December 10th, 2012 by Kelly Liyakasa

I hear that renting a car can be…interesting (I divulge: I never have.) Flat tires. Breaking down. Thinking you’re getting a Lincoln Navigator and up pulls a baby VW bug. And if you think about the way most people travel, or when they’re in need of a rental car, they’re people with places to be. They’re probably late or on their way to a meeting or in an unfamiliar city or worse, stuck in an airport loop at LaGuardia…

When the majority of your customers are (probably) on edge 89.9 percent of the time, they need to speak to you when they need you the most, which is when they’re on the road and when they need immediate attention. For many, that means using their mobile device to try their luck on Facebook or Twitter.

Here’s a true story: Person A vents to car rental company Hertz on Twitter that “I’m not sure on what planet a Toyota minivan is an ‘upgrade.’” Person A will live, albeit in less style than he’d prefer, but Person B is a whole other story. He laments, “Two hours late and a few phones later, still waiting for @Hertz to pick me up for my rental car.” This man is actually stuck. You get the idea.

 

 

In a perfect world, a brand would get it right every time. But it’s not a perfect world, so running into problems is to be expected. The next best step, then, is coming up with a game plan “to convert detractors into brand ambassadors” when possible, remarked Andrey Grigoryev, a specialist in social media customer service-type initiatives at Hertz, during a recent panel hosted by social customer service software company Conversocial, which Hertz began using this August.

“What we decided to do was integrate our most senior customer service folks into social because when you [use social for service], you’re kind of giving away the keys to the car,” Grigoryev said. See CRM feature: Transforming into a Social CRM Enterprise. (While social response is a customer-facing process, you still have plenty of change that arises behind closed doors, not the least of which includes “who” in the enterprise will be the designated manager of the channel.)

Here are some key points I picked up on when Grigoryev discussed the road to Hertz developing a social response strategy:

  • It’s all about the people: The company now has 14 agents total working the social channels with approximately four in the U.S. They’re also answering phones and email. “We started from scratch and we didn’t know what we were doing at first.” The question was, “Who do you let loose first?” “Do you get the marketing folks first and train them on customer service?” Or do you take the customer service folks and train them how to do Twitter? We decided it was better to get the customer service folks trained in social media than vice versa.”
  • Social is another channel: “We decided that at the end of the day, a social customer service issue is a customer service issue regardless of whether you’re Justin Bieber or some Joe Schmo. If it’s an issue [in social], it’s a legitimate issue.  Our primary objective was to establish social media as a standard customer service channel for Hertz.”
  • Consider the timing: Hertz’s call volume spikes on the weekends, but like any company figuring out how to handle the constancy of the channel, “we don’t have the bandwidth to cover 24/7. We’re not open on the weekends at this point, and we’re open nine to five, which is creating a backlog for us when we get in on Monday.”  Hertz states its Twitter hours in its bio, so it’s understandable.
  • How it considered training: Hertz put together a training day and outlined the, “Here’s what we’re doing, why we’re doing it,” and some of the do’s and don’ts for response. Agents were then trained remotely through WebEx using dummy accounts and fake posts. Now, Grigoryev says the team does over-the-shoulder training with more experienced agents, “which has been the best way to learn by far.”
  • Be realistic: A common qualm I hear about social as a customer service channel is the negative impact “public” comments can have on a brand. Or, that the immediacy of the channel creates a brat pack of customers who want their way all the time. Regardless, Grigoryev acknowledges that, realistically, you can’t give a free car rental or discount to every customer who complains on social. It’s far more important to follow up with them effectively, he says, and to this day, “I don’t think we had a case where we had to selectively choose somebody for an extra upgrade or special treatment.” Some issues cant be resolved in 140 characters, he said, but that’s just the nature of the beast. Hertz, however, “can follow up with an email or a phone call.”
  • Break it into parts-It’s impossible to change a culture all at once and I really liked that Grigoryev was so transparent about the fact that social does not always save the day. But, breaking it down has worked for the company. Hertz’s Phase 1 was-prioritizing Tweets and posts through Conversocial. Phase 2 is responding more proactively through analytics. Phase 3 will be looking at 24/7 coverage with a higher number of agents.

According to “The Social Engagement Index,” published by Spredfast and Mindwave Research, brands are publishing more actively on Twitter with an average of 50 messages per day compared to 16 per day at Facebook across a company. But, Facebook yields 549 engagement interactions (how many times it’s shared, etc.) for every message published while Twitter’s is approximately 50 for every message published. So, the audience is there, whether you’re talking to it or not.

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