Mike Disser discusses Nissan North America’s revitalized Surprise and Delight program

Nissan North America’s Surprise and Delight program has existed for a long time, but until last year, it was underutilized.

Then, in October of 2018, Social Media Customer Experience Manager Mike Disser formally launched their new reinvigorated Surprise and Delight program on social media to increase engagement with consumers on Nissan’s channels.

According to Mike, social media customer care and moderation can seem somewhat negative, but he started to see it as an opportunity to build low-cost engagements with customers.

We may not be the best at it or have the biggest budget, but I think we can have the most impact with our consumers choosing to engage with us on social media. Mike Disser
Mike said that while the team had been doing a version of this in the past, he wanted to put more focus on it and take advantage of every opportunity that came through Nissan’s channels. “Social media is quick, shareable, and personal,” he said. “Fast responses matter.”

Along with faster, more tailored responses to consumers, the program would also include giving Nissan SWAG and personalized gifts to hand-picked consumers who engage with the brand.

“If somebody spends 15 minutes of their time posting on our channel, we want to engage with them and reward them for talking about their love for our brand or one of our products as opposed to brushing it off or not even responding,” Mike said.

He said consumers who share photos and posts about the brand on social media are worth more than anything paid advertising could produce.

The goals of the program are two-fold: increase engagement and impact brand consideration.

“It truly is about building community engagement and to build that sense of, ‘Hey, this big brand is listening to me when I post something on one of their channels,'” Mike said.

The team also hopes the program will impact sales and profitability. “By engaging with customers, either privately or publicly, we know that it’s going to impact our purchase funnel,” he said.

First, his team put themselves in the shoes of Nissan’s customers and then benchmarked against competitors and other big brands.

It truly is about building community engagement and to build that sense of, 'Hey, this big brand is listening to me when I post something on one of their channels.' Mike Disser
He said they had to spend some time thinking like consumers. They considered the times they’ve engaged with brands on social media and what their motivations were to do that.

Then, they looked at how other big brands were executing similar programs on social media. “A lot of companies are doing this,” he said. “We may not be the best at it or have the biggest budget, but I think we can have the most impact with our consumers choosing to engage with us on social media.”

Next, it was important to ensure the staff was trained on listening techniques and the various scenarios that would call for Surprise and Delight responses.

The team manually looks at posts and makes quick decisions on whether it’s engageable. For example, they highlight scenarios like customers posting photos of their odometer hitting a milestone distance, big road trips, pets in their car, and even positive accident experiences.

Then, they created a tiered approach to differentiate when scenarios might require different types of responses: respond/like/share, then send swag or personal items, and lastly is offer their Vehicle Purchase Program (a Friends and Family vehicle purchase program).

“The Vehicle Purchase Program is where we offer a discount to somebody for a very special reason to reward them for their loyalty,” Mike said. “Usually, it’s to help them out of a hardship situation.”

Then, depending on the situation, the team executes the Surprise and Delight — often by sending gifts to followers.

It’s almost turned into a competition where everybody wants to find a Surprise and Delight opportunity on a daily basis. Mike Disser
For example, sometimes the team will send Hot Wheels or Matchbox die-cast cars of a customer’s Nissan model. “We get a lot of customers sharing personal stories about their Nissan vehicles that may have been totaled or they no longer own, but it meant a lot to them and they really miss it. We’ll send them a die-cast car as a small token for them to remember it by,” Mike said. “It’s amazing what a .94 die-cast toy and personalized note will do for the brand!”

Mike said the new program has had major impacts on the social media team’s day-to-day operations.

He said the team is thriving on the introduction of the new program. “It’s almost turned into a competition where everybody wants to find a Surprise and Delight opportunity on a daily basis,” he said.

From a process standpoint, the team now has six moderators who search the queues of posts to find Surprise and Delight-worthy scenarios.

If somebody spends 15 minutes of their time posting on our channel, we want to engage with them and reward them for talking about their love for our brand or one of our products as opposed to brushing it off or not even responding. Mike Disser
Then, they bring it to Mike or his team lead’s attention who do quick evaluations of the posts. “We also do a bit of sleuthing to make sure the person posting has the right intentions,” he said. “We see if they’ve ever engaged with us, called our call center, or posted anything or liked any of our posts.”

After a Surprise and Delight is completed, it’s added to their Surprise and Delight queue in Sprinklr and the consumer’s name is marked with a gift icon to keep track of who the team has engaged with and what the engagement entailed — everything from likes and retweets to actual packages sent.

“Five years from now, anybody could look up someone’s name and see the previous team sent them a Surprise and Delight,” Mike said.

And, because the program has attracted the attention of executives at the company, the team now keeps a current PowerPoint deck of recent Surprise and Delight cases to share throughout the organization.

For Mike, the number one key learning has been to do thorough, in-depth research.

They have to ensure they know who the person is, whether they’re worthy of a Surprise and Delight gift, and what their correct mailing address and phone number are.

“We also want to make sure it resonates with the customer, and that it’s right for us and the brand, and if the manpower and resources should potentially be used someplace else,” he said.

They recently started sharing tracking numbers with customers so they know when to expect their package and using custom Nissan stationery that features the brand’s handles at the bottom.

“We put a subtle statement to let recipients know they should feel free to share their gift through their social channels,” Mike said.

Moving forward, he hopes to put a bigger emphasis on free engagements on social media and send even more packages to consumers each week.

They currently send out two or three packages a week to various customers, but he’d like to see that increase to five to 10 per week.

He also said he wants the team to do even more sharing and liking because it’s quick, easy, and free.

For other brands launching similar Surprise and Delight programs, Mike suggested thinking like a customer from the beginning and not getting deterred by cost.

“Think outside the box, think outside corporate America, and focus on the consumer,” he said.

Mike also explained any size company can employ a program like this. “We spend more on manpower and shipping than we do on the items we send to customers. We spend a lot more time liking, sharing, and responding back to customers,” he said. “Don’t get hung up on the number of times you do it or the amount of money you should spend.”

He emphasized the importance of personalizing each experience and acting fast. “The quicker you get something out to somebody, the more impact it’ll have,” Mike said.

Mike Disser has been a member of SocialMedia.org since 2018. You can connect with him on LinkedIn.