Tackling Customer Service via Social Media at Your Dealership

Customers are increasingly turning to social media to reach out to businesses regarding their brand experience. Mashable claims that 62% of consumers have used social media for customer service issues, and that number will only grow as new networks arise and existing networks become more ingrained in daily life. Customers even think that companies are more responsive when customers complain on social, but that’s not necessarily the case. In fact, in 2011, 56% of the top 50 brands did not issue a single response to their customers’ comments on Facebook and 71% of complaints on Twitter were ignored. These are clearly missed opportunities to foster a better dialog with your existing customers, while also demonstrating in a public forum that you actually care about the people your business depends on.

Brands not only need to understand the conversations going on around them on social, but need to understand where and how to respond to them. For example, a study by Buffer shows that 60% of social media care inquiries came from Twitter, but brands allocate their time more to responding on Facebook.

A common misconception is that customer care on social media is simply dealing with complaints; instead, social is increasingly becoming a way to surprise and delight customers. Take Ryan Klarner, a high school swimmer from Palatine, Illinois. Ryan wrote on Taco Bell’s Facebook page, explaining that he eats Taco Bell after his swimming workouts 5-7 times a week, and asked for a customized Taco Bell Speedo. While Ryan doesn’t have thousands of Twitter followers, Taco Bell wrote back asking for his address to send his requested Speedo. As a result, the brand has gotten publicity from the Huffington Post, AdWeek, and Business Insider.

How do these stories translate to a consumer’s social experience with your dealership? Increasingly auto customers are turning to social not only to research and shop for vehicles, but to communicate with their dealers on customer service topics. These sorts of stories are only going to become more commonplace as consumers integrate social more deeply into their daily lives and the prize for paying attention, as in the case of Taco Bell, gets bigger.



Recently, a consumer who broke down on the side of the road at a northwest Toyota dealer didn’t call the dealership; she didn’t email their service department or go to their website; she turned to Facebook and sent the dealership a message saying that she was having her vehicle towed in. The dealership closely monitors their Facebook page and responded immediately, confirming that they knew she was coming in and would take a look right away. This is a great example of a personalized response to a consumer via the channel they feel most comfortable using.

Here are the most important response factors for dealers when it comes to monitoring social media and communicating with their customers.

1. Make it personalized.

For example, at DeltaAssist, representatives monitor for mentions of Delta issues, assign them to a queue, and indicate their initials when responding. Not only does this help consumers feel listened to, but this solution helps handle issues that would normally occupy in-person staffers. When a customer engages you on social, be attentive, but remember that your responses are public. You don’t have to pen a novel, but make sure that you’re not saying anything that you wouldn’t want thousands of followers to see.

2. Make it speedy

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55% of consumers expect a response from social within 4 hours, but brand response times fall more in the range of 24 hours. If you’re not paying attention to the social media channel, it’s easy for response times to quickly add up; then your customers don’t just feel ignored, they may vent their feelings online, leading quickly to a public relations debacle.

3. Make it relevant

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Dealers need to make sure their replies are directly related to what customers are actually saying and not just sending automated messages in response. For instance, Bank of America utilized a social media monitoring tool to automatically respond to consumers mentioning them, but it backfired when one consumer tweeted about being close to a BofA location and the brand issued an automated response apologizing for an issue the consumer hadn’t complained about.

So what initial steps should dealers take to start using social media as a customer care channel? If staying on top of social media seems daunting, remember, you can leverage existing resources, social media software, and industry-leading examples to get you started. Simply throwing up a Facebook page and a Twitter feed are not enough, and can be actually detrimental if you’re not on top of these channels around the clock.

Connect marketing and customer service at your organization

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Everyone should be speaking from the same playbook when it comes to your brand’s messages, and there should be a clear delineation on who owns what when it comes to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, or any other social channels your dealer has a presence on.

Leverage software platforms

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There are a host of social monitoring and engagement tools on the market that do a great job of scanning the web for customer responses, even by specific keywords. Make sure that if you’re choosing to use software, you personalize your available responses so that they’re consistent with your brand voice.

Pay attention to brands leading social customer service

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These are brands like Ford, Coca-Cola, and Delta that have all successfully taken a very proactive approach to customer service on popular social channels. Follow them on Twitter and like their FB pages to see how they handle positive and negative customer service inquiries. While you won’t have their marketing budgets, you can certainly learn from some of their best practices and determine which ones you can adopt at your own dealership.



Treat every complaint as a chance to win back business.

In a study by Maritz and Evolve24,83% of people who submitted a complaint about a brand on Twitter liked or loved getting a response from the company, and almost 75% of those were very or somewhat satisfied with the response they received. When a customer complains, they’re giving you a chance to rectify what’s gone wrong; these consumers, unlike the ones that silently defect to the dealership down the street, may not have completely closed the door on you.

Treat each time you respond as a chance to win new business.

Remember, 70% of consumers trust the recommendations of their family and friends, so when you address a complaint, make your goal to give those consumers an experience that they they’re not only satisfied with, but want to share with their networks. When Peter Shankman shared his story about Morton’s Steakhouse meeting him at the Newark Airport, people came out of the woodwork to share their stories of how Morton’s went above and beyond for them in the past.

While most dealers today realize they can’t ignore social as an important marketing medium, they must also realize it’s going to be used increasingly as a customer service channel. Dedicating the right people and technology and understanding the importance of response time and personalized, consistent messaging will be key to providing the best social media service for your customers.

Katherine Lyman, senior product marketing specialist at Outsell (www.outsell.com).

Katherine Lyman

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