Elon Musk, the billionaire entrepreneur who runs Tesla and SpaceX, is known for his late-night Twitter sessions, often giving his 12.8 million followers the scoop on his growing number of projects. On Friday night, Musk tackled a single customer tweet that quickly spun into a miniature masterclass on how to conduct customer service.
It all started with a tweet to Musk, who had initially posted a video montage of SpaceX’s previous failed efforts entitled “How Not to Land a Orbital Rocket Booster.”
It is common for followers to inundate Musk with questions, many unrelated, once he posts, knowing that he will occasionally answer a few. But one stood out. A tweet at 6:38 p.m. Pacific time Friday night to Musk read: “had a terrible experience with very pushy sales guy from tesla stanford shop while shopping for model x.”
Musk responded less than 45 minutes later: “Def not ok. Just sent a reminder to Tesla stores that we just want people to look forward to their next visit. That’s what really matters.”
Def not ok. Just sent a reminder to Tesla stores that we just want people to look forward to their next visit. That's what really matters.— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) September 16, 2017
People using Twitter to complain directly to a company isn’t unusual. Nor is it is uncommon for the official company Twitter account to respond (with varying degrees of success). In this case, it’s notable because the head of the company responded—and so quickly—and that it prompted a debate on what it means to be loyal customer.
Musk didn’t weigh in further on the subject, at least not on Twitter. But more than 200 followers did, providing a well of insights on what customer service strategies work and what doesn’t, including Tesla’s Apple-like sales approach.
I had a lovely time visiting Tesla Birmingham. More like an Apple Store than a traditional car dealership.— Prof David Bailey (@dgbailey) September 17, 2017
One of the more interesting comments followed the initial customer’s response to Musk, in which he thanked him for the prompt response, adding “I am a real supporter of tesla and your vision.” That was immediately called into question by another Musk follower who thought the complaining customer couldn’t possibly actually be a Tesla supporter.
However, customers can show their support for a business with their negative feedback. As one follower noted, “only feedback can connect sales to the parent company.”
That's a positive contribution of importance. Only feedback can connect sales to the parent company.— joe quittner (@JoeQuittner) September 16, 2017
Other followers soon posted their own experiences, which usually hit on the two extremes of “amazing” and “terrible.”
Businesses looking to develop the same kind of loyal customer following should pay attention to those non-Tesla owners who commented on the thread. For instance, one man noted that he was treated like a valued customer even after telling the sales rep he would never be able to afford one. Another commentator clearly has visited a Tesla store a number of times even though he doesn’t have the funds yet. The aspiration quality of the Tesla brand is what attracts people to the brand; how they’re treated at the store is what keeps them coming back.
In short: treat everyone who walks in your door the same—an experience that other aspirational companies like Tiffany & Co. do as well.
I'm broke af. Prob will never own a Tesla. Told the same to the salesman in the KOP mall. Was still treated like a valued customer.— Schmoctor (@SchmoctorStone) September 16, 2017
The staff has been great every time I got into a Tesla showroom :)— Arvi Lefèvre (@arvi89) September 16, 2017
(even though I never bought anything, I need to save money first ^^)
I visit the store in Austin so much they know me when I walk in with the kids. My 10yr old asks 20 questions every time.— Daniel martin (@_danielrmartin) September 16, 2017
For others commenting on the thread, knowledge of the product and believable enthusiasm was what stood out.
I had an amazing tesla drive in West Vancouver last month. Saleswoman was very knowledgeable and there was zero pressure to buy— Ro Prasad (@Roprasad7) September 16, 2017
I've always had an exceptional experience at Tesla show rooms. Everyones helpful.Makes me want 2 come back just 4 the Tesla love&enthusiasm!— Phoenix Rosa (@ThePhoenixFlare) September 16, 2017
And others offered advice to Tesla and any other brand hoping to reach increasingly savvy customers, including not hiring salesman, and how the staff allowed the product to “sell itself.”
i would recommend not hiring car salesman to sell Teslas. I would use people with HR dept. skills.— Jaybyrd (@TheJewbyrd7777) September 17, 2017
Just fYI - The Sales guys at Boston, Dedham, and Framingham are incredible. They let the car sell itself!— Reed Lewis (@reed_lewis) September 16, 2017
Interestingly, some folks complained about not being approached at all when they visited a Tesla store.
Ditto.— Annette Poliwka (@annettepoliwka) September 16, 2017
The lack of contact complaints show that sometimes the “light sales touch” approach can turn certain customers off.