The Lexus Response

In 1989 Toyota launched a brand new series of luxury cars designed to compete with the likes of Mercedes Benz and BMW. After 9 years and over a billion dollars in investment, the first Lexus vehicle, the LS 400, was launched. Three months later, two owners contacted Lexus to complain about an overheated brake light.

Lexus’s response was quick and decisive. They launched a voluntary recall of every single vehicle sold to date (over 8,000). They sent technicians to pick up, repair and return cars completely free of charge. They even flew in technicians to customers who lived in remote areas and rented garage space nearby to conduct the repairs, to minimise the amount of inconvenience to the customer.

The cost of the recall probably came close to the entire profit from all sales, if not more. I’m sure other car manufacturers were chuckling as they saw Lexus throwing away so much money. But the result? 8,000 very impressed and happy Lexus owners, and an astonished market. It was this move that gave the Lexus brand the image of quality and care which it still carries today.

This is a great example of how you can turn a potential quality problem into a perception of good quality.

At a previous company we modeled our customer support strategy on this. We called it ‘The Lexus Response’, and the strategy was basically to overwhelm customers with helpful, timely and empathetic support so that they had no choice but to feel supported and looked after.

You can turn a frustrated customer into an extremely delighted customer by how you respond to their problems or concerns. This often leads to customers who have experienced quality issues with your product having a better overall perception of product quality than customers who have experienced no quality issues, just like the 8,000 Lexus LS 400 owners.

In a recent post, Cindy Alvarez has some good points about how to respond to customers, which ties in will with the Lexus Response. She says when customers take the time to complain to you, respond with the 4 A’s:

  1. Apologise
  2. Admit
  3. Ask
  4. Appreciate

If a customer or user of your product is passionate enough to take time out to give you feedback, good or bad, then consider the Lexus Response.

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