In today’s world businesses no longer have the luxury of compartmentalizing the customer experience. Consumers have a multitude of ways to engage with a company: walking into a physical store; browsing a catalogue, visiting a website, or using social media. They also have multiple devices for accessing products or services, from desktops to smartphones. So it’s now up to brands to ensure that a consumer’s experience is seamless across all these channels (Omni-channel). However, that’s easier said than done, because many brands are not used to thinking in these new terms. Ensuring consistent, Omni-channel experience means that marketing and customer service go hand in hand. Or at least they should. In practice, there’s often a huge gulf between the two groups, if they interact at all. Too often, marketing opportunities are the carrot, and customer service “obligations” are the stick.
Ultimately, treating customer service as an unpleasant obligation creates a huge missed opportunity. Think of your favorite brands, and try to remember the key moments that put them at the top of your personal list. Now, scratch off the brands that earned your business only through the quality of their products or services, without any direct interaction.
If your list is anything like mine, then the brands that are left likely didn’t win your business with a snappy ad or a well-placed bit of viral marketing. It’s all about customer service. You had a question, comment, or problem, and a representative of the brand in question responded thoughtfully. With quality customer service, even a moment that starts out as a negative can be the building block of a prosperous relationship.
Breaking Down Barriers
The way I see it, customer service is marketing. When else do you have the customer’s full attention, and the chance to solve one of their challenges directly? What better example can you give as a brand than the willingness to listen, improve, and do right by your customers? You may be dealing with someone who’s frustrated in the moment, but they’ve contacted you for help solving a problem.
So help them solve it.
The challenge comes in getting customer service and marketing on the same page… or at least in the same chapter. If your brand is active on social channels, then you’ve already got a foundation in place. Your social feeds are a natural place to show off your best marketing, and they’re increasingly becoming the place where customers come with questions, comments, and concerns. Whether a marketing or customer service person responds to a concern means little, as long as the concern is addressed in a timey fashion.
Breaking down barriers inside the office may create more of a challenge, since marketing and customer are traditionally kept separate. This is not a deal-breaker, or anything close. The skills required to succeed in both areas overlap quite a bit, so collaboration should come relatively easy. Each side has plenty to learn from the other, and it’s mostly about getting them “in the same room” to encourage collaboration.
The Difference Between Recognition and Reputation
In the end, each customer service contact is a golden opportunity to build your reputation, and reputation matters. Basically, your reputation is defined by the moments that people remember. Recognition is still important, but it can also be fleeting. A customer may recognize your logo or name, but recognition means little without a positive experience to back it up.
So the real key is creating an environment where collaboration between customer service and marketing is encouraged and rewarded. Managing your reputation is about so much more than your content, web design, and marketing materials. It’s what you do, not just what you say. The line between marketing and customer service is more blurred than ever. For marketers, that should truly be cause to celebrate.