Customer service is the new marketing. And it's even more powerful than the old kind. Here’s what I mean: Once upon a time, you could guarantee success for your product or service if you just slathered on the mass-marketing real thick. You could hire a real-life version of Don Draper or Peggy Olson and have them add that that coating of marketing magic to the product or service you wanted to sell.
It didn’t matter so much if your washing machines weren’t reliable; what mattered was that the marketers working for you had dazzled the buying public with a brilliant mascot like the lonely Maytag repairman, making sure that your appliances seemed reliable.
It didn’t matter if your product was Coke and had a lot more to do with cavities than with world peace, suddenly in these genius’s hands, buying a coke was magically made to relate to creating “perfect harmony” worldwide.
With such marketing genius at your disposal, and a purchasing public that still believed that there was truth behind these kinds of mass marketing messages (“if it wasn’t true, they wouldn’t let them say that, right?”) your product would sell. Your work would be done. Your business would be on its road to success.
Over time, the business landscape became more challenging. It came up against consumer cynicism, and it came up against enhanced word of mouth made possible through cheaper and faster communication methods (including such now-forgotten factors as the reduced cost of air travel and even the move from expensive to essentially-free long distance calls).
And, of course, the biggest chinks in the armor of marketing-driven products and services have come via the Internet, especially the websites and social media outlets powered by user-generated commentary.
Businesses are agitated about this changed landscape, and rightly so. This new, transparent marketplace is a scary place in which to do business. But it’s where all of us have to do business today. The balance of power has changed, with that power now weighted toward the customer in a big way.
Don Draper’s obsolete world of the “4-P’s” (product, place, price and promotion) has now been replaced by the dominance of human interactions, customer-on-customer and employee-on-customer, the “big H” as I call it, for human beings. Today, all customers care about is how their fellow humans, online and off, have been treated by the humans who work for your company. This is the reality of our new, customer-driven world.
And we all need to adapt: When customers no longer care what some actor on TV–the Maytag repairman, for example–says about your product, because they can look to their Facebook friends to find out the truth, you’d better make sure those Facebook friends are, in fact, inspired to say something nice about you–about how you responded to their service inquiries and product concerns. Inspired, that is, by how you treat them as customers.
There’s no better way to grow your brand, customer by customer by customer, than by getting this right.