SOCAP International

GM Is Still Writing Its Social CRM Success Story

  • Cover Story

General Motors continues to evolve its support of the connected consumer through social engagement, expanding its reach in new ways.

Moloney_Jim - Jim Moloney Primary
Jim Moloney, general director of customer assistance and relationship services (CARS), stands alongside advisors in the GM Social Media Command Center.

In the Spring 2011 issue of Customer Relationship Management, I shared some insights on the General Motors social-media customer care program in “Digital CRM Proves Its Value.” At the time, the organization was moving beyond restructuring and gaining fresh momentum.

Two years later, I can proudly report that GM is in good health and is continuing to gain market share around the globe under strong leadership and alignment behind a simple vision: Design, build and sell the world’s best vehicles. The anticipated arrival of award-winning vehicles like the Cadillac ATS and ELR, the GMC Sierra and 13 new vehicle launches from Chevrolet in 2013 (including the Silverado and the next generation Corvette) prove that GM is making good on this vision.

Moloney_Jim  Alicia Boler-Davis
Alicia Boler-Davis, vice president of global quality and U.S. customer experience.

But it doesn’t stop at great products. We are also focused on the allimportant goal of making our customers happy with their complete ownership experience. We’ve embraced the concept that purchase loyalty, service retention and our ability to conquest are all directly tied to the customer experience. That’s why our company’s long-term success is dependent on our ability to deliver a quality customer experience in an increasingly connected world.

Customer Experience, Front and Center

Central to the organization’s renewed success is a redefined passion for creating an unrivaled customer experience for our owners. This notion is more than conceptual, so much so that GM has taken a number of concrete steps resulting from the belief that customer experience is a key driver of improving brand opinion and, ultimately, cultivating strong loyalty and owner retention.

The first move was the creation of a new position: vice president of U.S. customer experience. In February 2012, Alicia Boler-Davis assumed this position, fresh off her success as plant manager at Orion Assembly (Chevrolet Sonic and Buick Verano) and Pontiac Stamping. Alicia’s responsibilities were further expanded that July when “global quality” was added to her title, and for good reason. Alicia has a rich background in engineering and process innovation, and she brings a unique vision for understanding the intrinsic intersection between manufacturing and the voice of the customer. In her own words, Alicia believes the combination of customer experience and product quality “allows us to infuse the voice of the customer into the way we design our vehicles so they exceed expectation in initial quality and long-term reliability, while providing industry-leading customer care excellence that creates life-long customers.”

Our company’s longterm success is dependent on our ability to deliver a quality customer experience in an increasingly connected world.

That’s pretty powerful stuff for an industry with a checkered past when it comes to listening to its customer base. But Alicia’s appreciation of the interplay between quality and owner experience has been transformational for the organization. In October 2012, under Alicia’s direction, GM took this strategy public by releasing a pledge to its customers. The pledge reads:

At our core, we are driven by expectations. Yours. Our pledge to you is a relationship that you will value. It is founded on designing and building great vehicles with innovative technologies, while ensuring quality and service you can rely on—all to make your ownership experience exceptional.

More than words, this pledge has heralded real and meaningful change for GM customers and prospects. This is demonstrated by the fact that GM continues to post strong quality results in third party surveys, and there is a reinvigorated enthusiasm among consumers for each of GM’s four prominent brands: Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Cadillac.

Moloney_Jim - Command Center Floor
Social-media customer care advisors engage consumers seven days a week from the GM social-media command center.

Alicia’s vision has also inspired a number of innovations within my own organization. We have been able to strengthen the notion that the customer comes first by transforming call centers into customer engagement centers, even adding a dedicated infotainment customer engagement center to the fold. Even more significant was the conceptualization and “insourcing” of the GM social-media customer care program. This included the construction of a social-media command center at our Detroit headquarters. These activities, along with a refocused mindset, have had a profound effect on the entire customer assistance and relationship services organization, and I take great pride in how far we have come.

Locating social-media customer care with brand marketing and communications has had the intended benefit of cultivating collaboration.

Emphasizing Value Across New Mediums

The strategy for the GM social-media customer care program remains simple: Strive to provide value to our customers at every touch point. For the most part, this means discovering and identifying GM customers and prospects that have specific questions or concerns, then routing these opportunities to the appropriate GM socialmedia customer care advisor for engagement. By staying true to this simple approach, social media is a critical avenue for engaging both current and future GM vehicle owners, and the social-media customer care program continues to demonstrate its unique reach compared with other, more traditional customer care channels.

The game plan has remained focused, but the scope and size of the program has continued to grow. It now includes 18 full-time advisors (doubling from nine in 2011) and more than 130 engagement channels spread across a variety of sources. These sources continue to include Facebook, Twitter and many automotive enthusiast forums, and have expanded to include Google+, YouTube and industry-specific blogs. GM social-media customer care advisors are assisting customers and prospects seven days a week, averaging roughly 15 operational hours per day. This adds up to an average of more than 9,000 monthly interactions on both an in-market presale and customer care basis. In 2012, GM socialmedia customer care advisors conducted more than 130,000 interactions, representing a 200 percent growth in overall engagement compared with 2011.

When it comes to the discovery and classification of engagement opportunities, GM continues to collaborate with Digital Roots (formally 3CSI), GM’s engagement dashboard provider. The volume of engagement opportunities has steadily risen since 2011—a 500 percent year-over-year increase. This is driven by an increase in the use of social communities, expanded source coverage, tool improvements and the engagement of a wider range of content.

Moloney_Jim - Chevrolet Social Media Customer Car Team
Chevrolet social-media customer care team

Moloney_Jim - GM Social Media Customer Car Team
GM social-media customer care team

Moloney_Jim - Buick Social Media Customer Car Team
Buick social-media customer care team

Moloney_Jim - Cadillac Social Media Customer Care Team
Cadillac social-media customer care team

Moloney_Jim - GMC Social Media Customer Car Team
GMC social-media customer care team

Empowerment Through Dynamic Transformation

A number of changes have occurred within the GM social-media customer care program over the last two years, and chief among them has been the insourcing and relocation of the social-media customer care team. Realignment, recruitment and training began in early 2013, and by April the team was operating out of its new home in the GM Renaissance Center, located in downtown Detroit. The GM Social Command Center is a high-energy, state of the art engagement environment that features dozens of wireless workstations, multiple collaboration rooms and HD monitors that display a wide variety of social feeds—all housed in a 6,200 square foot working space that overlooks a reinvigorated downtown.

The strategy for this transformation was straightforward as well: empower social-media customer care advisors and provide program management with greater control and oversight. At the same time, locating socialmedia customer care advisors with their counterparts in brand marketing and communications has had the intended benefit of cultivating collaboration. It’s important for GM to speak to its customers with one voice, and the close bonds that have grown between the teams have helped to ensure unity.

Fulfilling the Promise

By its very nature, social media is a dynamic, fluid space. The pace of change is expected to accelerate, and it’s essential that we are ready for that change. But most importantly, social media is all about people and the relationships they build. Therefore it’s imperative that our social-media customer care advisors continually strive to perfect the craft of social engagement. Each source, whether it’s Facebook, Twitter or forums, calls for its own specific tact and tone, and its important that advisors are able to navigate these various channels deftly. So while change is inevitable, the GM social-media customer care program is doing its part to fulfill GM’s pledge of an exceptional ownership experience.

Moloney_Jim---HEADSHOTJim Moloney, a strong proponent of the power and persuasiveness of social-media engagement, is the general director of customer assistance and relationship services (CARS) at General Motors.