by Natalie Smith, Guest Contributor
As tradition has it, many marketing departments focus only on advertising and sales pitches, while ignoring the importance of building relationships with customers. However, by providing superb customer service that creates human-to-human connections, companies will manage to satisfy their customers and make them loyal.
As such customers are likely to become (unpaid!) advocates of the brand, providing quality customer service surely contains a high amount of marketing value. Here are some reasons why you should include customer service into your long-term marketing strategy and how to do so.
Why is customer service so important when it comes to marketing? For a simple reason: people talk. Customers always talk about a brand, and what they say is often determined by the quality of the customer service they receive.
With good customer support that solves their problems and treats them well in the process, customers will feel as if their needs are being met. As a consequence, not only will they create repeat business by purchasing the same product or service, but they will also start spreading the good word about the company. The result of this positive word-of-mouth referral will be the influx of new customers and business growth.
On the other hand, bad service will produce completely opposite results. If customers have to deal with unresponsive staff, impolite clerks, inefficient problem-processing, or any other issue that poor customer service implies, they will feel unsatisfied and frustrated. Their next step will include badmouthing the company regardless of how much they liked their product or service. New people will not come knocking on that company’s door.
The numbers reflect these findings in action: whereas happy customers inform 10 to 12 people about their experience, unsatisfied customers will share their frustrations with 20 other people. Moreover, according to a survey conducted by the American Marketing Association, as many as 90 percent of customers trust peer review, and 70 percent trust online review. What does all this mean?
To put it simply – word-of-mouth referrals will either make a company more successful or damage its reputation. Because of that reason, it is essential to make customer service part of a wider marketing agenda. Sounds convincing? I believe so. Now here's some advice on what to do.
First and foremost, you need to satisfy your customers. While most businesses focus on creating excellent products and providing good services, this is simply not enough. Customer experiences need to align with what a company promises to do, and customers need to feel valued to remain effective in terms of marketing.
Here are some guidelines for accomplishing this:
The point of satisfying customers is to create a long-term relationship that fosters trust and loyalty, which results in the word-of-mouth marketing that every company needs.
SOCIAL MEDIA ENGAGEMENT
While satisfying customers, it is nowadays essential not to disregard social media: when it comes to word-of-mouth referrals, nowhere else does word travel so fast and resonate so loudly. As only one negative Facebook post or a tweet can generate widely harmful consequences, it is extremely important to realize that such platforms have become much more than just advertizing opportunities to reach a wider audience. Therefore, providing quality customer service through social media needs to become a priority. What this means is that instead of just posting one-too-many messages, you need to create quality one-to-one public conversations that everyone else will see.
This requires not only responding to requests and inquires but also filtering through a large amount of content in order to find comments related to your company. Whatever you find, you should always answer customers’ questions, apologize for their problems and offer solutions, as well as thank them for positive comments.
Responding to comments publicly conveys the values of a brand while utilizing free marketing. Satisfied customers can turn into social media promoters of a brand, which further adds to marketing efforts.
By now, it is pretty clear that customer service and marketing go hand in hand. In many companies, however, marketing departments and customer service teams are often two separate hands that operate independently. But in order to make business efforts effective, those departments need to collaborate closely.
On the one hand, marketing departments can learn a lot from the customer service team. For example, since the service reps are the first point of contact with customers, they know who their customers are, what they want and what motivates them. If transferred to the marketing team, this knowledge can mean a great deal in creating future marketing goals in terms of both improving services/products and promoting them adequately.
On the other hand, the customer service team needs to be acquainted with marketing goals in order to successfully translate them to customers. For example, they need to be informed about different events, such as promotions of products, so they can notify customers in a timely manner.
The bottom line is that your business will become more successful when marketing and customer service teams collaborate.
As shown, business success is driven by customer reviews to a great extent. Therefore, your priority should be to satisfy customers so that they become loyal advocates of a brand. While doing so, you need to pay a lot of attention to social media where both good and bad reviews travel fast and create a large impact.
You should also encourage your marketing departments to cooperate with the customer service team in order to create a better synergy that ultimately results in customer satisfaction.
All this means that customer service can be that edge your company needs to overtake the competition. Rethinking your current strategies to improve customer service will result in greater gains than improvements to just your products/services or advertising. If you ask me, this is definitely free and effective marketing.
IMAGE CREDIT: SEATTLE MUNICIPAL ARCHIVES
Natalie Smith, a Seattle-based copywriter, enjoys writing about themes related to online marketing, customer service and the business world in general. You can reach her @Natalie Smith.