An unfortunate part of being a buyer of any company’s product is that sometimes you have to complain to get an issue resolved. While we expect our Toyota’s to work perfectly, this isn’t always the case. Here’s our recommended process for registering your customer service complaints with Toyota:
- Calm down – if you get emotional, you’re more likely to be viewed as a “crazy person” rather than a person with a legitimate problem.
- Make a plan – Decide what you want the dealer or Toyota to do to solve your problem.
- Call the local dealership and ask to speak to the General Manager FIRST – do NOT call Toyota’s national hotline right away. Instead, gradually escalate from the local dealership to the regional office to the national hotline.
- Certified mail is legal correspondence, so use it if all else fails*
Here’s a breakdown of all the steps, with explanations as to why we recommend this process.
Yesterday Toyota announced their new rapid-response S.W.A.T. SMART team to deal with unintended acceleration complaints within 24 hours of being alleged. SMART – which stands for Swift Market Analysis Response Team – is supposed to contact Toyota customers within 24 hours of an unintended acceleration complaint. SMART members will schedule an on-site analysis of the customer’s vehicle, and – if necessary – bring in some Engineers from Japan to look things over.
No, this is not an April Fool’s joke that’s 8 days late – this is real. Here’s the commentary:
Few things are more frustrating than having a problem with your vehicle. In fact, there’s a good chance you bought a Toyota because you thought that it wouldn’t have any problems. Unfortunately, even a Toyota has the occasional issue. But what about when your Toyota car, truck, or SUV has a problem that isn’t resolved to your satisfaction? Maybe you’ve been to the dealership for the same problem multiple times, maybe you know that the vehicle has a known issue that Toyota isn’t acknowledging, or maybe you’ve just been treated poorly. In any case, here is how you can get what you want.
First tip — don’t call Toyota’s national customer service hotline unless you’ve already tried working the problem out with your dealer (see below). If you call Toyota’s national hotline right away, you’ll get the attention of the dealership and Toyota, but you’ve ruined any leverage you have over the dealer. Toyota dealers are graded on their customer service as much as they are on sales, and by informing Toyota of your dissatisfaction you’ve let the “cat out of the bag”. Now the dealer has less to gain by helping you — the dealer is more willing to help you if they know you’re not going to tattle on them to Toyota.
Second tip — your best hope for a solution is to work with your local dealer. Believe it or not, the dealership is invested in solving your problem because they know it’s the best way to make you a lifetime customer. Dealers spend thousands of dollars in advertising trying to create trust with their customers, but statistics show that the best way to create trust is to solve problems. Good dealerships know that solving customer problems is money well spent. Even if the dealership is the problem, your local dealer is still the best place to get a solution.
However, this doesn’t mean that a dealership will solve every customer service problem free of charge, or even solve them at all. In order for a dealership to justify spending money to solve a customer service problem they have to believe that they’re creating or preserving a customer relationship. In other words, if you want to get your problem solved, you’re going to have to convince the dealership that you’re going to be a good future customer and give them good publicity.
The best way to convince a dealership you’re going to be a good customer in the future is to show them you’re a good customer now. When working with anyone at the dealership, be nice. Let’s admit it — sometimes it feels good to yell at someone. But if you want to get the best customer service you’ll need the people at the dealership to like you. “Kill em’ with kindness” and you will prove you are a customer worth saving. Also, bragging about how many cars you’re going to buy, or that your company allows you to make purchase decisions, etc., doesn’t work. Everyone makes those claims. Instead, talk about how much you like the service manager, your salesperson, etc. These statements will do more to convince the dealer you’re a good customer than any bragging you can do.
Third tip — speaking with the general manager of the dealership is the best thing you can do to help yourself. While there are many managers in a dealership, the GM has the power to solve nearly any problem. The GM can pick up the phone and speak with one of Toyota’s regional executives, authorize an expensive repair, or even decide to warranty a vehicle. Toyota empowers every dealership general manager to act on their behalf — perfect for solving customer service problems. They also tend to have the most experience and maturity in the dealership, making them very easy to work with too.
If you’ve tried everything and the GM at your local dealership can’t help you, you have a couple of choices. You can call another local dealer and try over again with them, or you can contact Toyota Motor Company. If you problem is with your vehicle, you should try a couple of local dealers before you call. On the other hand, if the problem is with a dealership, then it’s time to call Toyota.
If calling, I suggest you try a two-pronged approach and call both your local Toyota regional office and the national help line. You can find the phone numbers below. While the local regional office will often refer you to the national helpline, with a little persistence you can speak with a regional executive about your problem.
To recap, when you have a problem with your Toyota that isn’t resolved to your satisfaction, start by working with your local dealership. The dealer wants to earn your faith and trust, and they will often go above and beyond to do so. When you speak with anyone at the dealership, be nice. You want them on your side. Ask to speak to the GM too — the GM has the power to solve your problem and they also have the full backing of Toyota. Finally, if the GM at your local Toyota dealer can’t solve your problem, work with Toyota’s national hotline and try to talk to someone at the regional office. If you’re persistent and you’re nice, you’ll get the best customer service possible.
NATIONAL HOTLINE: 800-331-4331
- Boston Office (ME, NH, VT, MA, RI) 508-339-5701
- New York (NY, NJ, CT) 973-575-7600
- Central Atlantic (PA, VA, WV, MD, DE) 410-760-1500
- Southeast Region (NC, SC, AL, GA, FL) 954-429-2000
- Cincinnati Region (MI, OH, KY, TN) 513-745-7500
- Chicago Region (MN, WI, IL, IN) 630-907-0150
- Kansas City Region (ND, SD, NE, KS, IA, M0) 816-891-1000
- Gulf States Region (OK, TX, MS, LA, AR) 713-580-3300
- Portland Region (AK, WA, OR, ID, MT) 503-493-4900
- Denver Region (WY, CO, UT, NM, AZ, NV) 303-799-6776
- San Francisco Region (Northern CA) 925-830-8300
- LA Region (Southern CA) 949-727-2700