and technology landscape.  See Micah in action — including video and free resources — at Or, click here for your own free chapter  of Micah’s latest bestseller,  High-Tech, High-Touch Customer Service (AMACOM Books).———————————————————–

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© 2013 Micah Solomon.  Portions of this post may also have appeared in Micah’s previously published work.

2 thoughts on “Chrysler misses chance to build customer loyalty, consultant, expert says about recall refusal”

  1. You are assuming that the facts state that there truly is a design problem. I am no fan of either Jeep, Chrysler or Toyota, but these companies have been unfairly attacked by ambulance chasing lawyers in the past.

    Sometimes sticking to the truth and fighting back against bad customers is the best path.

    We’ll see how the facts play out. At this stage I am not ready to tar and feather Mr. Marchionne. Both government and lawyers seem more evil to me until the facts state otherwise.

    1. Thanks, Kevin. As far as the business reality: I suspect they’ll end up doing the recall anyway, at a point when it will no longer do them any good.

      But to address your concern that I am jumping to an assumption here, Kevin, this isn’t a new issue. It’s just newly in the headlines. The Center for Automotive Safety petitioned on the problem as early as 2009. Neither NHTSA nor Clarence Ditlow (Center for Automotive Safety) can really be categorized as ambulance-chasing, whatever other faults they may or may not have. Review this page, FWIW:

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