A typical entrepreneurial priority is to drive business growth and so time, money, and effort is dedicated to marketing. I’m all for that. As I am hired by companies to help grow their brands, one of the first things I look to explore is the brand experience. The products and services are of course critical, but just as important is the plan to deliver, fix, and continually improve. The reality is that things break, deliveries are delayed, and not every fit is perfect.
A brand is more than a logo and a name. Coupling that with a kitschy tag line and brand promise alone can not make the brand. In the brand scheme of things, the real value of a brand is the experience itself: your products and services and above all else, your customer service.
I believe that customer service belongs in the front office, sitting side by side and front and center with the marketing department. After all, if your plans are to drive in new clients, who better to tell the world than existing clients? Conversely, if you piss off a client they can do some real brand damage through rating sites like Yelp and with their own fans, followers, and social media friends. When you let one customer down, you run the risk of alerting hundreds, possibly thousands, of potential new customers to the fact that your brand has a flaw.
A big missing opportunity is turning existing customers into an army of ranting, raving, bragging, ooh-ing and ahh-ing, commission-free, independent salespeople. And equally as big is the missing opportunity to turn an unsatisfied customer into your biggest promoter.
I got to thinking about this when I was left banging my head against a wall (metaphorically), frustrated by how a big ISP could provide some of the worst customer service I’ve experienced in all my years of providing web design services.
It was a few Sundays ago when we began noticing a client’s website was struggling to load, and by Monday the site was down. I checked other sites I knew were hosting with this same provider and found that they were also experiencing problems.
Requests for tech support were sent separately on Sunday for each account affected. Only automated ‘we got your request’ responses were provided. No human answered the phones. No alerts or notices on their website or within our account administrative panels. More follow up calls on Monday with only the ability to leave messages and more emails.
By the end of the day on Monday things seemed to have been set right.
Tuesday—still nothing. Wednesday morning—three business days later—I finally heard from different tech support reps for each issue submitted. One was a short, with the distinctive tone indicating I was probably an idiot, with no acknowledgement that they had experienced problems. Another included an explanation and admission that they had experienced difficulties, along with an offer for 11 percent discount toward my next purchase.
Really? I just experienced the worst service and you think that 11 percent will entice me to buy more? Get a grip! Then another side of my brain activated and I thought that maybe we could save some money for something we need. Nahhh.
Serendipitously, reading through my inbox I come upon a blog post on this very topic promoting gamification for poor customer service. Jay Baer’s blog had a guest post from Lisa Loeffler that is worth the read. She suggests that a customer who had to hold on a call for a long time might earn a coupon or gift card. I understand that this is a novel idea for a company to respect a client’s time; however, if it is a service or product failure, will couponing be enough? Or could a coupon for something besides the offending company’s products or services be a win?
So just asking—where does your customer service department fit into your organization and how do you react when you get a fail in service or a product? And if you are in sales, marketing, or a are business owner, how are you handling service or product failures?
Mardy Sitzer is a certified inbound marketing professional and president of Bumblebee Design & Marketing. Since 1993, Mardy has been delivering creative and innovative marketing solutions. An avid reader of all things internet and marketing, she also writes blogs, articles, and web content for industry magazines as well as for Bumblebee’s clients. She is an adjunct professor at Fordham University and instructor at Rutgers University teaching social media for business. Follow her on Twitter or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.