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Successful Companies Have Customer Service in their DNA


brand-management-customer-service-skillsBy Al Hopper
Cofounder of SocialPath Solutions and Alumnus at American Public University

Not every brand can hire Terry Crews or Old Spice Guy for television commercials or have a Dunk in the Dark viral hit on social media during a Super Bowl. Instead brands have to rely on providing something their competitors don’t. More often than not, that means creating a memorable customer service level.

There are great examples of companies that are immediately recognizable because they have built customer service into their DNA. Think Mickey Mouse ears at Disney, the Ritz-Carlton lion, or the Z for Zappos. These companies have taken customer service to an entirely different level and use this cache as a marketing tool. Does the song “Be Our Guest” ring any bells? It’s more than a song from an animated movie, it’s a brand promise other theme parks have a hard time matching.

This level of customer service as a brand differentiator is not easy. The secret is a core commitment to the customer. These companies have decided it is more important for the customer to have a memorable experience than to worry about how much a single sale will net for the company.

It’s a well-known secret that Ritz-Carlton staff members can spend up to $2,000 per customer to make up for a poor experience. This allowance outstrips the regular price for a single night stay, but the word of mouth marketing and free publicity provided by blogs and news articles makes the spend more than appropriate.

Spending large of sums of money on one guest to make up for a poor experience may not make sense for your brand. Instead invest in your customer service staff. Look at their cost as an investment in your brand’s marketing. They are the ones that speak with your customers when something goes wrong. Marketing and sales teams might create the swanky new campaign, but they are not the ones fielding the calls to your support desk.

Too often, customer service teams are viewed as the cost of doing business and not a revenue generation center. The next time you have a budgeting meeting, think about the goodwill and word of mouth marketing generated by customers that have received amazing levels of service from your front lines. That is earned marketing from employees who are the real voice of your company.

[Related: Reaching Your Customers on Social Media]

Long after the echoes of the last marketing jingle have faded, the way your customer service team treated your customer remains. Just ask Comcast about how hard it is to overcome years of poor service levels and misplaced metrics.

After you train your staff to really listen to and care for your customers, take the time to consider how you can empower your customers in your marketing. Customers are more connected to the brands they love than ever before.

Tablets are replacing laptops. Smartphones have replaced the home phone. Even smartwatches and fitness monitors are replacing the analog watch. People identify with their devices as if they are ID cards. The desire for the newest device from a chosen brand has caused many customers to wait on line for hours, sometimes days, outside a store before a release. These brand advocates are earned by having a superior product and high levels of customer service. That is what sets you apart from your competition and grows a winning brand.

About the Author: Al has over 20 years of customer service experience, including more than a decade in the contact center space and a term of service in the Army. He leveraged his MBA from American Military University to become cofounder of SocialPath Solutions. He is currently the Director of Operations building key processes and business relationships with Clients to develop their social media Customer service operations.