DEARBORN/MELBOURNE – When Steven Yourstone wanted answers about the arrival of his 2011 Explorer, he contacted Ford. But he didn’t pick up the phone or work through any complicated message systems. He simply asked his question on the Ford Explorer Facebook page. He got an answer from the Ford Customer Service Division social media team – along with a lot more.
“They really seemed to reach out and care,” said Yourstone, a department chair at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque. “They’re always in the threads, and they’re pretty knowledgeable, too.”
Yourstone is part of an audience that Ford is reaching by expanding its customer service to social media. By proactively monitoring comments, questions and concerns on Facebook, Twitter, auto enthusiast forums and message boards, agents are able to regularly engage with thousands of customers – and potential customers – in real time.
“Being online lets you cater to an audience that is used to instant gratification,” said Mont Wright, Customer Satisfaction manager in the Business Assistance Center.
“Many of these questions and these comments may never come to the phone – or even to e-mail,” Wright said. “In some situations, we can change a negative to a positive. In others, we can reach out to new customers. It’s been a very positive experience for us.”
Yourstone is very satisfied. He’s become an active member of the community on http://facebook.com/fordexplorer.
“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 menu system and listen to music and press the right buttons – that’s just not for me,” Yourstone said.
Other consumers must agree. In an average week, the Ford social media team will proactively engage customers from sites like http://www.explorerforum.com, http://www.themustangsource.com and http://www.fiestafaction.com, along with Ford Facebook walls and Twitter pages, reviewing thousands of comments.
“This growing channel, in addition to phone and e-mail, allows our customers to choose their preferred communication method,” said Elizabeth Foley, Ford Customer Service Social Media Program manager. “We always want to be where the conversation is taking place to better help our customers.”
With eight customer service agents at the helm, the social media team uses a customized search engine tool that allows agents to quickly find and respond to customer queries, comments or concerns.
The interactions run the gamut – from queries on new product arrivals to questions on warranties to concerns about repairs. Through social media, the agent can even enhance the experience for the customer through hyperlinks and added instructions.
“The ecosystem is much richer and satisfying online,” Yourstone said. “The agents can accentuate and contextualize their responses with photos, links and other important items you simply don’t receive through more traditional customer service methods.”
The agents have been specially trained to work in social media.
“This is a very public customer service platform,” said Foley. “It allows us, as a large corporation, to humanize our efforts by providing unscripted, personalized responses to each tweet or post.”
In addition to engaging with customers on Twitter via @FordService, Ford has been monitoring the sites for about a year.
Customer service satisfaction in social media averaged 84 percent positive for 2011.
The Melbourne Customer Service Social Media team. L-R: Team Lead: Melissa Webb, Agents: Noemi Ramos, Cory May, Deysha Barnes, Seni Aguiar, Natasha Vales and Thomas Bonifacio.