When I read customer service oriented book ‘Hug your Haters’, it leap out at me when Jay Baer said “Customer service is the new marketing”.
This is a new perspective for many, and it is Social Media that gives a business an opportunity to engage with people real time that are connected to, and talking about your business. When you engage their hearts and minds, well, that is marketing.
“For generations, customer service has been a necessary evil in business because there were no financial incentives to be great at it and no financial disincentives to be terrible at it. But now that customer service is increasingly a spectator sport, the ramifications for this have changed a lot. That’s why I say that customer service, in many ways, is the new marketing.”
– Jay Baer, author and speaker
If customer service and marketing are going to be much more related in the future, let’s begin with a little ‘map making’ as to the territories we are entering into.
What do you need to know about online conversations?
There are conversations happening right now about your business.
The question is, are you involved in them? Are you guiding, shaping and engaging with those who care enough to talk about you?
If not, you are still one generation back on the Internet mindset that so many top brand now have taken onboard, but it is still not that common.
“If I say to you, ‘Who’s really great at customer service?’ you can come up with two or three companies right of the top of your head. Why? Because they’re so rare.”
Think of it this way: every time anyone mentions your business online, it is an opportunity for you to connect with what they are saying, as well as how they are feeling.
This is very different to ‘offline’, where conversations will happen that you never know about. Online, they are surfacing in a transparent manner. And there is your chance to listen socially.
What Social Listening means for Customer Service?
People talk, and every piece of information they share about your brand is one of three things:
The people who are positive are your potential fans
The people who are neutral can be nurtured
And the people who talk negatively about your brand are the ones you want to engage with and learn from
Feedback is based on how a person feels, as much as it is on any established facts.
It is this feeling you want to engage. Just like directing the energy of a conversation, if you don’t engage you are missing out on a conversation – and online people are truly seeking to have their perspectives acknowledged.
How can you in turn make customer service a marketing opportunity?
The process is very straightforward once you understand that every post people share online, every review they make or every email they send, is going to come from a perspective of ‘fan’ all the way through to ‘hater’ of your business.
You want to extend the relationships with fans, and do your best to turn around the haters.
As such, here are a load of tips to get you thinking about customer service as you would if you are a marketer:
The first thing you need to do know your customer touch points with your business. This means, what is your sales process and how do you follow up with people after purchase. Every time you connect with people it’s customer service, no matter whether they are chatting with a salesperson or someone in your finance department. Customer service is the fabric of your business, not a separate function.
These are the micro-moments Google talks about…
“A brand is what a business does, reputation is what people remember.”
2. Engender a culture of Sincere Hospitality
Once you know the touchpoint, you should look at the approach of the people who are engaging with people.
In fact, everyone in the organization feels they are in customer service, even if they are not specifically assigned those duties. All team members are empowered to solve a customer’s problem when they are the one informed of it.
I was chatting with Jay Baer about this last year, based on my research into over 250 Local Businesses I’ve visited ‘on-foot’, and he kindly mentioned it in his book:
It is the Ritz-Carlton that springs up as the perfect example of a brand that does this so well.
Taking quick look at the sentiment analysis (from Talkwalker.com) at their Facebook Page and you can see the overriding positive vibes about the brand, and also how feel negative ones are apparent from that source.
And a very similar story over on their Twitter account too:
3. Employees Are Brand Ambassadors
You may be awesome, but make sure your staff are just as good as you.
We can see that recruitment of the people with the right attitude, as well training them on specific approaches are key.
“The Ritz-Carlton doesn’t hire; it selects its staff,” Seigel says. “A candidate must look you directly in the eye, be warm and friendly during the first interview. We are looking for ability to show empathy. If they can’t do that in the first interview, how are they going to react with our guests?” Quoting here.
One perspective I often give to clients is to treat people in a way as if it was being live streamed to your perfect target audience, the friends of your customers. This helps you to consider the cascading flows of information from every action you take in your business.
4. Word of mouth is free marketing
I know you know this, but it really matters – your future customers are the best friends of your existing customers.
This has been the case for millennia, and now has come of age with social media spreading the information in a much more efficient manner.
As such, you want to help people amplify the positives.
One way to do this is to make it personal:
Consider the top US department store ‘Nordstrom’. Earlier this year I interviewed one of their chaps (below) named Jason (well, he indulged my curiosity into ‘how things worked’!
He has a book of clients that he contacts personally (via email) to connect them with new product lines and the latest offerings. This is old fashioned service. And he gives them one of the most important, and yet so often missed, commodities – his time.
As the image shows below, people using Instragram (which is primarily image sharing) are resulting in the most positive sentiment from across many channels:
You can bet people will tell their friends about that service when they are wearing that new suit.
