CYPRESS, Calif.—A few years ago, Nitto Tire U.S.A. Inc. started seeing conversations online and through social media from people in Europe wondering when the Nitto tires they had ordered would arrive.
There was only one problem: Nitto doesn't sell tires in Europe.
Digging into this Nitto discovered someone had set up a European-based website, complete with a login and a create-an-account section, encouraging viewers to become a Nitto dealer and to purchase the company's tires. The site even offered a credit-card application and wire transfer form to send in money for the products purchased.
The reality: It was all a fake.
Thanks to the social media room operated though the company's technical services department, Nitto quickly discovered the fraudulent website and had it shut down within days. It then caught a reboot of the site quickly thereafter.
Welcome to the world of online tire selling and marketing.
Nitto likely would not have uncovered the fraudulent website so quickly, company officials said, if it hadn't broadened its customer service and internal communications efforts several years ago, giving the ability to compile and share all interactions the company had with customers, including those via social media. The upshot of the effort was to provide a better understanding of customers' concerns and needs and to better meet their expectations.
Nitto's expanded focus on the digital experiences of its customers began to take shape as it developed a social media following that today numbers more than 12 million fans.
The company realized that Nitto, to its fans and tire dealer customers, was more than just the tires it sold. Rather it was everything the Nitto brand is about, including the marketing, the customer service, how customer complaints are resolved, the programs it offers and how they are presented to dealers.
Nitto also recognized that while millennials are a core part of its customer base, Gen Xers and Baby Boomers, too, are fans, and all of these generational groups have adopted similar expectations regarding communications and how they want to be treated.
"Social isn't just for young people anymore," Efrain Viveros, Nitto director of technical services, said in a recent interview at the company's offices in Cypress. "Everybody's kind of adopted it as a standard nowadays, so with that, everybody's expectation has increased tremendously."