Quality is achieved through the integration of various business activities, including development, design, purchasing, production, sales and after-sales service. Each area is indispensable in the delivery of satisfactory quality to customers. Toyota continues to aim to put the principles of "Customer First" and "Quality First" into practice and to respond to the expectations of customers and society at large. That is why every member across Toyota's operations maintains high consciousness of quality, takes ownership for issues that may arise and responsibility for implementing improvements. All areas cooperate closely with one another towards enhancing customer confidence and trust in Toyota.
In April 2012, with the goal of becoming a quality leader from the customer's perspective, Toyota combined the Customer Service Operations Group and the Quality Group to establish the Customer First Promotion Group. The Customer First Promotion Group is promoting various customer-first and quality-first initiatives with the major objectives of improving the ability to respond quickly to quality issues, bolstering support for after-sales service functions at dealers and distributors, and strengthening internal systems toward quality improvements. The Customer First Promotion Group, which acts as a direct link between customers and the appropriate internal departments, is striving to proactively disseminate market information as a customer advocate, strengthen initiatives to discover and resolve issues early by paying utmost attention to initial reports of quality issues from customers, and enhance Toyota's ability to support dealers with troubleshooting and repair.
In addition to working with production engineering and manufacturing divisions to ensure product safety, development and design divisions are working on developing various products in order to improve customer confidence. One example is the work being done on developing a method of issuing warnings that can be easily understood by customers based on the philosophy of helping the customer feel safe even if an unlikely failure occurs. For example, in the past, when a brake fluid leak occurred, only a warning light would light up on the dashboard display. In order to properly communicate to the customer what has happened and what action should be taken, Toyota has begun adopting a warning method that also sounds an alarm in addition to showing the warning details on the display.
Designating February 24, the date when a public hearing on quality issues in North America was held, as the "Toyota Restart Day," Toyota has been moving forward to build a framework that will ensure that the focus on quality remains in place. By incorporating this framework into company-wide education, Toyota is working to develop global human resources involved in various quality aspects. In FY2012, Toyota enhanced its Customer Quality Learning Center, a hands-on learning facility where employees can learn based on the genchi genbutsu(on-site, hands-on experience) concept. In addition to classroom learning, the Center provides learning aids that involve all five senses, such as panels, videos and actual customer feedback, and is expanding their use in employee education and various events.
High product quality and excellent sales and after-sales service are both essential to customers and must be improved. By thoroughly understanding how each customer feels, Toyota is striving to improve customer satisfaction. In its global customer satisfaction initiatives, Toyota is pouring resources into educating dealer staff and is working to strengthen the skill levels of Service Advisors, repair technicians, and vehicle body parts technicians through an education/certification system. At the same time, Toyota is also enhancing its operations through standardization of and improvements to on-site operations, such as servicing processes, parts supply, and sales and after-sales service linked operations.
Toyota's principle of Customer First exists for the purpose of providing customers with products and services that earn their smiles. On this basis, Toyota hopes to offer cars with superior features in terms of environmental, safety and quality performance, while also offering the intrinsic appeal of cars, such as driving performance, at an affordable price. Therefore, in order to make better cars, Toyota makes rigorous use of customer opinions gleaned from dealers and the Customer Assistance Center.
The Toyota Customer Assistance Center, as well as the Lexus Information Desk dedicated to Lexus brand models, offer toll-free phone consultation 365 days a year and accept brochure requests 24 hours a day in Japan. With this convenient customer-oriented system, Toyota offers speedy, appropriate and empathetic responses to customer inquiries, and listens to opinions and requests, based on the principle of Customer First. At the same time, Toyota undertakes initiatives to link this feedback to the creation of better products and services. Furthermore, the Salesperson Support Desk was established in order to support dealers in implementing the Customer First principle. Toyota also conducts surveys of customers who use the telephone service via an automated response system, in an effort to make further improvements. In FY2012, 420,000 telephone calls were received, of which 352,000 were for matters of consultation, 36,000 were for expressing opinions and making requests, and 32,000 were related to salesperson support.
Toyota has named the nationally designated Consumer's Month of May as Customer's Month, and is continuing to undertake initiatives aimed at permeating awareness of the Customer First principle throughout the company. In FY2013, Toyota held customer feedback experience events, exhibitions, and lectures with the aim of encouraging them to perceive customer feedback with a sense of ownership and to take action. These events were based on the theme "What areas of your behavior have changed in what ways in order to be rewarded with the smiles of customers?" As part of internal training, Toyota also holds customer feedback experience seminars throughout the year to monitor customer feedback at the Customer Assistance Center.
In order to offer products and services based on the Customer First principle, Toyota has established customer assistance centers not only in Japan, but also in the U.S., Europe, other Asian countries, and at each distributor around the world. Some encouraging customer feedback received at these centers is listed below.
In the Vehicle Dependability Study (VDS), published in February 2013 by J.D. Power and Associates, a global organization specializing in surveys and consulting in customer satisfaction, Toyota cars won the first place in seven segments: Lexus ES 350, Lexus RX, Scion xB, Scion xD, Toyota Prius, Toyota Sienna, and Toyota RAV4. In the study, the Lexus RX had the fewest reported issues in the industry, which is the first time in the history of VDS that a crossover or SUV has achieved this accolade.
In the Initial Quality Study, which rates the initial quality of cars sold in North America, published by the company in June 2013, the Lexus ranked third by brand (first in 2012) and Toyota ranked sixth (eighth in 2012).