Archives for December 2010

Marketing is Marketing. Customer Service is Customer Service.

Before you go calling for me to turn in my social customer service clubhouse key (not that mine has ever worked since I found it on the bus), this isn’t my conclusion.  I looked it up; “customer service is the new marketing” that is. 

I asked Santa for it.  but, like I came to learn when I was a kid, you don’t always get everything on your list.  Apparently there was a run on this request at the North Pole.  And, since I didn’t see any after-Christmas sales on it in last Sunday’s paper, I went looking for it myself.

To find this elusive beast, naturally, I headed straight for Wikipedia.  And, hey, if it isn’t in Wikipedia, it doesn’t exist, right? (apparently unicorns do exist. They’re in there.)  I typed in “customer service marketing” and, among others, here’s what I found:

But no definition of “customer service is the new marketing”.  So, is it real? Does something need a definition to be real?  Love is real.  I can feel it.  But I’m not so sure I could define it.  And, even if I could, my definition is probably different than yours.

So, what do we make of this statement: “customer service is the new marketing”?  It’s a great tag line, for sure.  And its a noble goal to envision the breakdown of functional silos between marketing, sales and service – all focusing on the common objective of a superior customer experience.  Marketing and sales for sure need to think more like customer service; shut up and listen.  Got that.  So, conceptually, I get where folks are coming from when they say it. 

As I interpret it, organizations have an opportunity to create a competitive advantage by becoming more customer-centric; focusing on understanding customers better and using that knowledge to co-create an experience that truly delivers measurable value for the customer.  So, with all that, yes, we could all learn a thing or two from customer service in terms of how to engage with our customers.

But, at the end of the day.  Marketing has a job to do, regardless of the revolution in its methods.  Customer service has a job to do, regardless of what new social channel emerges next.

Remember when we thought customer service was the new sales? Cross selling?  Up selling? Service to sales call flows?  And, then hit the backlash from the front lines.  “We’re not sales people”.  “I don’t like sales”.  And, there was the backlash from customers.  We see how well that worked out.

So, how about this instead?  Rather than “customer service is the new marketing”.  Maybe we ought to think in terms of “Customer Service is the New Business of Business”.

The Year In Customer Care- eBook from The Social Customer

The Social Customer recently published its crowd-sourced eBook called The Year in Customer Care.  The book is a compilation of 2010 blog posts voted on by TSC readers.

While this post may come off as in-your-face, gratuitous self promotion, I hope it is received with the spirit in which it is intended.  It is to share this collection with you.  And, to entice you, I’ve provided a few comments about how each of the articles in the book made me a bit smarter.  So, in that light, let me first say that I’m completely and utterly flattered to be included in the company of the other authors here – the likes of which include some of the leading thinkers and practitioners in customer experience.  These are folks that I have learned a great deal from over time.  I hope these articles add to your thinking as well.

As Robin Carey, the CEO and Co-Founder of Social Media Today, starts off in her forward, social customer service is not simply about applying social tools and technologies to existing business practices.  Becoming a social business means evolving, sometimes radically, the way your company views and communicates with your customers.  Customers really are empowered like at no other time.  And, they are exercising that power in both positive sometimes very negative ways.  So, as Bob Dylan said, the times the are a changing.

In chapter 1, as the social customer continues to redefine social business, Vanessa DiMauro, CEO of Leader Networks tackles a red-hot topic this year: the challenge of redefining customer value metrics.  Read Vanessa’s thoughts on how WOM, social influence analysis and other social data are changing the definition of lifetime value and the insights into our customers.

Never one to think about today or tomorrow for more than 5 minutes, Esteban Kolsky is always looking further and further down the road to help us navigate in the same direction as the social customer.  In chapter 2, Esteban takes a looks at the customer relationship beyond social business, including the value of social data and channel integration.

The title of Chapter 3 may conjure up a specific image in your head.  I know it did in mine.  And, I’m guessing that was author Peter Auditore’s intention.  The provocative title of this article leads to Peter painting a vivid picture of the mobile social customer and how there is no place for brands to hide from customers in this wireless, connected world.

The term management implies the ability to control something towards a specific direction.  From one of my favorite social business practitioners, Maria Ogneva a challenge, and rightfully so in my opinion, the notion that the relationship between a customer and brand can be managed by the brand.  While this post doesn’t spend time bickering about terms, it makes a very important point that its the experience, and how its co-created and nurtured, that matters to the social customer.

Who engages in the experiences with your customers at each touch point?  I saw a great sign on a lobby reception desk several months ago that made me write this contribution.  This is a conversation I’ve had in several flavors over the course of this year.  The bottom line is that everyone in your company, whether they be “back office” or “customer facing”, impacts the customer’s perception of the experience.  Instill that culture in your organization, and you’ll have achieved a lot.

Frank Eliason concludes the book establishing that in fact there is a dark side to customer service.  Sounds funny coming from Frank, for those of you who are familiar with the original @comcastcares on twitter.  And by dark side, I interpret Frank’s post as referring to the genie that has been let out of the bottle through the social business revolution.  As I mentioned above, customers now have a voice bigger than anytime before.  In some hands however, that voice is like a loaded gun in the hands of an infant.  Some customers are releasing their pent up frustrations towards companies and brands in very destructive, and in some cases, borderline illegal ways.

There has been much progress in the execution of social customer service, social business and the new customer experience paradigm.  There are now I believe some great companies to model your strategy after, great minds to learn from and even some case studies to show the path to those “fast followers”.  There is also much work to be done.

Seeing companies still struggling with CRM over 20 years after the concept first surfaced is proof that change is really hard.  It takes organization-wide commitment, dedication and, oh yea, investment.  I’m excited to see what 2011 brings in terms of new thinking from my colleagues here in this eBook and all the great folks at The Social Customer.

Once again, if you haven’t already, you can download a free copy of The Year in Customer Care eBook right here.

My Customer Experience Christmas List

Dear Santa,

I’m not really sure if I’ve been naughty or nice this year.  I guess that’s for you to decide.  But, when I was on your lap at the mall on Saturday, you asked if I had made my list yet.  So, here it is.  I don’t expect much.  But whatever you can do.

  1. Bring my #custserv chat friends whatever they want.  And put it on the Underhill’s tab
  2. Please ask the Burgermeister to outlaw the use of the letters A – H – T together
  3. Issue a North Pole decree finally answering the question “Is customer service the new marketing?”
  4. A new book from Emily Yellin
  5. The real value of influencer analysis in customer service treatment and segmentation
  6. A face to face interview with @writethecompany
  7. A wee bit better engagement rate than 2.7% on the CSAT surveys I respond to next year
  8. “The Cloud for Dummies” (and then lock away all copies in a mountain vault in Utah)
  9. Free passes on the “delight and amaze” train making stops at Back-to-Basics, Do The Simple Things First & The Customer is Always…someone to whom you should listen
  10. Zappos Airlines (come on Tony. Do it!)

Thanks and Merry Christmas!
Your Biggest Fan
Barry