Customer Service Is Marketing

Some of the most effective marketing that takes place for a company isn’t even driven by the folks in marketing, but rather by those “invisible” people in customer service.

Here’s why. Customers and/or prospects who need to connect with a company for any given reason, routinely reach out to that company in one of two ways, both of which activate what should truly be considered a marketing opportunity; customer service.

  • They email, text and/or use a company’s chat feature to ask for help, report an issue, make a request, check status, etc.
  • Or in old-school, but still prevalent fashion, they call into an 800# for the exact same reasons

But make no mistake about it, every time a customer chats, texts, calls or emails a company, a personal encounter transpires and their perception of that company’s brand image is shaped…positively or negatively.

So how often are the marketing folks left out of this important dialogue?  Unfortunately, most of the time.

You see, in many small and medium sized companies, customer service is a function that falls under the umbrella of operations. As a result, these companies oftentimes miss the prime (and no-cost) opportunities these encounters present to deliver a seamlessly integrated brand experience to existing and prospective customers. Marketing meanwhile is hustling to generate new customers via channels that are certainly not free.

But, think about it. What if some of marketing’s central concepts were applied to customer service operations?  What if customer service people, who are the ones on the front lines, were actually thought of as marketing people, and were trained and motivated to think of every customer interaction as a marketing opportunity that enhanced the customer’s brand perception?

Think about the last time you yourself reached out to customer service for something you needed. The two things you probably cared most about were:

  • Did I get my problem resolved?
  • Was the process painless?

If it was resolved, bingo, a positive ineractiont was made. If it was actually done painlessly, that’s another huge positive engagement.

And here’s the thing, with every positive experience your customer has, your customer recommits to or at least thinks highly of your brand. This increased brand strength leads to repeat purchases (at potentially higher spending levels too), increased sales volumes, and of course the holy grail of all business – referrals that your customer will make to friends and colleagues.

Ironically getting there, where each customer interaction is viewed as a marketing opportunity, and folks in your business who are on the front lines, Customer Service, Reception, Billing,  etc. are all viewed as marketing people, isn’t all that difficult. It does require a change in thinking and a making commitment. But if that is done, it can revolutionize your business.

Imagine what it would do for your business if your customers were to have the following experience:

“I’m glad I was able to answer your questions, Ms. Customer.  And by the way, happy anniversary, I see we’re celebrating your second anniversary with us this month – we’re happy to have you. I also see you recent bought 5 whatcha-ma-callits.  Customers have been telling us that thinga-ma-do’s work really well with whatcha-ma-callits and we’re actually running a sale. And since it’s your anniversary, let me give you an extra 10% off!  I can go ahead and get that set up right now if you like?

Not customer service people, marketing people!

Even if you don’t see an immediate increase in revenue, here are a few reasons why customer service should be viewed as and think like marketers.

Happy customers buy more, and tell their friends. Unhappy customers buy less, and they tell their friends too…but what they tell them is a little different.

In an impersonal digitally-connected world, that’s becoming even more so, personal engagement and interaction with customers are increasingly rare and quite differentiating.

Customer service hears the pain, makes perfect sense to equip them to sell the gain.

“There is only one boss. The customer. And he can fire everybody in the company from the chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else.” Sam Walton