One of my recent articles touches on customer service and how not enough businesses actively market their great customer service (CS). The article, perhaps not so ironically, is the from which I have gotten the most number of emails.
So it got me thinking a little bit more about the topic. Before, I had tied CS and marketing together. Now, couldn’t you say CS is tied to basically just about everything for any business? I think you can say that. I think whether you’re running a business-to-consumer (B2C) or business-to-business (B2B) company, customer service is THE central function from which all else is derived.
Let’s flip it around and look at some major functions within a company or business which are impacted by CS.
1) Marketing – this is an easy one. Great CS is easy to market, plain and simple. Poor customer service is almost impossible to market. I can say this because I’ve been a marketer. No matter what business I’m marketing, if there is great customer service it makes my job extremely easy but more importantly creates opportunities that wouldn’t have been there otherwise. If a marketer knows his or her business has shoddy customer service, he or she is less apt to be able to confidently communicate the story or value proposition of that business.
2) Sales – this has a similar relationship to Customer Service as marketing. In a B2B environment, sales absolutely has to have the confidence in its customer service team that what they’re selling will actually happen. Poor customer service is probably the biggest reason why sales relationships are ruined.
3) Finance – again, if you think about it, Finance and Accounting rely on strong customer service. Without it, there are complaints, charge backs, and a whole bunch of messy accounting entries. If you don’t believe that customer service can either cause headaches or sleepless nights for your CFO, you should ask your CFO.
4) Public Relations – this is a close partner to Marketing, obviously, but in our hyper social world, poor CS can immediately impact public relations in terms of tarnishing a brand. The flip side is that if you provide great customer service, that has the potential to spread like wildfire and be a differentiating factor versus your competitors in the court of public opinion. Think of this not just in terms of Twitter or Facebook or some of the common social media properties we all know; think of this in regards to review websites. If I’m going on vacation, I would clearly do some research about what hotel to stay at and the first thing I would want to read are reviews from other travelers like me. CS is a big component of what I want to read about, and review sites are big part of our new world’s PR.
4a) Social Media – speaking of social media, I would give a very unscientific guess that most of what I read or hear from my peers about a business in a social media environment is about service. “They were great on the phone.” “XYZ business got back to me within 24 hours.” These types of comments in social media can be make or break for a business not only within social media, but within search engines since so much of social media is now indexed in Google, Yahoo and Bing.
The list really can go on. The more I think about it, the more I believe that the hub for most businesses should be their customer service and the operations that underlie the customer service department. Like marketing, customer service is one of the few functions that has an internal and external view of a business, product or service. CS has a direct relationship with customers and also is in a position to provide strategic advice internally based on what is learned from the customers.
Think about your favorite brand or business. Why are you passionate about it? Why are you loyal to it? Likely, there are factors that weigh in your decision-making like price or function. But I would say more often than not, at a minimum, great service has a seat at the table; and at a maximum, it is the only seat at the table.