When things go awry, the majority of companies quickly look for someone to lay the blame on. Whether you’re British Petroleum, and you place all the blame on the contractor for an oil spill, or a small business owner shaming an employee for not doing something that they were never instructed to do in the first place, the onus is always put on someone else. Playing the blame game is a quick ticket to becoming a pariah in any industry – that is, if you do not have the political clout to whitewash your objectionable behavior. Nobody wants to hear you kvetch and complain that it was someone else’s fault. What they want is for you (or your company) to raise your hand and shamelessly accept responsibility. Playing the “I’m so sorry and I’m sad; now please feel bad for me” card is just as bad as pretending as though you are not part of the problem.
The blame game is bad. Blaming the customer when something goes wrong is worse – a million times worse. Recently, two major brands have fatuously decided to take this very foolish and outlandish public relations approach – somehow forgetting that it is the customer that is the hand that feeds them.
First off, there’s Apple, and the ominous faulty antenna debacle. All the excitement about and anticipation for the release of the iPhone4 was very soon converted into frustration and indignation. A great deal of folks had poured their hard earned money – many an entire week’s worth of pay – into Apple’s latest gadget, only to soon realize that it had a major flaw: holding the iPhone4 a certain way led to a dropped call.
And what was Apple’s initial response?
“Well, don’t hold the phone that way!”
It was quite the knee-jerk reaction – hardly characteristic of what you would expect from such an incredibly successful multinational corporation. But it wasn’t long before Apple realized what it had done: it had bitten the hand that fed it. Scrambling to attenuate the displeasure, Apple decided that it could only do one thing, and that was to admit fault, come clean, and do whatever possible to win back the hearts of its customers. Fortunately, it didn’t take much to keep Apple users from going berserk – a promise to improve service and a free bumper sticker surprisingly did the trick.
But Apple isn’t the only company who thought it fit to point its finger at the customer. How about Toyota, and its debacle? For those that don’t recall what occurred, all across the nation, Toyota car owners were getting into wrecks, many dying as a result, because of sudden and uncalled for acceleration in Toyota’s automobiles.
The uproar occurred when Toyota denied that the issue had anything to do with a design malfunction, choosing to blame the drivers instead, claiming that it was their poor driving that resulted in the crashes, nothing else.
Much like the way Apple conducted itself shortly after making an excuse, Toyota decided to recant, knowing that it was the only way to not infuriate the hand that fed them. Toyota has now made an effort to search for the causes of this unintended acceleration issue, as denial was no longer feasible. It has since recalled over eight million cars in only the past year.
At the end of it all, two companies made near grave mistakes, and quickly realized that it was best to come clean in order to reestablish credibility. It’s never a good idea to blame the customer, even if they are wrong. Toyota and Apple learned this the hard way.