Study: Customers turn to social media for service
More consumers use sites to get their questions answered, gripes addressed
Nissan's Marx: More service activity
Mastering social media is getting tougher for auto companies and dealers because of shifting consumer expectations.
Consumers increasingly want their service questions answered via Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and fan sites, a new study by J.D. Power and Associates says. Companies that lack the ability to address questions on social media will lose customer loyalty, the study predicts.
"This represents a change in the market," says Jacqueline Anderson, J.D. Power's director of social media. "Until now, we've seen social media being mainly used to enhance the relationship between the brand and the consumer. What we're starting to see now is that younger consumers are more likely to use social media for service questions than for brand information.
"That's where they want to go for the information they want. And that's going to require a new level of customer handling than in the past."
Service issues include all communications that involve customer product questions, requests for help and complaints about a problem. Handling the issues via social media might involve as little as posting a Facebook answer to a question, or as much as providing instructions on what to do about a malfunctioning part.
Power's findings are part of a study that examines what companies are doing right and wrong in social media, in marketing and service.
Looking at social media marketing, an area that has been studied in detail by several consultancies, the study identifies Ford, Nissan, Toyota, Lexus, Kia, Hyundai, Fiat and Cadillac as top social media performers in the auto industry.
But in the service part of the study, the list of top automotive performers is different, and shorter. The study says Ford, Chevrolet, Toyota and Subaru handle service issues well on social media.
Erich Marx, interactive and social media marketing director at Nissan, corroborates the service activity trend. A year ago, he says, about 5 percent of Nissan's social media activity involved servicing. Today it is closer to 15 percent, he says. In 2012, Nissan's social media department hired five people for social media service support.
"We're striving to become faster in responding to customers online," Marx says. "These are customers who have chosen that particular time and place to ask their question or raise the issue that they have. They don't want to be phoned or e-mailed in response."
Anderson notes that auto dealers lag automakers in connecting with consumers through social media.
"A lot of dealers just don't have the resources to handle all this," she says. "Yet, how they interact with consumers on social media affects how customers feel about the brand."
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