marketing and customer service: two sides of the same coin

the power of customer support

in the past, customer service and marketing occupied two entirely different domains. in the world of touch-tone telephones and strongly-worded complaint letters, there were few opportunities for these two fields to meet eye-to-eye.

but today’s consumers are different. they aren’t going to send letters to complain about bad support. they are going to find a highly visible platform like Yelp and leave a powerfully worded warning up there for the world to see.

this environment ups the ante for everyone involved. if you consistently deliver on customer expectations and exceed their expectations, your glowing reviews are going to convince more people to do business with you.

in short, your marketing and customer service strategies now have a direct influence on one another. the better you treat your customers, the more credible your marketing initiatives are going to be.

how to highlight customer service in marketing

today’s consumers don’t consciously think about the fact that they expect excellent customer service. they simply expect it. organizations that fail to deliver a great customer experience are the exception – not the rule.

at first, this can make it difficult for business owners and entrepreneurs to highlight their customer service capabilities in a marketing context. how do you earn points for something you are expected to do anyway?

it turns out there are multiple ways to do this. in order for your customers to get excited about anything, they must have expectations for you to exceed. start with the following strategies to improve your marketing efforts with great customer service:

solve the second problem

the bottom line is that every unhappy customer is a customer offering you a chance to deliver an extraordinary support experience. the first step towards achieving alignment between marketing and customer service is fully appreciating the value of making that experience count.

in order to leverage customer service towards marketing, you are going to need to go the extra mile when it comes to addressing customer support issues. you have to empower your support staff to solve customer problems – but that’s not all.

many customer problems lead to a string of problems down the line. train your support staff to identify the second problem a customer is likely to have and to address it during the first support call. this dead-simple step goes a long way towards establishing your reputation as a customer-oriented business.

for example, let’s say you have a group of customers who occasionally contact your accounting department to review their bills. this is common among businesses that cater to other businesses. 

if you have customers that can’t log in to your web portal or are having other technical problems, you can eliminate an extra phone call just by asking your support team to offer that document to them on the first call. if the customer doesn’t need those documents, they’ll just say no. but the ones who do will be pleasantly surprised by the fact that your support team knew what they needed.

capitalize on visual content

simply putting together a stellar customer support team isn’t enough to generate an impact on marketing on its own. you will have to get the word out about your team’s successes and employ visual content that catches new visitors’ eyes as they consider doing business with you.

the two primary tools you should pay the most attention to are infographics and carousels. both of these can have a powerful impact on your brand’s credibility, helping you bridge the gap between what your customers expect and what you deliver.

infographics are a great tool for showcasing customer service successes because they are informative and easy to share. broadcasting some of your greatest achievements in an easy-to-digest format like the infographic helps drive home the value that your organization offers.

carousels can help introduce new visitors to your brand by showing a constant stream of positive comments to customers. these showcase some of the winning stories that your brand has been a part of, and generate social proof through user-generated content.

make feedback easy

if your marketing efforts thrive on review sites, you should provide links to these sites to customers. these can span the range from general-purpose review sites like Yelp to industry-specific sites like bestdoctors.com or weedmaps.com.

many business owners fear the domino effect that negative feedback can have. they don’t put links to review sites directly in their emails because they’re afraid that customers will jump directly to those websites instead of interacting with their customer support teams first.

this is a classic example of a false dichotomy. if your customer support team understands the relationship between customer service and marketing, they will know that review platforms like Yelp are just another touchpoint between your brand and its customers. you have to engage them there the same way you would engage them face-to-face.

organizations that take the extra step and offer their customers immediate, hands-on access to these review sites are making a bold statement. when you look at negative feedback as an opportunity to solve customer problems and demonstrate your brand’s value, you consciously seek out these opportunities so that you can improve – and your customers reward you for it.

reduce support friction

think about the experience your customer support system offers customers before your support team gets to say a single word. this experience is extremely important. it can make the difference between a happy customer and a tired, irritable opponent.

customer support friction is easy to understand. every second you have to wait for a customer service representative to get to your call, you are experiencing friction. every time you sit at a restaurant and stare down the waiter until they come take your (drink) order, you are experiencing friction.

most customer support systems involve an unhealthy amount of friction. first you have to find the appropriate contact information. then you have to explain what went wrong. then you probably have to wait for who-knows how long until someone actually takes your call, responds to your email, or fixes your problem.

reducing support friction produces better customer service outcomes than actually improving customer interactions. the few businesses that understand this truth tend to dominate their markets and cultivate brand advocates like wildfire.

