General Motors puts social in the driving seat

11 November 2013

Grumbling and complaining customers are a good thing.  Yes, really.

Disgruntled customers can show you which elements of your product, service or business processes are damaging your brand and need improvement. If you deal with those complaints quickly and efficiently, then you can create loyal customers that will spread the good news about your company and will be more likely to buy from you again.

Most disgruntled customers will not complain directly - 96% of businesses do not hear from their unhappy customers. Furthermore, between 65% and 90% of those that keep quiet will simply never buy from you again - and you will be none the wiser.

But social media is making it easier for customers to vent their spleen about shoddy service or products.

A 2013 UK survey by global insurer XL Group revealed that while complaints are still mainly made to the place the product was purchased or by calling a customer service number, social media is gaining favour. More than one third of survey respondents said they were more likely to choose social media to make a complaint than a year ago.  This was particularly true for those in the online-savvy 18 to 34 age bracket.

General Motors (GM) understands the power - for good and evil - that peeved customers can wield and has invested a great deal of time and effort into turning aggrieved customers into loyal fans.

24/7 monitoring

Monitoring social media for disgruntled customers or problems is a 24/7 operation for the car giant.  Realising that many people turn to the web rather than contact their dealer, GM monitors Facebook, Twitter and 90 car-lovers websites for negative comments about the company or products.

But it doesn’t just monitor: it will also intervene, either by trying to find people the parts their after, connecting them to a dealership or simply help to diffuse their anger by letting them know that the company is listening to their gripes and doing their best to solve them.

Its 18 social media watchers will either answer questions online or post 200 to 300 times a day.  Almost half of those staff interventions are responses to Twitter posts and half to the fan forums.

One of the areas it looks at is warranties, in particular, when customers’ cars go wrong when they are just out of warranty. Weighing up each case individually, GM will sometimes offer to pay for the repairs or split cost with customers, if there’s a reasonable case for doing so.

Dealer buy-in

GM has also got its 4,300 dealerships onboard, insisting that they use one of three reputation-management vendors to monitor reviews of their performance or risk financial penalty.

The company’s efforts have singled it out as one of the top social media performers in the Fortune 500, recognised not only its work on dealing with complaints but also its brand online brand awareness.

GM shows that used in the right way, social media can provide a fantastic opportunity for identifying and solving complaints quickly and turning a negative into a positive.

About the author

Tom Cregg has been in the automotive industry since 1983, having started with Mercedes-Benz at its UK headquarters.  Since then, Tom has occupied a number of senior regional operational and management roles including with Daimler-Chrysler and SAGE Auto Group in the United States. 

Passionate about connecting automotive manufactures with their customers, Tom has been involved in developing some of the industry’s most intelligent business tools and e-commence systems designed to provide sales, marketing and services teams with a single view of customers.

Tom is a sought after industry expert, helping clients develop business strategies and technological capabilities to better identify and convert new prospects into loyal customers.   He believes the industry has much to learn from retailers including how to engage consumers across multiple touch points and channels including the internet, showroom and service centres. 

Tom is currently spearheading the development of an industry-wide business intelligence tool to connect multiple systems including customer relationship management (CRM) to change the way dealers create and manage sales and service customer experiences so brand loyalty drives sales.  

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