Social Media

Why Tesla’s New Eyebrow-Raising Customer Service Technique Makes Sense

“Get me your manager.”

The four words that elicit a collective shudder from customer service reps everywhere.

Customer service teams try very hard to please and placate customers; to contain issues before they escalate to the point of looping a manager in.

So Tesla’s recent move is unusual.

The company is giving consumers the option to escalate issues directly to a company executive.

Handing Over The Keys

This update comes at a time when Tesla is gearing up for its next big thing.

The company has received 400,000 pre-orders for its new Model 3 and aims on shipping all orders out within a 12-month period.

More owners means a higher volume of inbound inquiries. And we can only expect that there will be some people who abuse this escalate feature because it’s the quickest and easiest way to get an answer. So what was the Tesla team thinking when they rolled out this update?

It takes 12 positive experiences to make up for one negative experience.

In the past, Tesla has struggled with a number of customer service blunders that have landed in the press. One car owner claimed that the company went dark after promising to help with a repair. He emailed and called but never heard back. The owner eventually filed a lawsuit against Tesla.

Other customers have pointed out that Tesla service centers are not as well distributed as they would like.

By doubling down on online and social support, Tesla is letting owners take control of their own customer service experience. Owners can choose when and where to ask for support. They can even choose who they’d like to hear from.

This control pays off in the long run. Loyal customers are worth up to ten times as much as their first purchase.

With Model 3’s base price at $35,000, loyal customers can be worth an upwards of $350,000.

CEO and Chief Customer Service Rep

CEO Elon Musk has been leading the charge on Twitter.

A quick look Musk’s feed shows you that he regularly listens and responds to Tesla owners. In fact, Musk was seen replying to customer inquiries just a few weeks ago.


Last year, one Twitter user’s suggestion became reality within a week.


Loic Le Meur tweeted about his frustrations with a local supercharger being hogged up by fully charged cars and Elon Musk replied within two hours acknowledging the issue.

Six days later, Tesla implemented an idle fee at all Superchargers. For every additional minute a car remains at a station after being fully charged, the owner will incur a .40 fee. The app was also updated to notify users when their cars were almost fully charged.

Taking (Three) Pages From Tesla’s Book

Of course, the caveat here is that Tesla and a lot of these other companies are large organizations with more resources than most.

But here are lessons that companies of every size can take away from the way the electric car maker handles customer service:

1) Customers have to feel like they’re being heard.

Surprisingly, the thing customers value most isn’t having their question answered quickly. It’s empathy.

A recent Genesys survey revealed that a majority of customers feel that good human service is the most important part of support.


 

When Elon Musk answers inbound tweets he first acknowledges their frustrations and then confirms that he is going to take action.

This feels really good as a customer because you know that the CEO, the leader of this company, has taken the time out to listen to your needs and is going to make changes that will directly impact you.

2) Leadership and others can learn a lot by being in direct conversation with customers.

Zapier ran an informal survey a little while back asking companies if they did “all hands support,” where every member of the team – even executives – spend a part of their day answering support. It turns it’s pretty common. Slack, Customer.io, Basecamp, and Sequoia Waste, and Wistia all responded that they’re committed to this model.


 

“Martin Normark, co-founder of mileage-tracking app 80, talks about how surprised he was when he first started doing customer support as an engineer. He quickly realized that the product wasn’t solving his customers’ problems. The support team was solving issues for customers using the product, but because he wasn’t doing support he was shielded from the true issues.”

3) Customers play a crucial role in improving your product.

Social media monitoring company Mention uses social mentions to inspire new features and improvements.

The Paris-based company took note of this Product Hunt comment and built filtering systems. Users can now filter mentions by tag, country, or more.


Sometimes customer inquiries can also bring attention to new trends.

Mention shared, in a recent blog post, a story of how one customer’s inquiry led to a greater company discussion about Instagram’s new business update and its compatibility with Mention.


Don’t let the nature of social customer service fool you. It might feel fast-paced and on some channels the content might even disappear, but customer service is part of the long game.

Building loyal customers is the best way to improve your bottom line. Research shows that even a 5% increase in retention rate can lead to profit increases of 25% to 95%.

Customers have plenty to share about your product’s biggest strengths and opportunities because they’re interacting with it every day. Social media makes it easier than ever because all of this feedback is sitting there for you to discover.

Whether you’re chatting with customers directly or using monitoring software to filter feedback, lending an ear can go a long way for your community, your brand, your bottom line.

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Denise Chan @denisechan26
Senior Content & Community Marketing Manager