As the largest moving company in the US, U-Haul is one of the most recognizable brands in the country. Founded by Leonard Shoen in 1945, the company has grown from operating out of a suburban garage to having more than 16,000 active dealers across the nation. That brand recognition and growth is reflected in U-Haul's social media presence, highlighted by their more than 17,000 Facebook Likes. Recently, U-Haul undertook a major exercise to upgrade their social listening and response. I spoke to Toni Jones, U Haul's Social Media Director, to get the lowdown on how they went about improving their systems, and maximizing social as a customer service and response tool.
Jones had been working for U-Haul for nine years before being tapped to run their social media program. "When I started there was only one person who created profiles." Jones says. "The social care team started out with only two members and is now up to 16."
"It was clear that customers wanted to interact with us on social," Jones says. The company used this as the impetus to grow the team, particularly in a marketing sense by creating content and establishing a blog. U-Haul's online newsroom,www.myuhaulstory.com launched earlier this year, celebrating the role U-Haul plays in the community, and enabling the company to reach out with branded content.
Filtering the Noise
In U-Haul's case, the very brand ubiquity they've built through their 70 years of service was somewhat working against them in social. U-Haul has become a generic reference people use for moving, which means it's quite common for people to use a sentence like "back it on up like a U-Haul truck" (a lyric from a Jay-Z song), and not actually be referencing the actual brand at all. These references made it quite difficult for the team to find the signals amidst the noise, particularly given the large volume of mentions U-Haul gets online.
" 'Back it up like a U Haul truck' appears at least 20 times a day," Jones explains. "There's such a huge feed of messages coming in about U Haul - 'I just picked up my U Haul truck,' customer service requests. We needed a way to quickly respond to appropriate feeds, and this is where tags came in."
Using Sprinklr, U-Haul implemented a system of subject code tags to identify and compartmentalize mentions based on context. "Every mention gets coded, whether it's products or services," Jones says. "Is it a message about a truck? About moving services? Is it a question? Is it a complaint?" All of these queries are filtered into the relevant segments, enabling the team to prioritize their response.
Twitter is U-Haul's primary customer service channel, with most brand mentions coming on the micro-blogging giant. "On Facebook, most mentions occur on a person's moving day and when they're talking about moving. Instagram is similar, with almost all mentions coming on moving day," says Jones. U-Haul has implemented a service level agreement to have all queries requiring a response tracked within 30 minutes of posting - a large-scale task.
U-Haul uses data analysis to determine the busiest times of year (the volume of inbound messages doubles during the summer months), enabling them to schedule accordingly. U-Haul also uses automation to help detect irrelevant mentionsand filter them from the queue.
And the results of their efforts? 70% of U-Haul's issues are resolved in a half hour or less, with 49% addressed in less than 15 minutes. "Our response time has decreased significantly," says Jones. "Overall, brand sentiment and positive messages have increased. Instead of tweeting out of frustration, people are tweeting their gratitude and appreciation."
One of U-Haul's biggest social media wins was the 'U-Haul Famous' campaign, which gave people the chance to upload their photos (direct or via Instagram) to the U-Haul website for a chance to have their image featured on the side of a U-Haul truck in the US and/or Canada. "Over 17,000 photos have been submitted to the campaign, with images now featured on 5,550 trucks," she explains. Users can also track the locations of the truck on which their image is featured.
Enhancing Customer Service
The key goal of U-Haul's social media presence is serving customer needs. Their main Twitter handles @uhaul and @uhaul_cares both deal with direct customer queries daily, with @uhaul_cares maintaining a reply rate of 97%. "Our number one goal is enhancing customer service online," Jones says. This mission is clear through their ongoing efforts to connect and enhance relationships with their customers through social platforms. A great reinforcement of this principle is the fact that U-Haul displays headshots of each of their five customer service representatives who handle the @uhaul_cares Twitter handle, along with their initial abbreviations, so users can see exactly who they're communicating with.
While much of this is still in development, U-Haul has made big strides in social customers service, and the results speak for themselves. U-Haul's social journey is a great endorsement of the power of social, and the benefits of meeting your audience where the conversations are already happening.