Ford Motor Co. is using social media to be more proactive with customer concerns for its biggest auto brand.
The Ford brand’s eight, dedicated customer service agents use a customized search engine tool based on key words to monitor concerns, questions or comments on Twitter, Facebook, auto forums and message boards. Each issue is assigned to one agent until resolved.
“We are looking to engage with someone within hours of posting,” said Scott Monty, global manager of digital and multi-media communications at Ford. “Our goal is under four hours.” The conversations move quickly from the public realm of social media to private interactions with the agents, who often need to collect vehicle identification numbers and other personal data from owners.
Customers do have the option of switching the conversation with an agent to the phone. But for the most part, the consumers prefer to engage digitally, said Craig Daitch, manager of digital communications in the U.S. That can be challenging, especially if they prefer to Tweet on Twitter via 140 characters at a time, he added.
Ford is now responding to an average of 2,000 people weekly via social media and the interactions have continued to rise from a year ago. Still, the bulk of customer service issues are still handled in the traditional way- through call centers via a toll-free 800 number. That traditional way is reactive, said Daitch. “We are proactively finding these people.”
Sometimes happy Ford customers even help diffuse situations with people who post online negative comments about Ford, Daitch added.
Don’t believe the myth that these social media users are all under 25 years. Monty said the demographics of the people Ford serves via social media mirrors the brand’ broad demographics.
Steve Yourstone, a department chair at the University of New Mexico and Ford owner, was happy with the help he got. When the Albuquerque educator wanted more information about the arrival of his new 2011 Explorer, he asked about it on the SUV’s Facebook page. He said Ford’s social media agent “really seemed to reach out and care,”and was “pretty knowledgeable too.”
Yourstone said “I’d much rather use social media because the experts are very quick at getting responses back and I don’t have to go through a (phone) menu system and listen to music and press the right buttons. That’s just not for me.”
All automakers monitor consumer reactions online, noted Doug Scott, senior vice president of consultant GfK Automotive. But he said Ford is unique because of its signature innovation and joint venture with Microsoft for SYNC, the in-vehicle, hands-free communication and entertainment system that debuted in 2007. That popular system, upgraded in 2010 and renamed M yFord Touch got high visibility” on the way up and also on the way down,” he said.
There’s no downside for Ford here or any other company that proactively reaches out to consumers who are have issues.
Courtesy of Forbes