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Five Reasons Why Customer Service and Service Culture are Marketing Conversations

Ron Kaufman helps companies on every continent build a culture of uplifting service that delivers real business results. Making transformation his mission, Ron is one of the world’s most sought-after thought leaders and experts on achieving superior service. With a clientele of government agencies and multinational corporations including Singapore Airlines, Xerox, Nokia Siemens Networks, and Wipro, Ron delivers powerful insights and global best practices, enabling organizations to gain a sustainable advantage through service. Below, he writes on how building a strong customer service culture is a conversation that marketers should lead:

Mistaken marketing professionals believe customer service is an operational issue. They think marketing’s job is to bring customers to the company and customer service is important only after their marketing magic is done. These misguided professionals focus with great intensity on brand building, advertising and promotions, but ignore the daily discipline of actually delivering excellent service.

Mistaken marketing professionals also believe that building a strong service culture is someone else’s job. They think that marketing focuses externally on prospects and customers, while culture is an internal matter, and therefore the responsibility of someone else, usually their colleagues in Human Resources.

This way of thinking is obsolete. Modern marketing professionals understand the vital role of consistently excellent service. And they understand that building a strong customer service culture is a conversation that Marketing should lead.

Here are five reasons why customer service and service culture are so important for companies and brands, and for clear-thinking marketing professionals:

1. A company’s brand is experienced at every point in a customer’s journey.

The appeal of a brand is vulnerable at each perception point, from first awareness to ultimate purchase, from online website to multi-year warranty, from pre-sales information to post-sales support, and from initial delivery to eventual recycling or consumption.

Along this journey, your customer’s opinion of your company will be shaped in each moment of their experience: over the counter, over the web, over the phone, face-to-face, through email, text, websites, and apps. These perception points are created and delivered by other members of your team, and the quality of service they provide has a direct impact on your customer’s opinion of your brand.

2. Customer advocacy can be more valuable than costly promotions.

Happy customers contribute enormously to the value of a brand. Why? Because positive word of mouth is more credible than paid advertising, and a lot more trusted. When things are going well, loyal customers will invite more customers to join the party by sharing, referring, linking, liking, and commenting in your favor. As a marketing professional, you want every team member to earn these links and likes.

Receiving a personal compliment makes someone on your team feel good. Receiving a company compliment makes everyone in your company feel good. The key to earning both is delivering service that makes your customers feel good.

3. Brand resilience is enhanced by loyal customers.

Negative word of mouth can be destructive. Poor reviews, low-star ratings, and thumbs-down clicks damage the effectiveness of your brand-building investments. Meanwhile, the best thing to counter negative comments are positive comments from other customers.

I recently booked hotel rooms in a town near the university where our daughter will study next year. The town is not large and the hotel selection is limited. As I searched online, the hotels all looked alike with mostly 3-star and 4-star reviews. There were also a few 1-star reviews with negative comments from disappointed guests.

One hotel responded to a 1-star review with a sincere apology, specific actions to resolve the issue, and a heartfelt invitation from the manager to visit again. What impressed me even more were the many comments from other guests speaking highly about the hotel and the hotel manager. It was those supporting customer comments that tipped the balance and secured my hotel booking.

4. A strong service team will solve service problems, respond quickly to customers, and do all possible to protect the credibility of your brand.

In an uplifting service culture, difficulties are embraced like fresh fuel that powers a team’s commitment. In a weak service culture, customer complaints send team members scurrying for safety, pointing the finger at others, and doing everything they can to avoid blame.

When things go wrong, everybody notices. But when a team rallies to quickly set things right, then everybody can win: the customer wins with an effective service recovery, the company wins from a boost in staff morale, and your brand can win when positive coverage and comments follow.

5. Brand equity increases in a proactive service culture.

Our definition of service is taking action to create value for someone else. In a proactive service culture, colleagues frequently suggest improvement ideas to their colleagues. In a strong and proactive service culture, people throughout the organization create and recommend new offers of value to customers. This kind of engagement increases customer readiness to consider new purchases, builds longer term relationships, and creates a vibrant future together.

Marketing creates the possibility of a brand, but marketing alone cannot build a brand reputation.

Customer service and a strong service culture are essential to win – and keep winning – in competitive markets. If you are a marketing professional, don’t fall prey to mistaken assumptions. Be an advocate for service in every conversation. Become a leader in the development of your service culture. Your brand, your company, and your customers are all counting on you.

By Ron Kaufman/May, 2014