Five Reasons Why Customer Service and Service Culture are Marketing Conversations


Service Culture is a Marketing Conversation

Service Culture is a Marketing Conversation

Mistaken marketing professionals believe customer service is an operational issue. They think marketing’s job is to bring customers to the company and customer service is important only after their marketing magic is done. These misguided professionals focus with great intensity on brand building, advertising and promotions, but ignore the daily discipline of actually delivering excellent service.

Mistaken marketing professionals also believe that building a strong service culture is someone else’s job. They think that marketing focuses externally on prospects and customers, while culture is an internal matter, and therefore the responsibility of someone else, usually their colleagues in Human Resources.

This way of thinking is obsolete. Modern marketing professionals understand the vital role of consistently excellent service. And they understand that building a strong customer service culture is a conversation that Marketing should lead.

Here are five reasons why customer service and service culture are so important for companies and brands, and for clear-thinking marketing professionals:

1. A company’s brand is experienced at every point in a customer’s journey.

The appeal of a brand is vulnerable at each perception point, from first awareness to ultimate purchase, from online website to multi-year warranty, from pre-sales information to post-sales support, and from initial delivery to eventual recycling or consumption.

Along this journey, your customer’s opinion of your company will be shaped in each moment of their experience: over the counter, over the web, over the phone, face-to-face, through email, text, websites, and apps. These perception points are created and delivered by other members of your team, and the quality of service they provide has a direct impact on your customer’s opinion of your brand.

2. Customer advocacy can be more valuable than costly promotions.

Happy customers contribute enormously to the value of a brand. Why? Because positive word of mouth is more credible than paid advertising, and a lot more trusted. When things are going well, loyal customers will invite more customers to join the party by sharing, referring, linking, liking, and commenting in your favor. As a marketing professional, you want every team member to earn these links and likes.

Receiving a personal compliment makes someone on your team feel good. Receiving a company compliment makes everyone in your company feel good. The key to earning both is delivering service that makes your customers feel good.

3. Brand resilience is enhanced by loyal customers.

Negative word of mouth can be destructive. Poor reviews, low-star ratings, and thumbs-down clicks damage the effectiveness of your brand-building investments. Meanwhile, the best thing to counter negative comments are positive comments from other customers.

I recently booked hotel rooms in a town near the university where our daughter will study next year. The town is not large and the hotel selection is limited. As I searched online, the hotels all looked alike with mostly 3-star and 4-star reviews. There were also a few 1-star reviews with negative comments from disappointed guests.

One hotel responded to a 1-star review with a sincere apology, specific actions to resolve the issue, and a heartfelt invitation from the manager to visit again. What impressed me even more were the many comments from other guests speaking highly about the hotel and the hotel manager. It was those supporting customer comments that tipped the balance and secured my hotel booking.

4. A strong service team will solve service problems, respond quickly to customers, and do all possible to protect the credibility of your brand.

In an uplifting service culture, difficulties are embraced like fresh fuel that powers a team’s commitment. In a weak service culture, customer complaints send team members scurrying for safety, pointing the finger at others, and doing everything they can to avoid blame.

When things go wrong, everybody notices. But when a team rallies to quickly set things right, then everybody can win: the customer wins with an effective service recovery, the company wins from a boost in staff morale, and your brand can win when positive coverage and comments follow.

5. Brand equity increases in a proactive service culture.

Our definition of service is taking action to create value for someone else. In a proactive service culture, colleagues frequently suggest improvement ideas to their colleagues. In a strong and proactive service culture, people throughout the organization create and recommend new offers of value to customers. This kind of engagement increases customer readiness to consider new purchases, builds longer term relationships, and creates a vibrant future together.

Marketing creates the possibility of a brand, but marketing alone cannot build a brand reputation.

Customer service and a strong service culture are essential to win – and keep winning – in competitive markets. If you are a marketing professional, don’t fall prey to mistaken assumptions. Be an advocate for service in every conversation. Become a leader in the development of your service culture. Your brand, your company, and your customers are all counting on you.

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Categories: Service Culture Service Education
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11 Responses

  1. Shep Hyken says:

    It has been said that customer service is the new marketing, and this article sums it up so well – especially point number one: A company’s brand is experienced at every point of the customer’s journey. So, any and every interaction point is an opportunity to create a strong customer experience. Anything less erodes the customer’s confidence in the brand.

  2. Kattia Bolaños says:

    Very good article! Building brand loyalty can only happen when your product sticks in the mind of your target audience.

  3. Mohan Limbu says:

    Great article. Jan Carlson did mention this in his “moment of magic” that every point a customer comes in contact with the service or the personnel of a particular establishment is an opportunity to build a strong positive impression on a customer. With each of these contacts, moment of magic are created and when all these positive moments are pulled together it creates wonderful experience for the customer. When that happens a brand confidence is born and these type of loyalty and confidence can never be achieved by advertisement alone.

  4. Ehab says:

    Good points; but the challenge we face is to change the corporate culure.

    Top management may agree to improve the way to deal with customers; however; middle management and staff create resistance to implement.

    • Thanks for your comment, Ehab. You are right that middle management has a vital role to play. This video is called “Middle Managers Can Make or Break a Service Culture” speaks about what’s needed to ensure you have these key players fully committed and aligned.

      Regarding frontline staff, I recall the quote from a General Manager of IKEA in Singapore. Speaking to his staff he said “If you ever wake up one day and don’t feel like coming in to work, DON’T!” Each person must make the choice to commit and contribute for the culture to grow stronger every day.

  5. Blair says:

    Executives have the authority to make service culture the strategy, but it is the front line that will make it happen….or not. Executives are responsible for creating the conditions that allow middle management and front lines the freedom, training, and support through all their human systems (sourcing, hiring, on-boarding, training, developing, rewarding, firing, etc.) to be successful. Shame on the executives that separate their strategy from the hard discussions that lead to real decisions for executing that strategy.
    You can tell if a service culture initiative is going to fail by inspecting all of the functional areas for evidence that it is fully integrated throughout the company.

  6. Anirban Sinha Ray says:

    Customer Service has to be a all inclusive culture which needs to be believed and practiced from top down, for sustainable growth; irrespective of industry.

  7. Stan Phelps says:

    Great post Ron. I couldn’t agree more. I subscribe to the philosophy of the late Ted Levitt who said, “If marketing is about anything, it’s about achieving customer-getting distinction by differentiating what you do and how you do it. All else is derivative of that and only that.”

  8. Nancy Peláez says:

    Ron, definitivamente tu eres excepcional. Cada dia aprendo más de ti y el tema de la Cultura de Servicio es tan importante en todo lo que uno hace dia a dia. En mi trabajo, estoy empezando a trabajar este tem. Tu me inspiraste aqui en Colombia, ahora estoy haciendo una especialización de “Gerencia del Servicio”. Todas tus publicaciones me las leo, aunque no soy una dura en ingles, esto ha hecho que me esfuerce un poco en tus importantes documentos.

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