Debate This: Is Customer Service the New Marketing?

December 7, 2012

This question of whether customer service is the new marketing isn’t just about the increasing importance of social media and customer reviews, or rising consumer disenchantment with traditional marketing. For some, it’s about making the decision between long-term reputation and short-term profit.

This topic was at the center of a recent Google+ Debate research firm Software Advice hosted titled “Is Customer Service the New Marketing?” A panel of experts discussed what kinds of companies should embrace a customer-centric strategy as a form of marketing, and how they should go about implementing this approach.

The event featured a lineup of customer service and marketing experts including:

  • Shep Hyken, speaker, best-selling author, consultant
  • Jon Miller, Marketo co-founder, VP of marketing
  • Micah Solomon, speaker, author, consultant 
  • Denis Pombriant, Beagle Research Group CEO, author

The group discussed how the roles of marketing and customer service have evolved, and strategies for accommodating those changes. Here are the key takeaways:

Mirror customer expectations with customer service. In the past, marketers could push the message that portrayed the brand they wanted to deliver. Instead, companies need to reflect their customer’s expectations about the brand, whether that's providing stellar service or something else such as low prices. “Customers are interested in marketing, but they don't believe what your company says about itself unless it matches what they and their friends experience,” Solomon argued during the debate.

Leverage marketing and service together. Several times during the debate, the speakers brought up the Morton's Restaurant Group. The steakhouse chain has made service and quality central to its marketing strategy, rather than siloeing the two in their own departments. Hyken gave an example about their marketers capitalizing on a brand advocate and blogger that had 100,000 Twitter followers. He tweeted that he really wished he had a steak delivered to him at an airport where he was waiting. Morton's sent him a steak and he tweeted it to his trusting audience.

Implement a customer-centric culture from the top down. In order to create a Zappos-level of customer service, the decision must first come from executives. Then it should be clearly articulated and reinforced with policy, resources and measurement. The group advocated using the Net Promoter Score to measure and track success, but argued against using time-to-resolution or call volumes. They said this metric encourages agents to rush customers off the phone, with or without really solving their problem.

Watch the video to hear the rest of the conversation and chime in with your own thoughts by commenting below.

Big thanks to Ashley Verrill, market analyst with Software Advice, for this guest post.

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