Author David Hugo Hargreaves Growth Guru at Charterhouse: A family man and walker of the family dogs
“Our job is to connect to people, to interact with them in a way that leaves them better than we found them, more able to get where they’d like to go.” Those words could easily be a customer service-rallying cry — the sort of thing you’d find in a frame in your reception or just on the wall of your break out area.
The fact that you’re far more likely to find it on your Marketing Directors screen saver strikes me as no small coincidence, and I suspect that its originator, marketing mega-guru Seth Godin, would agree.
As both a consumer and Growth Guru at Charterhouse, I am keenly aware of the enormous power of great marketing and customer service. It defines an identity, it shapes your expectations, it creates desire, it brings customers to you, potentially in droves. However, in the end, it won’t help you retain them and therefore sell more services to them to achieve a high customer value.
For all that brands, and in particular their marketing departments, talk about customer relationships, the relationship that counts the most for customers is the good old-fashioned kind, the one that exists between them and a real person. Chances are, that person works in a call centre and that’s not good for customer retention if this person is not fully engaged, solution focused and well trained. Even worse they use a chat bot and all communications are via email!
Remember the time you had to call your mobile phone company and you talked to that lovely articulate and solution orientated professional from marketing? Exactly. Yet that is not the way companies are set up these days and maybe it should be?
Human interactions, especially in the age of online shopping and self-service, when they are so few and far between, are what your customers will remember and what they’ll talk about, perhaps very publicly (they may even mention on Twitter and Facebook). So, from a marketing and customer retention standpoint, the quality of those interactions is enormously significant.
Not every one of your customers will connect with one of your service employees. However for those that do, no piece of marketing, however sleek its design, how pleasant its smiling faces, how compelling its content, can counteract a bad experience.
Ad legend David Ogilvy’s famous admonition, “The consumer is not a moron, she’s your wife” taking into consideration the gender biases of its era, the truth at the heart of the statement is as relevant today as ever. People aren’t stupid, and the greater the dissonance between who your marketing tells customers you are and who your people show customers you are, the harsher their judgment of you will be. And quite rightly so.
At best, that dissonance is the difference between theory and practice; at worst, it’s the difference between a lie and the truth from a customer’s point of view.
Put bluntly. You will lose almost 100% of customers will leave you!
Many organisations have chucked drab, utilitarian customer service titles like “agent” and “rep” in favour of something more positive and specific, something even downright poetic. I applaud those efforts however the hype around these new titles is often lost on customers. However to me, the simple approach is best. “Team member” sends all the right messages, both internally and externally. It suggests a single source from which all decisions and actions stem, a common mission and a shared set of goals.
That kind of unified front is as reassuring for customers as it is clarifying for employees, managers and Directors. It needs to go deeper than mere semantics, of course; the walk still needs to be walked. However how much better to have everyone starting from the same place and moving in the same direction?
Marketing departments pour significant time, talent and hard-earned cash into articulating a corporate identity and crafting the messages that expresses it. They need to start recognising customer service as a critically important representative of that identity and bearer of those messages. Or be doomed!
For its part, customer service — by that or any name — needs to be empowered with both the information and the soft and hard tools to fulfil its marketing role.
They also need a great CRM system that everyone uses and that works to ensure they have all the data to hand that they will need.
We are all marketing. We are all customer service.
So, tear down the now meaningless and irrelevant walls that have traditionally separated the two, and you’ll be eliminating one of the biggest obstacles to growth, loyalty, positive word of mouth and unbridled success.
Author David Hugo Hargreaves the Growth Guru at Charterhouse.