Don't Just Be Social, Be Helpful

The more we share, the more we have...
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automotive social media kruse controlWhat is a lifetime customer worth?

Whenever I hear that question I always think about my hero, Carl Sewell, who promotes the idea of the $517,000 customer. Every business has their version of this and in the car business, it represents the average customer who buys 12 cars in their lifetime. Including parts & service, they spend a total of $517,000.

Today, it’s so much more. Customers are connected with their friends, family and other consumers. Their experience with your business is shared exponentially. It’s no longer advisable or cost-effective to try to reach the masses.  The game today is to reach one while the masses watch.

According to a survey by American Express, one in five Americans have used Social Media for customer service. It also states that customers, on average, are willing to spend 21% more with companies that provide great service. Adam Broitman, chief creative strategist at Something Massive, describes this as the Loyalty Marketing Renaissance of 2013.

Developing the loyalty of repeat buyers is sometimes lost in the day-to-day operations of a business. All things considered, the only difference between you and the store down the street IS your customer service.

It’s crucial for Social Media to be a service channel, not just a promotional channel. When your customer has an issue, Social is the first place they go. It requires very little from them and they avoid frustration and controversy right out of the shute. Many times it’s just a matter of them wanting to vent and knowing how to handle that promptly and delicately will serve you many times over.

How are you equipped to respond? Are your Social channels an afterthought? Installing an inexperienced, untrained employee supplied with no more than a canned response won’t cut it. And not responding at all…well, that never turns out in your favor.

For many years, dealers have practiced consistent conflict resolution strategies. Take those tactics and extend their principles to Social channels. Implement a well-defined Social customer service policy for your staff to follow. You’ll avoid many of the pitfalls we hear about regularly by just making sure your bases are covered.

Solve their problem.

I had a client reach out to me in a panic asking how to respond to an irate customer who had an issue with their vehicle repair. The customer was extremely influential and had a strong Social Media presence. They were threatening to broadcast their unhappiness across their network.

As you would with any other conflict, whether by phone, in-person, email or Social, the first thing to do is remain calm. Listen, be attentive and interested. Then, fall back on your store’s conflict resolution process. When dissatisfied customers reach out, be there. Turning a negative into a positive leads to retaining a customer for life.

I had a question come from an independent used car dealer at a conference I was speaking at last month. They had a precarious situation where, through no fault of the dealer, the customer’s car had been repo’d by the bank. The customer had gone on the dealer’s Yelp page and blasted them. Here are 2 solutions for this situation:

  1. Always have a proactive strategy for capturing reviews from your happy loyal customers so that when things like this happen, you can sleep well knowing that the audience will see the negative for what it is – the consequences of non-payment. Your steady stream of happy loyal customer opinions will outshine those uncomfortable posts.
  2. In some cases, you can have the review deleted or flagged as inappropriate. Again, if a potential customer reads it, they will see it for what it is – someone who’s disgruntled because they didn’t meet their financial obligations.

Another important aspect of being helpful is providing information that’s readily available, even when you’re not. Think of your blog or other self-published content as a living business card that’s always there so you don’t have to be. Online shoppers seek out additional information to form their purchase decisions. What will your customer want to find in your content?

When customers consume your self-published content prior to sale they have a stronger connection with you.

Most often, they’re looking for answers to questions or solutions to problems. During the shopping process, your blog and Social Media allow you to provide information that develops the sale. Heck, if you satisfy their desire (in the form of a new car or an expert repair), you’re positioned to win their business for life. It’s a basic human need to seek pleasure and avoid pain. If you help your customers get what they want, you become remarkable.

85% of consumers expect businesses to be active on Social Media. When the connection is so easy and simple, the customer expects your response to be also. Customers like knowing you’re responsive to their needs. You’re seen as trustworthy and that’s a line to future business. Are you ready to live up to or exceed your customers’ expectations?

The more we share, the more we have...
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