There are few things I like more than writing, but music certainly gives my pen (err – iPad) a run for its money. So when a friend of an old PR friend said, “Hey, want a conversation with Yamaha?” I had that instinctual journalistic response – something like a lion sniffing out seriously solid prey – or in this case, a seriously solid story. And, of course, my answer was “Yes!” Yamaha Corp., now in its 125th year of operation, is a “pretty funky place” where “everyone plays an instrument and it’s all music all the time,” I’m told. But it’s the company’s excelling at customer service that really differentiates it. Yamaha began an earnest push to perfect its customer experience strategy some five or six years ago, Jeff Hawley, director of the customer experience group at Yamaha, tells me. The lightbulb moment is relatable:
After some initial restructural work and the launch of a Customer Experience Group, which Hawley heads, was the “happy accident” when Yamaha was selected via contest to have its Salesforce.com CRM system go through a makeover. About a year ago, a team from Deloitte Consulting created a plan for Yamaha to streamline its use of the Salesforce Service and Sales Cloud.
“I think the biggest thing we were able to make happen was to bring marketing much more closely in synch with our call center agents, and to see that shift from what they viewed as a cost center to a marketing engine of sorts,” Hawley explains. “The ability to have customers come in through the social channels, and have our call center agents interface with them in-channel, and then to be able to connect those dots back to marketing… we were able to continue the conversation past an initial issue to really turn that into sales opportunities and increased opportunities for engagement.”
Yamaha is that quintessential company that has learned to embrace its very diverse and unique set of customers – the guitar novice who couldn’t change a string to those who build their own guitars and who need aftermarket parts. Hawley says he’s “knee-deep” in updating online customer access to the brand, along with ways to drive crowd-sourced content.
“We had launched what we called EasyPass, and as of October 1, we will be adding a gamification element and really stepping it up,” he says of Yamaha’s product groups that range from home audio and video to music production. “Just like your Apple ID or Facebook, you can sign into Yamaha and register your products [and find targeted information]. Over the years, we’ve been really careful… [leveraging] customer data.”
Yamaha has also turned to Twitter and Facebook to service customers, and has used Mediafunnel to turn social conversations into actionable customer service cases back in Salesforce.com’s systems. The company has multiple Twitter accounts for different product lines, but @TheYamahaHub was its original service handle, “and that’s where we kind of test the waters.” Some cases are handled in public, some in private through direct messages. And occasionally Yamaha turns a conversation into a marketing tool if the topic at hand benefits the broader community, or if its artist relations team identifies a great opportunity for celebrity play (Neil Patrick Harris was in on a campaign that promoted a high-end piano.)
“We really just want to keep an eye on how well we’re doing at addressing all of our customers’ needs… we think this next phase is going to be an interesting way of getting at bat with literally rewarding those customers for sticking around for many, many years as rabid Yamaha fans.”