Customer Service as a Marketing Tool

“Word of mouth is the most valuable form of marketing, but you can’t buy it. You can only deliver it. And you have to really deliver”. – G-Eazy

Given the rapid and significant changes in the customer profiles and the business environment, it would seem strange that some companies still view customer service and marketing as standalone and different strategies. In the past, it was acceptable that customer service representatives were not equipped with marketing skills and vice versa. Their goals may be different and distinct even now – marketing is seen as a function that attracts and gains more customers for the company, while customer service is the customer retention tool. However, as mentioned, customers are now a lot more demanding and expect that the first contact they make with the company should provide them with a significant amount of information about the company and its offerings. This first point of contact is customer service and companies that can use their customer service as a marketing tool and strategy would fare a lot better than those that keep both departments separate.

The fact is that at the first instance customers expect human interactions – even if the company offers self-service and self-help tools. Customers expect to have interactions that they would remember with happiness and hence it is extremely imperative for the customer service representatives to have a significant amount of marketing skills as well. Even if the marketing personnel may have made the best presentation and provided the maximum information, potential customers could still call back to interact with the company for more information. These people would not be concerned with who they are speaking with – they just know that they need some added / new information and the persons in the company they connect with should be able to give them the information they want and convincingly enough for them to actually make a deal. This would be using customer service as a marketing tool – not only would it leave a great impression on prospective customers, it would also save them a great deal of time and effort, and the efficiency would leave them impressed enough to want to start an association.

The normal way of operation for any company is that the marketing team would make a pitch directly to a prospect once. Post that the interactions would usually be digital – and the possibility of prospective customers calling in would be high. However, when they do call, they would first connect with the service representatives, who would need to provide top class experiences to these ‘callers’ in order for them to be convinced about forging an association with the company. Customers want to ‘see’ what your company can do for them in the present (as opposed to promises for the future) and unless a company can offer outstanding customer service, none of the marketing strategies would help. It makes sense therefore to use customer service as a marketing tool and weave it into the marketing strategy. Customers expect seamless service across the company – they do not concern themselves with departments and would not stand for being told that their query belongs to marketing and not customer service or any other team. Without a harmonious and fluid relationship between departments – in this case customer service and marketing – it would be impossible for a company to keep customers happy.

Traditionally, marketing is seen as a tool to draw in new customers to increase the amount of business and revenue flow to the company. However, unless a company is able to keep these customers happy and retain them, none of the marketing strategies would work. Using customer service as a marketing tool is about building and strengthening the relationship with customers – both existing and prospective, such that they are encouraged to start doing business and stay profitably with the company for a long time. The need to use customer service as a marketing tool is so that the marketing budget allotted to gaining new customers is not wasted by customers leaving the company soon. Data and statistics prove that existing customers account for around 60-70% of a company’s revenue as opposed to a 5-20% chance of selling to new would be customers. Irrespective of the industry and size of a company, customers are no longer paying only for the products or services – they would pay and stay for the customer service a company provides.

By using customer service as a marketing tool, a company would be able to expand its bottom line, reduce business costs, and would be able to increase their prices without objection from the customers. Research has revealed that customers are willing to spend more with a company that they believed provided top class customer service. By weaving customer service into marketing strategies and vice versa a company can potentially improve its customer acquisition and retention rates, become more profitable and guarantee its long-term success. A great of using customer service as a marketing tool is by including positive comments of existing customers into the company’s marketing and promotional material. We know that people trust reviews of current customers and their friends about a company much more than they would ever believe the claims made directly by the company. Hence, the positive comments a company receives about its service can prove to be a highly effective tactic in attracting and gaining new customers. The reviews would demonstrate the company’s prowess in caring for customers, thereby serving as a powerful selling tool for the company, without extra effort or investment of resources.

When promoting your company, ensure that you highlight and create hype around your top customer service and service recovery ‘stories’. These will ensure that not only the other existing customers but also prospective ones get to hear and read about your company’s commitment to service. This is a great way to use customer service as a marketing tool – your company would not only be presenting its offerings to customers, but would also be simultaneously showing them how effective your company would be in serving them post becoming customers. This is the assurance that customers need since they do not want to have to invest more time and effort than necessary in maintaining a business relationship.

The fact is that in today’s business environment, no company can become successful by competing on products or services, and pricing. They must have some point of differentiation – a USP that makes them stand out from the crowd and the ruckus. This uniqueness would come from providing noticeable and consistently good customer service and this exclusivity is what would gain and retain customers – making customer service a potent and undefeatable marketing strategy and tool.

Marketing as a function requires a lot of investment of time and effort, and the personnel must be highly knowledgeable, orate, skilled, and tenacious – such that they can convey the culture of the company and the benefits of the offerings. However, if customers do not get good service to complement all these benefits and offers, they would very easily switch to another company that does. At the same time, if customers are impressed by the marketing pitch but when the connect with the company, if they have to deal with pleasant yet robotic customer service staff with no knowledge of the company and its products, the customers would ‘run’ in the opposite direction. Companies need to awaken to the fact that all marketing personnel must have service skills and they must use customer service as a marketing tool to stand out from the crowd and become the go to business partner for all kinds of customers. By removing the silos that divide marketing and customer service, a company would be able to eliminate all the obstacles that stand between it and unprecedented success.

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