Monday, May 10, 2010

Five Marketing Principles for Better Customer Service

By: Derek Howard

Customer Service is important to any business. Seems like common sense, and yet everyone seems to have that horror story; from languishing in phone-hold purgatory to dealing with apathetic or even aggressive representatives. I honestly don’t think that any business sets out to intentionally have bad service. Sadly, sometimes it ends up that way.

The real danger is that one bad customer experience can cost a business more than just the offended customer. Studies have shown that while the average person will tell only about three people about a good experience, they will tell 10 about a bad one. Those statistics coupled with today’s word-of-mouth marketing culture along with rampant social media can cause one, minor hiccup in service to potentially cost a company a lot of money.

Fortunately, more and more companies are beginning to return
to a more customer-focused method of business. This can be especially crucial in how companies choose to market themselves. Connecting with customers not only can boost initial sales, but it could also create and foster lasting relationships; relationships that could help lead to what Kevin Roberts, the CEO Worldwide of Saatchi & Saatchi, refers to as “loyalty beyond reason.” These customers are an asset to any company’s bottom-line.

One big believer and supporter of customer-focused marketing is Aaron Magness, the marketing chief for Zappos. Magness stresses the importance of customer service as an all-encompassing idea, from hiring the right people and creating a positive working environment to making the customer feel appreciated. As he puts it, “It all comes down to the Golden Rule.” In an interview with’s Brandon Gutman, Magness listed his five principles for marketing:

Customer service is the new marketing. The days of dictating your brand to the public are long gone. There is so much access to information; the customer is actually dictating your brand to you.

• Communicate with your customers, don’t market at them. Customers get bombarded with marketing messages every day (practically every second). Find ways to interact with them. Discussions drive loyalty, not one way messaging.

• Don’t try to be interesting, be interested. I first heard this phrase from our CEO, Tony Hsieh, and thought it was great. It is really spot on. A lot of companies try to launch a really creative campaign, but lack the follow up to the brand promise. Your campaign should highlight what your brand promise is, not try to invent one.

• Try to WOW at every interaction. This goes for working with employees, vendors and customers. Personal relationships and interactions drive everything. You need to capitalize on them. This is obviously something that is very true and important at Zappos. I don’t think I ever put it into words until I worked here, but the importance and implications are great.

• Your culture will dictate your success. This goes back to building your team. Hire great people, treat them like adults and let them do great work. The rest should come naturally on its own.

Basically, customer service should be at the core of any business. Recently, this topic came up while talking with a friend who is a local business owner. His insight was both simple and spot on. He said, “The way I see it, I sell the same product and offer the same service that a dozen other places around here do. If you take away pricing and convenience, the reason people come to my store is me (and my employees).” As a consumer, this rings true to me. The only thing I would add is when a company impresses me, I’m much less likely to care about the first two.

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