5. Have staff offer a loyalty schemes
I visited both Santa Barbara and San Francisco site of the Goorin Bros hat company.
I bought one hat from the first, and to my surprise they have me a loyalty card with stamps on it:
And this is ‘hats’, not coffees.
I mean, I bought one hat and now I am thinking about buying 10 in order to get the free one. Why? In part because the staff in both locations engaged with me in the process, trying on different styles and chatting about the history of hats and the business too.
I was also delighted when I received a ‘bonus stamp’ too. Nice work Goorin Bros crew! This is customer service and marketing wrapped into one.
And taking a look at sentiment over the past 30 days, we can see the love being spread across the world – especially felt in North America and Turkey.
Interestingly enough, it was Mark Schaefer who gave me another idea…
“Content is the currency of the social web and sharing that content is the catalyst to new relationships and business benefits.” How about having a ‘post a pic of you and your new hat on Instagram’ and pop in for an extra ‘loyalty stamp’?
There are so many ways to tell stories, you just need a little creativity with the assets you have already.
Reviews are a reflection of thoughts and feelings about the entire experience.
I am a big reviewer. And every business I like I give 5 stars on Google – 250 to date.When it comes to customer service and marketing you really need to:
a) List the locations where people leave reviews
b) Claim those listings, and keep up to date
c) Engage with people who are leaving you reviews there too
In my LinkedIn’s Lynda.com course on How to Manage Online Customer Reviews, I go into much more detail, so do check that out.
7. Listen on Social
Jay Baer says that “just 3% of all customer complaints and brand mentions actually tag the brand….so software is required.”
We love Talkwalker (one of our partners) for this purpose as it gives us great insight into what is happening across just about every social channel.
- See who is talking about your brand, with or without tagging you
- Who is using certain hashtags which matter to you
- Which social channels are the most important for your brand
- Who are the most influential people on those channels, and engage with those people
- Which content is being shared the most
- What images related to your brand (e.g. logos) people are sharing (Talkwalker has this as part of their toolkit, which is very cool)
- What people are saying about your competitors in comparison to you
- And loads more
High positive sentiment, and low negative sentiment
8. Acknowledge people
Social Media has changed people’s expectations due to one central principle: Access
And by having access people expect to be acknowledged.
Using social listening you can truly surface and engage in a conversation that will alter the trajectory of interactions a person has with a brand.
Even a gentle touch point online of ‘liking’ a post or a tweet can lead to a person having warm and fuzzies about your brand.
The little things in marketing really count.
“Culturally, you either believe in customer service at the very highest executive levels or you don’t. If you don’t truly believe that one of the ways you’re going to differentiate and stand out in your category is by being genuinely better at customer service and caring more about your customers, you’ll never be great at this, you’ll always be just mediocre.”
9. Consider a mix of private and public interactions
Sometimes it is best to simply acknowledge a comment publicly e.g. a tweet, and then seek to deepen the relationship.
Trying to ‘sell in public’ is often not the best way in my experience as private messages can be much more personalized to that person’s experience.
The same goes for when things need some care and attention.
I had this recently with the Social crew from Slack.com and they were awesome.
They engaged on social (elegantly) and then we chatted by email until I understood their product better. Now I use it even more than ever.
And below you can see that more and more people are talking about them on social (especially in the US).
As Jay Baer says on this one, “Somewhat puzzlingly, almost all of [consumers’] unanswered complaints are in public: social media, review sites, discussion boards and forums where everybody can see you’re ignoring them.”
One of my personal quests is to help senior executives to understand they need to acknowledge emails from people seeking to connect. Especially when that person has influence in a network. This is the chance for them to stand out.
“The way we communicate with our prospects and customers is the one remaining way we can actually be different.”
10. Consider how internal processes work
Knowing that customer service and marketing now work hand in hand, look at the feedback loops you already have in place.
How can you tighten up the time between someone talking about your brand and the time it takes for you to engage them in conversation?
Facebook has already gamified customer service on their Pages by offering a ‘badge’ for faster response rates:
Ok, clearly we have some work to do too. (12 days!)
As we all know, you are only as strong as your weakest link.
It doesn’t matter how much money you spend on marketing if you are not nurturing the people who are already talking about you.
The good news is, we now have the tech to connect and communicate with people in new ways.
“We have opportunities in marketing that were literally unthinkable five to ten years ago—unfathomable. The power that we have at our disposal with tools like Marketing Cloud, Service Cloud, and beyond is stuff that we could only dream of a short time ago, and I’m old enough to remember those days. But it’s not about the wand, it’s about the wizard.”