by Willis Turner
This question of whether customer service is the new marketing isn’t just about the increasing importance of social media and customer reviews, or rising consumer disenchantment with traditional marketing. For some, it’s about making the decision between long-term reputation and short-term profit.
This topic was at the center of a Google+ Debate research firm Software Advice hosted titled “Is Customer Service the New Marketing?” A panel of experts discussed what kinds of companies should embrace a customer-centric strategy as a form of marketing, and how they should go about implementing this approach.
The event featured a lineup of customer service and marketing experts including:
- Shep Hyken, speaker, best-selling author, consultant
- Jon Miller, Marketo co-founder, VP of marketing
- Micah Solomon, speaker, author, consultant
- Denis Pombriant, Beagle Research Group CEO, author
The group first emphasized the importance of mirroring your customers’ expectations, rather than trying to dictate your brand to them. Customers won’t believe what you say about yourself unless it matches what their social networks also say about you. This can be amazing customer service, or it can be price, selection, or something else.
Next, they talked about breaking the bounds of marketing and customer service departments. Instead of feeling like you have to choose one or the other, leverage them together. Retweet an interesting customer service interaction on Twitter. Or get service agents to collaborate on buyer persona development. Be creative.
The line between customer service and marketing is becoming blurred, says Shep Hyken, and some companies are even counting customer service as a marketing expense. Although in the past there were definitive marketing and customer service “departments,” it makes sense to acknowledge their relationship and interaction for the overall good of the company. An investment in customer service, and the training to support it, is a profitable investment for a company to make. Funds invested in customer support provide a much larger return. Some companies have really taken this to heart, which even has some asking: Is customer service the new marketing?
For companies that do want to implement a Zappos-level of customer service, you need to start at the top. Make the decision to put the customer at the center of your business, then reinforce the idea with processes, resources and measurement. Finally, the group said the most important thing marketers need to consider is that the buyer is in control of their buying process. You can’t decide what information they will go after, or when, so you still need to make your company as attractive as possible. Customer service is just a piece of that puzzle.
Willis Turner, CAE CME CSE, has gained international recognition for spearheading global membership engagement and professional certification growth as the President & CEO of U.S.-based Sales & Marketing Executives International (SMEI). Willis is also founder and CEO of Old Clayburn Marketing & Management Services Inc., a full-service association management firm. As a writer and speaker on professional certification, business ethics and leading edge sales and marketing topics, Willis leverages his worldwide business travel experiences to convey an informative and motivating message to his audiences. Willis serves on the National Advisory Board for DECA Inc. He has taught Sales Management at the University of British Columbia, Sauder School of Business. He resides near Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada with his wife of 30 years. Follow Willis on Twitter: @willisturner.