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Customer Service Is a Marketing Strategy
Too many companies treat customer service as an afterthought, and they’re making a terrible mistake. The #1 most effective long-term growth strategy any company can employ isn’t content marketing or SEO, it’s exemplary customer service.
This is true no matter what type of company you own. From the local HVAC technician to the plumber, from the regional roofing company to the nationwide remodeler, you’ll grow faster and get an exponentially greater ROI from all your growth hacking efforts if you shift from treating customer service as a necessary evil to thinking of it as a long-term marketing investment.
We do this at Blue Corona and we
demand strongly recommend it to all of our clients.
The graph above is Nordstrom’s stock price. I think companies like Nordstrom enjoy sustained success in large part due to their commitment to fantastic customer service. Killer customer service can also carry you through some pretty treacherous economic conditions (as you can see in the chart above).
Companies like Nordstrom understand that exemplary customer service IS a growth / marketing strategy, and it is WAYYY more effective than any alternative. Yes, awesome customer service is more effective than content marketing, SEO, or social media.
What Customer Service as an Afterthought Looks Like
Earlier this week, I wrote a blog post about using storytelling as a way to get your content marketing messages heard. Well, today I have a story for you about how poor customer service can completely nullify your advertising and marketing investments.
At least once a week, I receive (and subsequently ignore) some form of direct mail marketing from Dell—a catalog, a postcard offering me a (menial) discount, etc.
However, when my 8 year-old desktop started making some funky noises, I went to Dell’s website and started poking around. I also visited Apple’s, Samsung’s, and HP’s websites. My needs were fairly specific; I wanted a laptop with Windows 7 (not Windows 8) that could power three external monitors, but that wouldn’t weigh more than my 7 year-old son.
The Dell Precision M3800 seemed to fit the bill perfectly, so I ordered it. With upgrades, a docking station, wireless keyboards and mouse, the bill came to nearly $4,000. Considering how much time I spend in front of a computer and how much data-analysis I do, I think a high-end laptop is a worthy investment.
Mission accomplished, right?
Unfortunately, a few weeks later, the computer’s right fan started making strange noises. It’s hard to notice in a busy coffee shop, but in the comfort of my office on a Saturday morning, it might as well be a jet engine. Again, I spend A LOT of time in front of the computer, so I’m pretty particular about my equipment.
I went back to Dell.com and found their tech support line. After creating a support ticket, I was brought to a live chat and placed in the queue before getting distracted by another meeting. By the time I returned to my desk about an hour and a half later, the live chat had been disconnected, but I received a follow up email from Chris C*****, a tech with Dell. In the follow up email, it said, “If you need further assistance after our chat, you can contact me directly at Chris_Cfirstname.lastname@example.org
I thought, “This is GREAT! I’ll just email this dude my issue and he’ll tighten me up!”
I emailed Chris and he responded with this:
Now, as a business owner, I get that there are procedures and processes that need to be followed to keep the operation running like a well-oiled machine. But, as a consumer, I’m annoyed. You guys send me marketing crap every single flippin’ week but you can’t open up a service request for someone who spends $4k with your company?
I emailed Chris explaining the ridiculousness of the whole thing. He responded with some red-tape ridden nonsense. Perhaps I’m being unreasonable, but that’s definitely not something I’m known for. Ask anyone that knows me, from former employees and customers to friends, and I think they’ll tell that you that I’m a more than reasonable guy.
Keep in mind that I have 50 employees using laptops from a half a dozen different companies. As each of the laptops dies, I can either keep buying whatever is on sale at Costco or I can move them all to Dell. Do you think this issue–no matter how minor–takes me closer to becoming a full Dell shop or further?
Conclusion & Takeaways
I think there’s a lesson to be learned here no matter what type of company you own. You can view investments in customer service as a necessary evil or you can view them as marketing. At Blue Corona, we encourage our clients to do the latter.
The goal of marketing is to position your company as the right solution for your target audience. Marketing is supposed to engage your target audience and pique their interest so that your sales team can convert those who are qualified into customers. Nothing can compete with remarkable service to achieve these goals, nothing.
Let’s go back to Nordstrom for a second. I recently surveyed my team about which legacy brands have been the most successful at evolving over the years, given the chancing consumer landscape. Brands like Starbucks, HBO, Apple, and Target were thrown out there—and then there was Nordstrom.
When you think about it, Nordstrom hasn’t really done anything outside the box to evolve, but that’s because they’ve been doing it right all along. They’ve recognized that customer service drives all—or better yet—that customer service never goes out of style. Not surprisingly, when I opened up Facebook just a few minutes ago, I stumbled upon this:
When people ask questions about your brand on Facebook, is this the type of heartfelt outpouring that follows? Probably not. And while some people might take advantage of Nordstrom’s amazing return policy, I absolutely friggin’ guarantee their overall ROI from being generous unbelievably positive.
When given the opportunity, I’ll ALWAYS bet my money on and spend my money with companies known for always going out of their way to deliver amazing customer service. Life is too short for anything else.
Dell, the ball’s in your court.
About The Author: Ben Landers is the President and CEO of Blue Corona, a data-driven, inbound internet marketing company. Submit an inquiry to book Ben to speak at your next conference or event.
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