Why Customer Service is the Best Form of Marketing

While marketing allows brands to attract new buyers, good customer service can help them retain customers and nurture loyalty.

Plenty of brands pay more attention to the glamorous side of business; marketing. Here, they spread the word about their brand, create a catchy visual sprinkled with an impressive tagline, and juggle several online channels to generate consumer interest. True enough, this strategy would send potential customers, perhaps even in droves, right at their doorstep.

This focus on marketing sidetracks managers from giving customer service the emphasis it deserves. In many organizations, the two are treated as separate entities, with the former gaining a reputation brighter than the latter. On the other hand, customer support operations are often treated as just another labor-intensive daily expense.

Unfortunately, companies with this mindset are digging their own graves.

Although no one can argue against the fact that marketing is good for spreading brand awareness and acquiring new customers, the problem begins when the buzz you've created dies down. What really convinces customers to stay are not dazzling ads but meaningful relationships built through a series of proactive interactions. Needless to say, marketing alone won't help you accomplish this goal, especially now that customers are becoming warier about brands' advertising tactics. By providing great services, however, you get to build lasting customer relations that would serve as the pillar of your success.

Thinking Long-Term

It seems counterintuitive, therefore, that business leaders don't work on integrating these two departments, as they complement and empower one another. Some managers may not back the idea that customer service is the best form of marketing, but they can't deny that it continues the mission that marketing jumpstarts: customer retention.

Frederick Reichheld of consulting firm Bain & Company and author of Loyalty Rules! How Today's Leaders Build Lasting Relationships showed that increasing retention rates by 5 percent produces a more than 25 percent increase in profit. He cites one main reason for this is that return customers tend to buy more products from one company over time. Whereas retention translates to bigger earnings, customer acquisition often eats it away, as it is five to 25 times more expensive than keeping existing clients.

So where does customer service come in?

The whole point of customer care is to enable business organizations to cultivate relationships with their market by offering high-speed, responsive, and personalized services. According to the White House Office of Consumer Affairs, the United States' governing agency for consumer protection, an astounding 78 percent of consumers abandon transactions or discontinue intended purchases because of poor service experiences. Most of these dissatisfied consumers (96 percent) don't even speak up, robbing brands of the chance to make it up to them.

So from the moment a consumer expresses their interest in your brand, it's important to provide reliable support as a follow-through on your marketing strategies. While it's important to treat all customers equal by giving them equally great experiences, some brands single out their most loyal customers. This allows them to reward their top consumers in better ways.

Top Consumers as Brand Advocates

When the web made online shopping possible, a lot of entrepreneurs who have joined the bandwagon dismissed the possibility of building customer loyalty. It's impossible to do so, they say, in a setting that lets customers jump from one brand to another. So their marketing strategies mostly aim to attract new customers, while their existing ones rarely get loyalty perks.

While it's true that online consumers can easily browse multiple shopping sites, there's also evidence telling us that nurturing loyalty matters greatly for web-based businesses. Research has shown that loyal shoppers often revisit their favorite e-commerce stores over and over, and this impacts the profitability of both online and offline enterprises to an enormous extent.

This is because loyalty translates not only to recurring purchases. Perhaps an even more significant benefit is that truly loyal consumers expand your market reach, often without you knowing. This happens through referrals or word-of-mouth marketing. People who are happy with the products they bought and the customer service they were provided are more likely to tell their friends about their experiences. Some may even post an online review about your brand, helping you gain new prospects.

Needless to say, your happiest customers are more than willing to do the marketing for you. And this doesn't only let you save plenty of money; it also makes you appear a lot more trustworthy. In fact, advertising firm Ogilvy & Mather, Internet giant Google, and marketing agency TNS revealed that word of mouth is the most influential sales driver according to 74 percent of consumers, trumping store visits (69 percent) and online channels like YouTube (64 percent) and Twitter (61 percent).

By aiming to enrich their experiences through customer support, companies will be able to turn their top consumers into brand advocates. Customer loyalty programs also help fuel people's enthusiasm. You may give your most valuable customers special perks like big discounts or freebies. All in all, the true key is to show customers that they're valued not as profit generators but also as a true part of your organization.

Consistency and Reliability

Perhaps, however, nothing is more valuable than commitment, the one thing that separates successful enterprises from unsuccessful ones. While all organizations are striving to improve their customer service and marketing strategies, those who actually do the work are the ones who rise to the top. These are the firms who would surely get their customers' approval. It takes strong determination, hard work, and progress-oriented organizational culture to demonstrate this kind of dedication. Every employee and every department must know the value of customer centricity so companies can continue deploying services that reflect consumers' values and interests.

But despite your best efforts, you're bound to make mistakes along the way. There might be things you can't control, but unless this becomes the norm, your good reputation will remain intact. Still, be careful not to make grave offenses. Your best defense against this is your ability to fully leverage the resources you have, especially technology, data, and people. Using these as the backbone of your customer support approach, you'll be able to embrace new trends and determine strategies that your customers will love. Also, take a hands-on approach to managing your people. Hire only the best professionals, boost employee engagement, and establish goals to propel your organization to the right direction.

1014960_785764701517954_7640241588480228173_oFaith Ocampo is a digital media enthusiast aiming to become an active part of the tech world by sharing her insights. She likes to blog about everything digimarketing, customer service, technology, and social media. You may see her published works at Open Access BPO or follow her on Facebook, Google+, and Twitter for interesting updates.

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