Tag Archives: customer service and marketing

Customer service IS marketing

18 Aug

There should be no doubt that a company’s customer service plays a huge role in marketing. Put bluntly, if a company has poor customer service, there will be fewer customers at the end of the day. The only exception to this rule is with monopolies like power and telephone companies, which often provide bad service but customers are forced to remain with them as they cannot take their business elsewhere.

Let me give you a personal example. My website is currently hosted at Mediatemple. I have had hosting there since 2004. Off and on during the past seven years, I have had email retrieval issues among other problems.  This past Friday, I noticed my Outlook was not able to access my email. It happened again on Monday, at which point I opened a support request with Mediatemple online. I have learned, through negative interactions in the past, that calling the 1-800 number results in long waits and unhelpful personnel.

After a few hours, I had received no response, so I tweeted it out. Mediatemple responds immediately to tweets. I did not get a response from the support request until 24 hours later. It told me I should check my email settings. I did what they suggested, and the problem persisted. Mind you, I had no problem accessing my other email on the same Outlook, using the same ISP.  In my mind, the problem was clearly on Mediatemple’s side.  At Mediatemple, they refused to believe my claims as a customer, or accept that there could be an issue on their end. The couple of emails/tweets that followed told me to call customer service to troubleshoot my settings. Again, my settings had never been changed and the Outlook was working just fine with my other account.

Clearly, to Mediatemple, it is easier to shift the blame to the customer than to check their service. This has happened many times before (once, I was actually told when my website was down, that I had “broken” it…I wouldn’t know how to do that). Well, enough is enough. Since I am going to relaunch my website in the next few days, I am taking my hosting elsewhere. Customer service is the reason.

Customer service can play a tremendous role in keeping customers happy and COMING back for more. Nordstrom’s is well known for excellent customer service, and in fact, it is its key differentiating factor. An article in Bloomberg Businessweek claims that:

For the most part, the Nordstroms have succeeded by making customer service the good they’re really selling, say industry observers. Though many retailers embrace “customer centricity,” a fancy term for putting the customer first, few equal Nordstrom, which routinely ranks in the top three on Luxury Institute surveys that measure customer satisfaction.

Read that again: customer service is the good that Nordstrom’s is selling. Not the clothes or the jewelry. The SERVICE. And it has made the company GROW.

If companies spends lots of money on marketing materials, advertising and public relations but neglect their customer service, the marketing efforts will be for naught.


Want to improve your marketing? Start with your customer service.

3 Dec

The best, most award-winning ad in the world won’t sway an unhappy customer’s mind.  Keep that in mind as you tinker with your marketing and you don’t check in with your customer service.

If you live in Washington, DC or Maryland, you probably have PEPCO as your electric company.  And if you were around this past summer or during the massive blizzards of February, you probably lost your power.  You tried calling PEPCO only to get bad information or no information at all. Then you found out that PEPCO is rated very poorly among all electric utility companies in the United States. You probably weren’t surprised.

Fast forward to the Fall of 2010. PEPCO is busy running a TV commercial featuring the company president assuring the viewers that PEPCO is responding to customer concerns.  But, is it true?

Yesterday, I had to call PEPCO. I was on hold for 21 minutes. And there was no emergency. Can you imagine what hold times will be when there are outages?

This is a case where PEPCO is investing money in its marketing without investing money in customer service. This is a major mistake. Customers don’t care if you are running a great ad campaign, have well written brochures and a redesigned website, if they cannot get through to an agent to resolve their problems.

Customers will judge a company on it service, not on its marketing. Marketing may get customers through the door, but it will not retain them or make them think positively about your company or organization (this applies to nonprofits as well).

Before you spend any money on a marketing campaign, make sure that you have budgeted for customer service.

Where marketing ends

11 Mar

Obviously,  as a marketing communications person, I believe that marketing is helpful and mostly necessary if you want to promote an event, sell a product or service or obtain support. If people don’t know you are there, they can’t  buy from you or support your cause.  However, at some point marketing ends and customer service starts.

Let me share a story with you.  I have been going to a hair salon in DC for a bit over a year.  It doesn’t advertise much and really depends on word of mouth. They have my business solely based on my experience.  My last visit was last week.  I had to wait and then the hairdresser, who has been cutting my hair for a year, did not remember me. It was as if I had never been there. She was unfriendly and she made me late for my next appointment. My hair did not  look good. I felt upset and in general, the experience was bad. Would I go back? Absolutely not. Would I recommend the place to anyone? Not a chance. So Fiddleheads on17th Street, NW in Washington, DC, not only have you lost a customer but you have lost my word-of-mouth marketing on your behalf.

Could this situation be averted? Yes. Communication would have helped, as would a system where the salon keeps track of its customers, their preferences, when they’ve visited, etc. Can it be fixed retroactively? No. There is nothing that can fix a bad experience once it has happened. I would never trust my hair to this nasty woman who clearly does not care who she is working with.

My point is that marketing, including word-of-mouth marketing can only go so far. The service/product/cause has to live up to the expectation or else you won’t buy it or use it or support it.  I want to point you also to this article on Adweek, by Joseph Jaffe, “Customer Service is Key Strategy.”  Give it a read.  Jaffe’s point is that customers are lifeblood to a business and serving them should be one of your marketing strategies (interestingly, the article changed names from when I read it earlier today, when it said Customer Service is a Key Differentiator).

What are your experiences? Have you ever been turned off by a service experience to such an extent that you never bought from the vendor? Heck, let me do a poll: