Customer Service and Marketing
Some companies are starting to think about customer service in terms of a marketing expense. That’s a good thing. It’s profitable to invest in customer service, and that return on a company’s customer service budget, including the training to support it, is showing a much larger return than the actual dollars invested. Some companies have really taken this to heart, which leads to the question: Is customer service the new marketing?
I’m not sure that it can be considered the new marketing, but I do believe it has become an integral part of marketing – as well as sales – and a number of other departments. More and more, companies are finally seeing customer service as something more than just a department or a call center and they are allocating the funds needed to make it part of their culture.
Zappos.com, one of my favorite customer service role models, is recognized as a customer service leader. Their leadership has made it clear that support is not a cost, but an opportunity to market through their customers. They hope for two outcomes. Because of the amazing customer service experience that they deliver, their customers will reward them with loyalty in the form of more business. Zappos.com also hopes to compel their customers to evangelize the company, spreading great stories about their customer service. That word-of-mouth marketing is a direct result of the customer service they provide. What they do is quite simple. They make a promise, and they keep it. And, customers love it!
Ace hardware is also a perfect example of how a company can use customer service as a major marketing strategy. Along with other local hardware stores, their direct competition is the larger big box stores, such as Home Depot, Lowes and others. They’re key to survival is not to outspend them in advertising. It’s not to compete on low prices. They simply provide amazing service. They survive, and actually thrive, on delivering the best customer service in their industry.
The loyalty these companies’ customers show in these examples is exemplary. The customers come back. They share their experiences with their friends, colleagues and family members. Some of the best marketing and advertising comes from simply the experience that the customer has with the company they are doing business with. Their strategies are sound. Make a promise and keep it. Deliver an exceptional experience. Out service your competition. If that’s not marketing, I don’t know what is.