Companies spend big money on marketing and communication. The primary aim of this investment: to present your company and your products or services to the public in a way that highlights the assets and gives customers and stakeholders a reason to choose you over your competitors.

With millions spent on strategy presentation decks, advertising campaigns, videos, press releases, events and social media, you might think you have all it takes to success. But there is a significant loophole in your plans: customer service. No matter how hard you try to promote your company, it is the very personal contact that leaves a lasting impression on your customers or stakeholders and, ultimately, the thumbs up or down for their advocacy.

Let me tell you a story: I have a mobile subscription with a major service provider in telecommunications. The rate is fair and I barely have problems with coverage etc. One day my invoice lists unexpectedly high roaming costs which I want to have explained. So I call customer serivce. And this is where the company lost me. Instead of listening to my problems, I was facing an untrained young man who did not only not explain where the costs came from – he was rude and ultimately hung up on me when I wanted to speak to his manager. That was the day I quit a really fair rate and chose a more expensive and more professional service provider.

To make a long story short – most of you have experienced something similar. A sales person in a store who was not in the mood to be nice to you, waiters who seem to hate their job (and customers), endless waiting loops – you name it. And after the negative experience you decided not to come back or buy from the company. And why? Because nobody can compensate first-hand experience with a huge billboard. And for some reason, many companies do not understand that customer service is at the forefront of communications. Don’t give up yet, marketers and communicators – there is light at the end of the word-of-mouth tunnel. Here are some simple rules to make sure customer service does not destroy your image work:

  1. Include customer service in your communication plan

    Most organizations strictly separate marcomm and sales, which is the first no go. The reason for this useless separation lies mainly in the wrong belief that the two departments have different goals. So the first thuing to do is stop thinking you are in a competition – know that you fight for the same goal and make sure to hear what the challenges of sales and especially customer service are. And whatever you find, work it into your communication plan. The same goes vice versa: inform customer service about your communication plans. This will make sure a call agent knows about your new ad campaign when someone calls and mentions it.

  2. Train customer service on a regular basis

    So you have created a corporate identity, a clear messaging, campaigns to shout out your messages – but does customer service know about it? Let me put it this way: If your social media manager has guidelines how to address your fans on your social channels, your custiomer service agents should have their guidelines too. Don’t forget: The moment a customer contacts your company, customer service is your company’s face to them. You don’t want incoherent messaging so don’t neglect this channel and make sure they get regular training or inputs from marcomms to ensure a consistent brand image.

  3. Involve customer service to adjust your tactics

    Sometimes, even the best researched and prepared campaigns for your new product flop. And while you cannot find a reason for it, customer service might have the answer. Why? Because they speak to your customers every single day and know where the problems are! Be it the product, or a global ad that does not appeal to every culture – go ask your colleagues what kind of feedback they get – and I am sure you will get closer to issue. Finally, use this knowledge to adjust your tactics: change visuals, adapt the product (and talk about it), etc.

At the end of the day, it all comes down to communication: Talk to each other across non-existing department borders, listen to your customers and take their feedback serious, embrace changes resulting from this feedback, and see all of your colleagues as communicators. It’s as simple as that but I promise it will make you and your product stand out.


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