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It’s a familiar enough tale. A customer has a bad service experience or buys a faulty product and tries to get resolution. The vendor is slow to respond, and the unhappy customer takes to the airwaves to let the world know. Whether it’s Twitter hashtags, posts to the company’s carefully branded Facebook page, or inflammatory blog posts that tell the whole story, suddenly the media and general public is paying attention. It’s every small business owners’ nightmare, and there have been several cases in recent months about online complaints affecting car dealerships. Here’s what dealerships need to know about managing their social media presence during times of crisis.
Social platforms are an extension of your brick and mortar team
In today’s digital environment, social platforms are an extension of your brick and mortar team. From marketing to customer service, your team works hard to represent your brand. It’s important that you carry these values forward to how you handle your social media efforts as well. Your social media responses should be valuable, timely, and in your brand voice.
If handled correctly, your social media accounts can help you build brand recognition, manage customer issues, and attract new leads and customers. This is doubly true when you’re talking about online crisis management. Your presence should be professional and customer-focused at all times. It’s also important to think about protecting your brand and your business if the issues being discussed could open you up to legal action.
Timeliness and transparency are important
If a complaint does arise, how should you handle it? Many dealership owners’ first instinct is to try to bury the complaint. But if handled properly, an online customer service incident can be an opportunity to win new fans for your brand. Timeliness is important. It’s when complaints are ignored that they tend to go viral. Your social media accounts should be monitored daily, even on non-business days and over holidays.
Social media is a form of communication that’s never turned off. Respond quickly to any issues, acknowledging the complaint and offering concrete next steps. Are you investigating? Will you be providing a full refund? Will a manager call to discuss within one hour? Prioritize your response, and be clear about what that is. Transparency can also help other people watching the discussion see how you resolve a problem. If a customer has a service complaint and you acknowledge it promptly, specify that a manager will call, and then it’s noted as resolved, customers will be impressed.
Craft content with your audience in mind
Another strategy for winning fans through social media is crafting content with your audience in mind. The people most likely to interact with your brand online are customers and prospective customers. The kinds of information and interactions that are most helpful to them include new car releases, purchase deals, service deals, car maintenance information, and fun promotions related to the brand.
If the content you’re releasing helps solve a problem, educates, informs, or delights your customers, you’re on the right track. When dealing with social media crises, apply this concept by bringing your customer service policy online. The more you can highlight that you’re focused on providing the best customer service possible, the more you’ll connect with customers on social media.
Dealing with a customer service crisis is challenging in any format. Online it can be particularly stressful because it feels like the world is watching. Use your offline commitment to customer service to guide your approach, respond promptly and with concrete action, and remember that you’re communicating with customers in mind. Your dealership will be positioned to weather any storm or crisis that may arise.
About the author: Liz Alton is a freelance writer focuses on automotive trends. When she's not writing, she's on the hunt for her next VW car.