Using Social Media to Engage (and Keep) Customers

Or, free advice for Ford Motor Company

I am quite fond of my Ford Focus station wagon. It's (relatively) fuel efficient, big enough to put the snowboards and/or the dog in the back, and isn't bad looking. But it's a 2000 model year with pretty high mileage, and there is a problem with the fuel pump that makes the engine shudder around 2000 rpm. Ford could address this problem with an intelligent and diligent use of social media and help turn its fortunes around.

I visited a number of message boards and forums to find out what I could about the shuddering engine and there I learned the fuel pump was probably at issue. Message boards for Ford cars are pretty ferocious places. It felt like one out of two comments on the fuel pump ended with the contributor stating he (almost always men) would never buy another Ford, or that he planned on suing the company.

Now, this is a problem for Ford. But if Ford was to look at the issue differently by engaging with these angry users, they could turn the perception of the company around. Hostile posters could be turned first into advocates, and second into customers for new Fords.

Here is how Ford could do it:
1. Meet these angry users head-on at the message boards with an offer and an acknowledgement that they have had problems with fuel pumps. Maybe the offer could be a reduced price for a new pump, or a free tune-up if they bring the issue to a Ford dealer.
2. Monitor responses: do the users appreciate the offer? If so, provide a way for them to help get the news out to other motorists. Do they dislike the offer? Sweeten it by listening to what posters are saying.
3. Consider these motorists as possible new customers: help them get their old Ford fixed up so they can move to a newer car. Let them know about changes in the more recent versions of the Focus (I believe they are more fuel efficient, offer better handling, come with good financing options, and from what I've read they have great fuel pumps).

The great thing about this approach is Ford could do it all for the cost of some smart young web folks surfing, monitoring, listening and responding to what is actually happening on the ground. They could get customers into their service centres, and then on to showroom floors.

Now then, if Ford likes my advice, they are more than welcome to put me behind the wheel of a new Focus.

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