Use of customer service as a marketing tool

It always amazes me when companies spend time, effort and resources seeking customers and then seemingly forget about them the moment the first deal is signed.

The real responsibility of a marketer extends from conceiving and developing products / services right through to whatever happens after these are delivered AND the ongoing relationship with the same customers.

All of the above is standard and uncontroversial I would expect … So why do so many companies behave as customer service isn’t part of it?

In B2B as well as B2C marketing (and there is a difference) companies allow their processes or their reward systems or internal pressures (or just lack of focus) to prevent the achievement of long term repeat customers.

Service is about brand

Even if the customer’s order value is low; is that really a good reason to serve them badly? Is the damage done to your band really worth that saving in effort? I would suggest not.

Most companies believe that their brand represents quality of service one way or another (and yet bad service is not uncommon). They might have this written down in strategy documents and business plans. They might have it posted on the wall. So, surely they want to follow this through to delivery? The question is does the culture and the management style demand this even in difficult circumstances? (It’s not the customer’s job you make your life easy!).

What message is communicated internally?

A major potential hindrance to the delivery of great service is the internal communications of the organisation. This goes beyond official channels such as the e-shots, intranet and the glossy brochures. What pressure are the front line staff under? Does this promote or hinder consistent good service?

Is the focus long term or short term?

Imagine if that low value customer was to grow and turn into a big customer. Given that growth is a main objective of most companies, this is not unrealistic. Or maybe they have contacts in your target market. Even if they are a really small customer, maybe they will be a customer for life. How much is this worth?

What not to say to customers

There are various terms that should be eliminated from the vocabulary where customers are concerned. Some of these include:

  • ‘Unfortunately …’ (mainly because it’s usually followed by an explanation that they can’t have what they want). This can be avoided through expectation management
  • ‘I’m afraid …’ (same reason)
  • ‘Obviously …’ – it’s presumptuous and usually followed by an explanation of how wrong they are
  • ‘You’ve come through to the wrong department’ (How is that their fault?)
  • Anything that involves telling them what to do
  • Anything that is about your internal procedures – this is just not their business. This is often the most obvious sign of a major training need.
  • ‘No other company does this either’ – a classic retort to assure the customer that they are not getting what they want. But this is a ridiculous thing to say to a customer since being different from competitors is the job of a decent business.

Does this mean that customers are always right?

Absolutely not. But they do always matter.

In short, the motive for good service to all should be the positive effect this has on your brand. If you need it however, there are additional financial justifications that are easy to calculate. At the end of the day though, customers need to be kept, otherwise it won’t take long to run out of prospects.

So, the focus should not be on you and your company, or on calculating customer value. It should be on delivering on your brand promise. Once this basic requirement is achieved, it is reasonable to target additional resources on the big customers.

Finally, it only works if it’s done all the time; not just sometimes.

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