Customer Service Becomes a Marketing Tool
Customers today no longer base their loyalty on price or product. Instead, how they feel after interacting with customer service has a much bigger impact on future purchase decisions. A good interaction can keep customers satisfied and loyal, while just one poor interaction could lead them to stop doing business with companies again.
“The companies that are going to win are the ones that provide great customer service,” says Eric Smuda, principal of CX strategy and enablement at InMoment, a customer feedback management solutions provider.
As businesses today compete on customer experience (CX), marketers have a tremendous opportunity to leverage effective customer problem resolution to increase loyalty and, potentially, sales. In effect, this approach integrates marketing and customer service in the ways that CRM always promised.
The concept not only assumes that customers with successfully resolved issues are more likely to interact or transact with that company again, but that they can also be very instrumental in convincing others to do business with that company as well.
While the blending of marketing and CX is not a new concept, for many companies today, such blending is still more of a goal than a reality. Often, efforts at such integrated marketing are hampered by data, personnel, corporate focus, and other challenges, according to marketing experts.
“The primary challenge is that most companies are not prioritizing customer service,” Smuda says.
“The service has to be in alignment with the brand purpose,” he adds, arguing that customers might be blocked from having positive brand experiences by marketing departments that over-promise, setting unrealistic expectations around delivery times or product performance, or by customers’ own unrealistic expectations for brand fulfillment or performance.
The key to providing customer service and marketing alignment is to overcome cross-departmental obstacles to become corporately customer-obsessed. In doing so, the first wall to smash is the artificial separation between customer service and marketing. But that’s much easier said than done. Typically, sales is using one system, marketing another system, and customer service yet another.
Beyond that, many of today’s companies are the products of many mergers and acquisitions over the past several years. Each individual business unit likely had its own systems that may or not be integrated.
Though there’s plenty of discussion about pulling all of the underlying data together, many companies still fall short, preventing them from taking their customer data and turning it into more personalized service, says Ryan Myers, director of Cornerstone Advisors, a consulting firm for the financial services industry. “For some companies, the ability to do that is still a long way out.”
DATA IS REQUIRED
A large part of providing better customer service is learning what customers want. For that, companies need to collect, analyze, and leverage the data they receive from customers, says Jeffrey Harris, CEO of Springbig, a provider of loyalty marketing, communication, and automation software for the cannabis industry. “You have transaction information, retail survey data, social media data. You need to use all of that data in order to provide excellent customer service.”
Companies are also still struggling to build a master record of customer information, according to Smuda.
That data will help companies determine which channels customers prefer. Several experts add that this information can be combined with customers’ historical transactional profile and potential lifetime value to provide a differentiated level of service.
For customers at the low level of the value spectrum, automated solutions buoyed by artificial intelligence can provide very good, even personalized, service without the expense of human customer service agents, many marketing experts agree. But higher-tier customers will typically want and expect a more human touch, though this, too, is often augmented with the advanced customer service technologies that companies have available today.