The battle for customers in the automotive industry is hyper-competitive. Dealers advertise low price loss leaders and court an Internet buyer with competitive pricing that sometimes results in negative gross deals. Service departments advertise low priced oil changes to both upsell and win a new customer. Dealers send mailers, direct mail, use traditional and digital marketing; all to try and persuade a potential customer to choose them. Many companies, however, don’t take advantage of a free method with which to gain customers – social media.
I talk about using technology to gain customers frequently. Using the communication methods that your customers use is an excellent way to engage and interact with them. However, a lot of dealers don’t see value or opportunity in these platforms, mostly because determining ROI is difficult. This technology can, however, be used to win new customers, if done correctly.
Take, for example, a recent conversation that two large mobile phone carriers had with a customer using Twitter. AT&T and T-Mobile duked it out on Twitter based on a single tweet by a consumer questioning AT&T’s international data rates. T-Mobile responded quickly to the customer informing him that they don’t charge additional rates for overseas data. They quickly went into customer acquisition mode by listening to what people were saying. AT&T jumped into the conversation sharing their opinion that they had superior service to T-Mobile in a creative manner. Ultimately, after a few exchanges between AT&T and T-Mobile with the customer listening, the Twitter account of the CEO of T-Mobile jumped into the conversation with a simple observation and challenge – that AT&T’s CEO wouldn’t personally make the effort to also join in the conversation and prove to the potential customer that they were valued. The customer ultimately was impressed and tweeted that T-Mobile’s CEO had “definitely caught [his] attention” and that he was “going to a T-Mobile store to inquire tomorrow.”
The most telling part of this conversation was that two large cellular companies were battling it out, in public, over a single customer. T-Mobile was using social media to court him while AT&T was using it to retain him. Nobody really knows if the tweet from the CEO was actually sent by John Legere himself. The only thing that mattered was that the customer believed it was. This customer was made to feel wanted by two companies. As a result he expressed his excitement with his entire network in this tweet:
Using technology in today’s world is essential for effective communications with your customers. In order to react and communicate in a timely manner you must have the technology and the knowledge to identify opportunities, no matter where they exist. This not only includes servicing your existing customers, but also finding new opportunities.
I’m pretty sure that this customer didn’t expect the two companies to react as they did to his lone tweet. He wasn’t any kind of social media influencer. He only has 296 followers on Twitter. This exchange, however, managed to win a customer for one company and lose one for another. It has also generated a buzz that no company can buy.