Elon Musk showed off the effectiveness of responding to customer’s complaint tweets. Musk responds shortly after the customer complained. Without missing a beat, the CEO demonstrated the capabilities of a small company to communicate with its customers.
30 minutes or less
On Friday night, Twitter user Paul Franks took to the social media platform to complain directly to Musk about a problem he faced with the steering wheel.
@elonmusk can you guys program the car once in park to move back the seat and raise the steering wheel? Steering wheel is wearing.
— Paul Franks (@pjfranks1509) August 19, 2017
It took Musk 24 minutes to respond to Franks. Without using any PR speak or apologies, he let it be known that Franks was right.
Good point. We will add that to all cars in one of the upcoming software releases.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) August 19, 2017
It’s what Musk didn’t do in those 24 minutes that was surprising. He didn’t apologize to Franks, he didn’t shift blame to an error in the car or to an arm of the company, and he didn’t try to calm Franks with an offer. He did take the criticism and made it a point to say that Frank’s idea would be used in the future.
Elon Musk: Twitter genius
Musk uses Twitter effectively. He makes announcements, shows off leadership skills and even gives people the origin story of Tesla. Musk even pays attention when suggestions are given to him via the newspaper.
Back in December, Tesla customer Loic Le Meur wrote his story on Medium. Le Meur wrote about the problem of people leaving their cars at Tesla’s charging stations, turning them into parking spots while others waited for them to move their cars.
You're right, this is becoming an issue. Supercharger spots are meant for charging, not parking. Will take action.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) December 11, 2016
Musk answered Le Meur in a tweet, letting him know that the company will take action against those that are leaving their cars at charging stations. Tesla started charging a $0.40 per minute idling fee just six days later; the fee would be waived if they moved the car in five minutes. Musk showed just how quickly a small company could answer the complaints of its customers.
He can’t please everyone, though. When asked if Tesla would allow owners of older models to refurbish cars with newer technology, he let it be known that the company would not be doing this.
Tesla will never stop innovating. People are buying the wrong car if they expect this. There will be major revs every 12 to 18 months.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) January 22, 2017
Instead of just trying to please customers, he responds to what they’re saying regardless of what their reaction will be.
Complaining to other businesses
While Elon Musk is the very public face for Tesla, it’s murkier once you start complaining to other companies. There isn’t a public persona that you can air your grievances to, and the company’s response times can vary depending on its size and social media budget. Tweeting complaints to a company’s Twitter can be just as frustrating as the problem you’re trying to solve.
More than one-third of millennials are using social media to get in contact with companies when they are having issues with their products and services. Companies are starting to devote resources to social media teams to handle the issues, but most still rely on call centers and live chats to deal with customers.
StellaService, a firm helping businesses improve their customer service, tested the social media account of various companies. They found that companies are more likely to respond to questions about products or policy questions. They were less likely to respond to complaints, with 40 percent sending customers to direct messages or to call their phone lines. Another study found that people who used the phone lines resolved their problems 60 percent of the time, while those who used social media resolved their problems 16 percent of the time.
Elon Musk is the gold standard of talking to his customer base, helping them resolve problems and telling them what the company is willing to do. He is a public face that allows the company to focus on its mission while Musk handles the social media aspect. Musk knows how to use Twitter to keep customers happy.
It’s more difficult with other companies. Most of their resources are still used to power traditional problem-solving methods such as call centers and live chats. The most effective way to deal is to get off Twitter and call the company with your problems.
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