Driving Volvo to Social Customer Service Heights

I run the Australian & New Zealand (ANZ) operations for Conversocial who are a leading provider of cloud-based social customer service solutions & the leaders in the #SocialFirst approach to customer care. I spend my time working with companies in ANZ who are looking to provide enterprise grade customer service to their social customers.

Whilst I’m used to talking about the needs of the Social Customer; I recently experienced the true frustrations that you sometimes get with Customer Service and why Social is such powerful platform for both consumers and companies.

Let me set the scene:

Two years ago I purchased a brand new Volvo XC60. Why did I choose a Volvo over other models? Safety. At the time my first-born was two & my wife was pregnant with our second child. If you are a parent you will understand that once you have kids your perspective on many things change. Mine changed dramatically on the car I wanted. Normally I would have chosen one primarily based on how much surfing I could do. I was sold on the Volvo XC60 because it included a number of impressive new safety features.

The other day when visiting a customer in Surry Hills I returned to my vehicle to find the battery flat. I then called the NRMA who are the standard for offering roadside assistance to cars that won’t start or a broken down in NSW. The NRMA promptly arrived at the scene within 15 minutes & started to run a number of tests on the battery, which proved that the battery was indeed dead & couldn’t simply be jumped started. The NRMA technician then asked me what I wanted to do. Being stuck in Sydney’s streets with hungry parking police only a moment away, I didn’t want to leave the car there. So I ordered a replacement battery from NRMA for $240. This required a specialist van to arrive & fit the battery. This only took another 30 minutes & I was ready to get to my next meeting.

Whilst relaying this story to my father a day later I was alerted to the fact that the Volvo might still be under warranty. If so then the battery should be covered. I checked the invoice from when I purchased the car & at the time of the break down I had owned the car for two years & one week.

I then decided to ring my friendly Volvo dealer. I asked to speak to someone in regards to a warranty claim and was passed to a guy in accounts. I confirmed the length of the warranty on my XC60 was in fact three years. The warranty covered all faults during this time including batteries.

I then relayed the chronology above to the dealer representative. He promptly informed me that all warranties are actually the domain of Volvo Australia & that they will not cover batteries that are replaced by the NRMA! Instead I was supposed to call Volvo Road Service & they would be the ones to determine if my battery was indeed dead. For (as the champion of customer service informed me) the NRMA is in the business of selling batteries so there is no way Volvo can know if the battery was truly deficient.

What a load of rubbish!

To suggest that the NRMA might be trying to ‘dupe’ me is rubbish. Two of their technicians ran extensive tests on the battery to determine its state. In fact I asked them why the exhaustive tests when the battery was clearly dead? The reply was that this was an audit trail in case someone questioned why the battery was replaced.

Needless to say at this stage I wasn’t happy with the Volvo dealer & started to argue my case on the phone. I was essentially told I didn’t have a leg to stand on and that Volvo wouldn’t be able to help me. I told the dealer it’s a shame the customer service is so bad as I was going to buy another Volvo next year but now I will be looking at other brands.

I wasn’t impressed. So I thought I would take my issue to the public sphere & see if they would listen.

I then posted the following tweet:

I then added:

About 30 mins later I got these two tweets in reply:

I promptly contacted the call centre & talked to a one of the Customer Service Representatives called Vanessa. I relayed the chronology above to Vanessa & stressed that I was looking for the replacement battery to be covered under Warranty. Vanessa told me that whilst they normally don’t cover batteries in such circumstances she would check with her supervisor. I then waited for a couple of minutes on the phone. Vanessa then was back on the line & informed me that in this case Volvo would be happy to cover the full costs of the replacement.

So I then promptly tweeted the following tweet, which Volvo also re-tweeted:

BTW I meant to say #greatcustomerservice but this got truncated on my mobile

I finally got what I wanted although it took me to use the power of twitter to get to the end result. I’m still going to buy another Volvo next year & am now a happy customer.

But what are the lessons that Australian companies can take from this example about the power of Social Media & using this medium for Customer Service?

#1 : Amplification

The first lesson would be that complaints on a Social medium reach a much larger audience than traditional mediums. A quick look at twitter revealed that the initial tweet was viewed 89 times in the first week:

Whilst my thank you tweet was viewed 885 times in the same time period:

When you think about this interaction it’s amazing and is a good example of why consumers want to interact with brands on social. The medium amplifies the message and as I have demonstrated, customers can get a result on social.

It is also very positive for the brand. A large number of people now know that Volvo can sort out issues when people have them. It also shows the brand as being flexible, customer friendly & human.

#2 — Cross Channel Switching

In my example, I started using twitter as my preferred channel of communication. Very quickly I was directed to use the phone and then email. I then finished the process on twitter.

So my channel journey was twitter to phone to email back to twitter!

The problem with this approach is that the vast majority of consumers prefer to be looked after in their chosen communication channel. Not to be shifted onto one the company is used to using like email or phone. True that some of my interaction needed to become private but this would have been handled with a Twitter Direct Message.

I’m in my early forties and I certainly much prefer to use Social to communicate. But what about Gen-Y? I can guarantee you that they only want to communicate via Social on their mobiles. If brands don’t communicate with this group in the channel they prefer then I think brands will find less & less people communicating with them.

There is also a big challenge for companies that force consumers to switch channels as Paul Johns articulates in Social media contact centers: What new teams, training and processes will be needed?

I quote:

“Social media is not like email or chat; its public nature means that a mistake can have huge ramifications for your company. At the same time, its rules and constraints can make mistakes very easy. If an agent is switching between private, traditional channels and public, social channels, they will slow down as they have to constantly re-think workflows and processes.”

#3 — Volvo Australia are in the early stages of using Social Customer Service

A quick analysis of the @VolvoCarsAus handle with the Riffle tool (available as a Chrome plugin) shows that @VolvoCarsAus only receive and send a very small amount of tweets daily. Additionally, the brand uses the native twitter tool and one of the “all-in-one social tools” for responding to tweets.

What would happen if @VolvoCarsAus actually received 20+ tweets/posts per day on their social channels? Or even, if they were like some consumer brands where the interaction levels were up around the 2000+ mark per day?

Well quite simply they would be in serious trouble. The tools you use when you first start to conduct Social Customer Care are not the tools that cut the mustard when your customers realise that you have a mature Social Customer Care process and decide to start interacting with you on masse.

Brands really need to utilise products that are built from the ground-up for Customer Service in the Social sphere. Not simply after-thoughts to a marketing platform. You need the ability to integrate historical conversations to give context to the current problem; you need to accurately measure SLA’s; you need to measure agent productivity; you need workflow; you need to ability to escalate critical tweets/posts to the front of the queue; you need to ability to escalate tweet/posts from Platinum customers and you need the ability to direct traffic to those agents with the right mix of skills to handle problems automatically.

Josh March nicely outlines these challenges in Why All-in-One Social Media Management Systems Don’t Cut It for Social Customer Service & CMOs: It’s Time to Hand over Inbound Social Media

In Summary, I am happy that my replacement battery was covered. Hats off to Volvo for providing great customer service in addition to fantastic safe vehicles. I trust that readers of this post found some value in my observations about how to use Social to provide Enterprise Customer Service. If you are interested in how to move to a #SocialFirst approach then please don’t hesitate to contact me on LinkedIn or @NickOgleNV