Many marketers are evaluating what role customer experience and customer service should have in their 2013 marketing goals. The answer is not cut and dry, but depends on what is best for the company.
Today’s consumers tend to base purchase decisions on social media, reviews and referrals from friends. They are interested in marketing, but only if it matches their expectations about the brand. Customer Service is one of the best avenues to directly influence this perception.
With the research firm Software Advice, I moderated an online debate, “Is Customer Service the New Marketing?” with four experts in the field: Shep Hyken, Jon Miller, Micah Solomon and Denis Pombriant. These best-selling authors, professional speakers and thought-leaders discussed the changing roles of customer service, marketing and how companies can accommodate these changes.
Some key take-aways from the discussion include:
Marketing and customer service should be leveraged together. The boundaries of marketing and customer service departments are breaking and marketers should not feel forced to choose one or the other. The two can be combined creatively, for example, by retweeting an interesting customer service interaction on Twitter, or asking service agents to collaborate on buyer persona development.
Mirroring customer expectations with customer service is important. The experts emphasized that mirroring customer expectations doesn’t always mean creating a consumer-centric company, like Zappos. For example, Walmart took action after negative customer feedback on the in-store service experiences. After spending time, money and resources to improve those customer service reports, Walmart did see their customer satisfaction rates increase—but their revenue didn’t. Why? Because customers don’t go to Walmart for the service, they go for the low prices and selection.
Implement customer-centric culture from the top down. In order to create a Zappos-level of customer service, the change needs to be directed at the C-level. The changes must be backed by resources and a commitment to improve outcomes and processes based on the interest of the customer. Use the Net Promoter Score to measure and track success, and be cautious of using time-to-resolution or call volumes. These metrics tend to encourage agents to rush customers off the phone with or without really solving their problems.
Zappos and Walmart should align customer service with marketing very differently because their businesses are unalike. Compete compared the demographics of the two sites below. On average, Zappos shoppers have a higher income than Walmart shoppers.
Both companies cater to a slightly different consumer. Consumers shop with Walmart to save a buck, not for customer service. Conversely, Zappos does not usually compete on price but has loyal shoppers who expect the highest customer service.
Is customer service the next marketing? No, customer service will always be a piece of the marketing puzzle. How you integrate customer service and your marketing efforts entirely depends on the needs of individual businesses.
Watch the full discussion here: