Is Customer Service the New Marketing?
The line between customer service and marketing is becoming unclear, and some companies are even counting service as a marketing expense. Although in the past there were definitive marketing and customer service "departments," it makes sense to acknowledge their relationship and interaction for the overall good of the company. An investment in service, and the training to support it, is a profitable investment for a company to make. Funds invested in customer support provide a much larger return. Some companies have really taken this to heart, which even has some asking: Is customer service the new marketing?
Perhaps "new" marketing gives the wrong impression of what's really happening. While customer service and marketing are both essential aspects of a business and always will be, it could be said that they are becoming more integrated. In fact, sales and other departments are also internalizing customer service and realizing that it must be present in every aspect of business interaction – both internal and external. Service has expanded beyond a separate department or a call center, and more and more companies are allocating the funds needed to make it part of their culture.
An outstanding example of this is Zappos.com, recognized as a service role model. It leads the pack in demonstrating that customer service is not a burden or just another expense, but an opportunity to expand marketing efforts through an amazing customer experience. By providing this level of service, they are expecting for two outcomes. First is the loyalty of the customers themselves. Because of the outstanding service they receive, they will return again and again, translating that loyalty into more business. And, beyond customer loyalty comes evangelism. Zappos.com hopes to compel customers to evangelize the company, spreading great stories about its customer service. When they make a promise, they keep it – and that keeps customers coming back as well as sharing word-of-mouth marketing. In this way, the commitment to service is a direct boost to its marketing efforts.
Another company that uses customer service as a major marketing strategy is Ace Hardware. It has found a way to thrive in spite of the fact that it is not only competing with other local hardware stores, but also larger stores like Lowe's, Home Depot and others. Ace is smart and has figured out how to survive in the era of big box stores. It is not by outspending the competition on advertising, or promoting the lowest prices. They aim to provide amazing service – the best in the business. And it works! The company is not just surviving, it's thriving, by delivering high-level customer service.
The companies mentioned here that strive to provide amazing service receive in return a valuable reward – customer loyalty. The customers keep coming back, and what's more, they tell others about their experiences. Customer service as a marketing strategy makes sense, so promise and deliver an exceptional experience. It's one of the best investments you can make.