When it released a press release on February, 28th saying it was shutting down all of the retail stores, I was so impressed with the clear and direct writing that I started writing an article how every press release should be written they way Tesla does it.
A few weeks later, Tesla released another press release saying that it was only shutting down the lowest-performing stores. Then, on March 27th, almost one month from the original announcement, Elon Musk had to send a personal email to all of his employees again reiterating that they are in fact, not closing many retail locations. If that wasn't enough action for one day, on the same day as his March 27th email, he again had to clarify Tesla's return policy agreement via twitter.
The original press release said that anyone could return it within seven days or 100 miles. Then fine print on their website said that if you took a test drive, then that rule doesn't apply. Then, Elon Musk tweeted that you actually could return it, regardless. If you take a test drive or not.
This back and forth caused quite a bit of confusion and chaos with Tesla's employees, customers and shareholders. Elon Musk was forced to go back and correct his mistakes.
I'm a huge fan of move fast and break things, but this uncertainty is causing some distress to customers and investors.
Here's how these situations should have been handled:
Fix miscommunication with clarification and clarity
Telling the world and your retail employees that they are going to lose their jobs very soon and then retracting the message a few weeks later, is hardly a small blunder. In fact, many people would lose their jobs if that happened.
So, Musk does what he does best: Sends a personal message to all of his employees with what's happening next. A direct message in clear language straight from the CEO beats any press release or letter from HR any day of the week. Now, this email wasn't perfect by any means.
A better email would have been more specific: X stores are closing, Y are staying open, and Z are under review to be closed. Instead, it gave a general guideline of how they would determine if the stores are closing are not.
Yes, it's great that employees aren't losing their jobs, and there is uncertainty, but I personally love how he sends emails and he communicates with his employees and customers. He's always open to admitting he was wrong and communicate what's happening next.
If you're in this situation, clarity and direction on exactly what's happening next is always the next best step. Make sure your follow-up message isn't vague as it will add more confusion.
If you're going to release a message announcing a big change, stick with it.
I personally don't think anything is set in stone. There is always a reason to change. But changing massive things a few weeks after you announce it, is hardly a good route to take for the brand and employee morale.
When it comes to major announcements, you're almost always better off waiting until everything has been thought through. You have a duty to your employees and customers that they should trust when you say things.
When faced with miscommunication, error on what's best for the customer.
This is one thing I truly admire about Tesla and Elon Musk is their ability to move quickly and when they are faced with miscommunication they always revert to the message that was better for the consumer in the end.
Elon could have easily said that the fine print message regarding not being able to return the car was correct, and customers could not return the car if they took a test drive. Instead, he took the better route for the customer, and Tesla adjusted the language almost immediately. That's impressive.
Change is good. Too much causes unnecessary chaos.