Customer service is marketing


CK digs into listening processes, adding some depth to the what to do where so much discussion is on how. It's a fun read for me, because it's similar to the listening talk I give clients. We're good at that in the echosphere, agreeing on principles that most people in the real world don't know about yet. Here's another: forget what it says on the org chart; customer service is a marketing discipline. If your customer service is handing out bad experiences, you won't be able to fix it with spin.

The easy pitch for listening to social media—monitoring blogs and communities, measuring trends—plays on the fear motivation. Someone may write something negative about your company, and it might get picked up by mainstream media. But take a step back. Have you noticed how many "social media crises" started as customer service issues?

Here's Josh Hallett on how Spirit Airlines could resolve negative buzz by fixing the underlying problem:

What they should do.....It seems that the majority of their issues are related to their customer support line, they should fix that problem first.
It's simple cause and effect: do you treat the symptom (reputation) or the underlying condition (service)? At the Conference Board's corporate reputation and communications conference in New York a couple of weeks ago, we heard repeatedly that substance, not spin, leads to a strong reputation. Isn't that obvious?

Applied listening tactics
If you're not in crisis-management mode, you can use listening tactics to identify issues before they get out of hand (What's the ROI on a crisis prevented?). Deal with the problems you find, whether they affect one customer or many, and you may keep your challenges from becoming the focus of attention.

If you're already in a crisis situation, use listening tactics to identify underlying causes and possible solutions, as well as to measure progress (in either direction). Remember, not every critic is an opponent. Pay attention to constructive criticism.

Customer service priorities
It's easy to say the right things about customers and service, but how's your reality? If you're not sure where your customer service is focused, ask yourself some of John Dodds's questions about your customer service approach:

  • Do you focus on fulfilling all your customers’ actual needs or do you have one eye on cross-selling opportunities?

  • Do you acknowledge and listen to your customers or do you harass and broadcast to them?
See John's post for the other 8. I'll add one:
  • Do you hide your policies in the fine print, or are they front and center? (Customer-friendly policies don't need to hide.)

Substance first, image follows. My guess is that none of this is very controversial inside the echo chamber. I think it makes sense in the real world, too. The question is, how many businesses are ready to operate this way?


"It's a fun read for me, because it's similar to the listening talk I give clients."

Nathan: Thanks so much for the link. Our #1 job is listening, really. Listening for needs, wants, problems, preferences. But we need to make it core (read: processes). And insofar as customer service, do you know that most (like over 80%) of customer service dept's don't report to marketing? Max (Attention Max Blog) taught me that.

I was thinking, if you give this talk to clients, have you ever thought of making a Webinar out of it? Pardon me if you already do. But if you don't, I know of an outfit that wants content and will host and promote it for you...and then, I understand, it's always available so it could be a great sales tool--and if would be for the common (listening) good.

Btw: I have NO/Zero/Zip affliation with the outfit. They just read my blog and I like to help other bloggers and connect good people :-).

Thanks, CK. I guess I need to polish up that talk if I'm going to consider immortalizing it. ;-)

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About Nathan Gilliatt

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  • Voracious learner and explorer. Analyst tracking technologies and markets in intelligence, analytics and social media. Advisor to buyers, sellers and investors. Writing my next book.
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