Ginna Sauerwein is a customer service veteran who knows the value of social media. Working for the companies such as JC Penney, Delta Airlines, Miller Brewery, and—for the past 29 years—for FedEx, she is now a Managing Director of Customer Service in Western Region. It is her team that is responsible for delighting customers through excellent and timely service. And many of those interactions nowadays are happening through social channels.
In 2009, Sauerwein started working very closely with the marketing team to enhance the great brand of FedEx through the use of social media not just for marketing purposes, but for customer service as well. Following that decision the teams have seen amazing results. Providing a variety of channels for the customers to engage through, whether it’s a phone, a chat, a blog or social networks like Facebook and Twitter, appeared to be highly beneficial. Even though FedEx does online listening, Sauerwein’s team is the one responsible for handling actionable requests that customer care follow-up to help solve the issue or answer the question. Their engagement time? Mostly in a matter of minutes, not hours or days. The team tracks online buzz and digital conversations through the internal score card that shows daily interactions with “authors” (yes, FedEx team refers to their customers that create content and initiate conversations online as “authors”) and what types those interactions were, as well as how fast the team responded.
How does the job that Sauerwein and her team does affect brand perception and the bottom line? Just ask some of their customers.
Nicole Snow is one perfect example of a now loyal customer. Snow owns a small business in Maine, called “Darn Good Yarn.” She is in a remote area with few shipping options and extreme weather compounds her ability to run her home business. One day she reached out to FedEx on social networks and asked for help in getting her supply chain set up. The team responded immediately and helped her solve the problem. Nothing out of the ordinary, right? Wrong!
A year later FedEx ran their first $25,000 small business grant contest which Snow ended up winning. She maintained the relationship with FedEx all that time, being a loyal customer. A year later, with the money she won, she was able to expand her business into new areas.
Snow’s story is fascinating. She hires women in India and Nepal to make yarn out of reclaimed materials like silk. She is nurturing supply chain that is half way across the globe and well as sourcing from local businesses in Maine. She is highly engaged in the community through activities like teaching knitting classes. “I take materials that otherwise would be thrown out in India and Nepal and import them into Maine and then FedEx them all over the world to my customers. I know that I can get something from India and to my house in the middle of Maine in three days. That’s amazing!” Snow is a huge fan and advocate of the brand now, she tells her FedEx stories of excellent support everywhere she goes.
So what are the lessons that Sauerwein and her team can teach us?
Integrate across multiple functions. FedEx has a coordinated interaction model where there is high collaboration between multiple departments such as customer care, PR, marketing, sales, etc. It allows for the fast response, as well as communicating consistent message about your brand.
Be authentic. FedEx encourages and empowers their employees to engage with customers in genuine and unscripted way, always using their first names. They get a lot of notes back praising the brand for genuine and personable way in which they provide support.
Deliver excellence to any customer independent of their status. Marsha Collier, an author of a number of For Dummies book, reached out to FedEx to solve a delivery issue. Robin Haskin, one of FedEx’s employees, provided excellent support without knowing who Marsha was. Marsha was so impressed by the service; she asked to feature Robin and FedEx in her upcoming book The Ultimate Online Customer Service Guide. Not only was Robin later featured in one of “I am FedEx” videos (internal social media) – a series of videos where FedEx employees tell their stories, but FedEx got additional publicity out this successful customer interaction.
Try new things. FedEx is a company that takes risks and is not afraid to try new things. A while back they piloted video chats. Though video chats didn’t take off widely, the people that used it loved it. It was a great way to walk through complex issues to offer simple solutions, like helping people easily fill out international shipping documents that can be rather involved though a screen share. For those people who don’t deal with international shipping on every day basis, it was a valuable tool.
Be creative in your approach. One day, for the first time in the history of the brand, FedEx had a problem with its scans posting, the issue lasted for an entire day. What made it worse though is the fact that that was the day the iPhone 4 was coming out. All of the tech savvy influencers were looking for their iPhone to be delivered but couldn’t track it. FedEx decided to do what they had never done before – respond to the most connected and vocal influencers with the message that acknowledged the scanning issue but ensuring them that their packages would be delivered on time. The influencers then communicated the message to their fans and followers. That approach allowed FedEx to bring the volume of calls and social media inquiries from critically high levels back to normal levels within a matter of an hour. “That really showed us the power of social media and its business impact,” says Sauerwein.
The Big Brand Theory is a weekly, exclusive column for Social Media Today that explores the social media strategies of big brands, both B2B and B2C. Look for the next installment next Monday morning. Logos by Jesse Wells.