Customer service as marketing

This week I’ve been preparing material for a couple upcoming workshops and client presentations about customer service as marketing. In an era where 2/3 of marketing is now in the hands of consumers – through reviews, word of mouth (both online and off), customer created content and social media, seeing customer service as part of marketing is critical.

In fact, it’s no longer just PART OF your marketing, it has BECOME your marketing! While competitors duke it out purchasing media, shouting louder and further, it’s well worth considering alternatives that are not only less expensive, but much more effective – especially as the media landscape shifts in favour of consumers heavily influencing others about your product, brand or service.

I demands a shift in mindset and culture though, and the willingness to play for a longer term goal.

I would also argue it is no longer really about customer satisfaction, it is now about customer delight. Think about it, satisfied customers don’t go off and tell their friends how satisfied they are. Satisfied customers don’t take photos of products or experiences that were satisfactory or adequate. The only thing that makes the grade as shareable, is the unexpected – the stuff that delights them.

Delight your customers & they’ll do your marketing for you!

It’s really about story making versus story telling too. Rather than spending marketing funds telling our story, customer service marketing is about creating moments that customers will want to share – which is story making. See the difference?

So how do we do that?

I think there are several critical pieces, but one of the most important is creating a culture that supports and empowers employees to interact with customers, go the extra mile, and create memorable moments. It’s also about empathy, being human and doing “the right thing.” And above all, it’s about employees recognizing moments in the making – seeing opportunities, and helping enable something that becomes shareable.

Word of mouth, both online and off, is a very powerful thing. Content created by consumers in their authentic voice is 600% more effective than content created by a company. By virtue of it being broadcast by someone else, the channels and targets for the message they choose have already been filtered to be appropriate. People tend to do that naturally. There’s no algorithm required, and you don’t even have to pay for it!

But it all comes down to creating those shareable moments. It could be just comping a coffee for that regular customer, taking extra time to explain online ordering to someone new to it, giving a free upgrade, or noticing a special moment and offering to take a photo on the customers camera. It could be dealing with a customer complaint and giving them way more then what they were asking for, quickly and graciously – to make it right in their eyes. It could be incorporating the unexpected into your business – an ice cream butler at a hotel, or remembering a guest likes coconut water and leaving it bedside with a note. I could be noticing extra effort by a student in a course, and giving them tickets to an upcoming conference. Or maybe it’s a clean and vacuumed car while it is valet parked at a restaurant. I’m just making this stuff up, but you get the idea – small, unexpected things, that when delivered by caring people, are not only appreciated, but help you connect to customers on a new level.   Customer service IS the new marketing in an age where customers control 2/3 of our message. How are you adjusting to this new reality?

Mary Charleson

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