On a routine drive into the city, my 2011 Volvo XC60 overheated. No warning lights, just a lot of smoke billowing from underneath the hood. Most Volvo engines last 20 years with routine maintenance. It's one reason brand advocates of the company are attracted to the vehicle. But because of this incident, I discovered another reason.
After getting the vehicle towed to a dealer in Manhattan, I turned my frustration to an outlet that I had never used as a consumer but had regulated for several of my own clients, the Volvo Facebook page. My post in the community was a simple test. I wanted to know if someone would respond to my post, ignore it or -- worse -- reply with a simple, "We hear your issue, we'll try to take care of you." Trust me, I've seen this. I had worked with dozens of brands in this area in the past five years and many are still unwilling to assign a member of the CRM team as an administrator to answer product or crisis inquiries.
What came next was a surprise. Less than 12 hours after my post, I had a voicemail from Debbie Lentz at Volvo North America. My comment had been forwarded to her from the community-management team who ran the page. Debbie tracked my contact number down because Volvo had it on file from my purchase.
Debbie had already looped in my purchasing dealer to let him know what was happening so he could make a record of it. She also had spoken to the dealer in charge of repair to make sure he kept me in the loop and reimbursed me for the rental car I needed. She even gave me her direct number and told me to contact her in case something went awry in the future. I felt very well taken care of and it reaffirmed my faith in the brand I have driven since 1993.
All of this action went against most of the customer-relations craziness the majority of us as consumers are used to dealing with on a daily basis with the thousands of brands with which we engage.
Brands talk about trying to turn their fans into brand advocates and ambassadors through nifty marketing techniques, games or viral pass-along coupons. But the real way to shape an influencer is exactly how Volvo approached my true-life scenario. When a consumer has an issue, engage with him at any cost. Fix the issue and make sure he is satisfied. Let him know you care about fixing the issue and letting other fans know you take customer service seriously within your digital communities.
It is much easier said than done but brands must be willing to put forth an effort in this area if they are to survive in the new era of conversation-stream marketing. Brand managers who ignore this advice and continue treating community as a simple push-messaging service will ultimately lose the ability to convert disgruntled customers into brand advocates through a tactical CRM strategy. But brands who can do this will ultimately create a consumer who will remain a brand loyalist and may even become an influencer, telling friends and family about their positive experience. I'm a testament to that. Thanks again, Volvo.
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