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Customer Service and Marketing are like Gin & Tonic – A Perfect Combination

Customer Service and Marketing are like Gin & Tonic – A Perfect Combination

First, a little backstory. I have worked in both marketing (obviously) and customer service. Many moons ago when I had my first customer service job, I’ll admit that I didn’t hold our marketing department in very high regard. When I started at that company, they didn’t even have a marketing department – just a sales team and an outside graphic designer (who also handled what little marketing the company was willing to do).

Once an actual marketing department was established, my daily routine didn’t change at all – since there was zero interaction between customer service and marketing. The marketing department operated in its own little fiefdom, seldom interacting with anyone – including sales. And customer service was pretty much ignored by everyone in the company – unless someone had a complaint.

The entire time I worked at that job, I was astounded that people had such little regard for the role customer service played in the overall perception of a brand or a business. And in the years since I left that position, customer service has become even more critical to to a company’s success.

Customer service plays a vital role in customer retention

Think about how much time and money is spent on getting a new customer (marketing efforts, sales efforts, etc.). Now, think about the fact that a poor customer service experience can turn that customer into an ex-customer in a heartbeat. In one minor interaction, all the goodwill that was created during the sales process (or even during a long relationship) can be lost – and all the marketing gimmicks in the world won’t get it back. And research indicates that acquiring a new customer costs approximately 6-7 times as much as customer service and customer retention efforts. So, customer service is definitely a worthwhile investment.

Employees should be empowered to give customers exemplary service

Every employee within a company should receive customer service training. After all, every employee should know the company’s culture and how they wish to be perceived by the customers so they can perform in that manner. To that end, employees should have the ability to go above and beyond for their customers – without having it to “run it by a superior” first.

One of the most frustrating parts of a customer service representative’s job is when they want to do something positive for a customer (either to right a wrong, or simply as a “thank you”), but they have to ask a supervisor beforehand. Not only might the supervisor put the kibosh on the idea, but it annoys the customer to know that a single phone call won’t take them to the person who can get the job done.

Customer service plays an important role in social media marketing

We’re more connected than ever before. If a retail store incites my ire over the weekend, they should be well aware of it by Monday morning – after I vent my disappointment on Facebook and Twitter, as well as contacting them directly via email and through their web contact form. I no longer have to wait until a live person is there to answer my phone call – I can reach out at any time of the day or night to express my displeasure with a product or an experience. And we all know people are more likely to talk about a negative experience than they are about a positive one. If marketing and customer service work hand in hand, they may be able to turn a negative into a positive – or at least dampen the effects of potentially negative buzz.

Create positive media “chatter”

While most of the stories we hear in the media are about negative experiences with a company or brand, every once in a while a story comes around that shines a spotlight on excellent customer service – people and companies that are doing it right.

One of my favorite examples of an excellent customer service experience that went viral was the story of a little girl who wrote a letter to Sainsbury’s Supermarket suggesting that they rename their “tiger bread” “giraffe bread.” One of the market’s customer service managers responded to her with a witty letter and a gift card. His response to the little girl made its way around the world thanks to social media, and Sainsbury’s did change the name to “giraffe bread.”

The Sainsbury’s example shows that a large “monetary” gesture isn’t always needed to create a great customer service experience. But this letter created huge positive buzz for Sainsbury’s – likely more than any previous marketing campaign.

Everybody works in marketing and customer service

Job descriptions aren’t everything. While most people would never categorize themselves as part of either customer service or marketing, chances are good that at least part of their time is spent on one or the other, or both.

What it comes down to is this: Training and empowering your employees (especially your customer service reps), and creating a culture of exemplary service, is absolutely critical to marketing efforts. One can’t exist without the other, and blending the two will only make your company stronger.

Jun 20, 2014
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