“going the extra mile” doesn’t count when you’ve already forced your customer to run a marathon just to get to you. reduce the number of steps it takes for customers to receive support, and they will love you for it. 

this also speaks to honesty and the importance of being honest in your business

unify your messaging

when your customers have questions about a promotion that your marketing team came up with, they aren’t going to talk to the marketing team, they are going to talk to customer support.

if your customer support team doesn’t know what promotions you are running or how they apply to various customer groups, you run the risk of confusing your customers, at best. at worst, you will inadvertently give them bad information and end up losing reputation.

your customer service team has to be able to do more than simply address faulty products and services for frustrated customers. they have to have hands-on knowledge of every customer touchpoint and be able to guide customers towards your products and services from every angle.

that’s a lot to ask, but you can make the job simpler by investing in a good CRM, or by simply using a shared Google Sheet. a CRM will take on most of the heavy lifting when it comes to managing customer profile data and making sure your customer service representatives know what each customer expects in a unique, personalized way.

share your customers’ stories

while your customer support teams’ primary job is solving customer problems, that isn’t their only area of focus. you should make sure your team is well-equipped to identify cases of customer success and to leverage those stories to maximal effect.

this is where you can use customer service processes to inform marketing initiatives. aligning your customer support team to your marketing strategies will help you identify which customer stories best represent the ideal that you wish you communicate to potential leads and future customers.

in most industries, these customer stories turn into case studies, demonstrating how your solutions helped real-life customers meet their goals in specific ways. you can also use these stories as testimonials or integrate them with your content marketing initiatives in order to add extra credibility to the offer you’re promoting.

activate self-service options

the key to improving customer loyalty is not necessarily in delighting them at every turn. if you go out of your way to look for opportunities to bring customers into contact with your support team, you might not be actually helping those customers achieve their goals.

frictionless customer experiences come hand-in-hand with self-service options. customers who have problems that need solving tend to feel empowered when they have the ability to solve those problems on their own. if you anticipate a point of friction and use self-service to address it, you are going a long way towards developing aligning between marketing and customer service.

self-service also puts less strain on your customer service team’s resources. you can only serve so many people at a given time. finding ways to streamline the most common issues is instrumental towards improving customer support metrics and ultimately, the attitudes of the people who choose to spend their hard-earned money with you.

start hosting cross-departmental product marketing sessions

your marketing team is constantly trying to find out what kinds of features and benefits customers really care about. they will often go to great lengths – preparing multiple versions of product pages, comparing competitor approaches, and conducting in-depth analyses – to find out.

but it turns out that they can often get the same information – much faster – by simply asking your customer support team what kinds of problems customers seem to have most often. this can lead to significant insights. you may find out that customers are using your products and services for things other than what the marketers are telling them about.

hosting regular meetings between your marketing and customer support team can help identify these use cases and find out how to integrate them into your marketing strategy. 

for example, it’s common for wordpress plugin developers to find out that people are using their plugins for things they never expected – like an e-commerce tool showing up on a school website. instead of ignoring these use cases, you can leverage them to open up new lines of business and identifying needs in verticals you never planned on targeting.

setting customer expectations

if your marketing team is effective, your customer expectations will be aligned with the solutions that your products and services offer. the whole point of the process is to give customers expectations that meet the capabilities of the products they use.

unfortunately, many marketers forget this important point or work in ignorance of what their products can and cannot actually do. making bad promises is a surefire way to increase the number of irate customers calling in for customer support. even if the outcome is not so severe, it will impact customer churn.

getting customer service and marketing on the same page prevents misleading messaging from reaching the public. it gives both teams a chance to verify the other and to single out any inconsistencies before it’s too late to fix them.

in most cases, marketers will find themselves in the position of dialing back their more fantastical (and/or dishonest) claims in order to meet the realities of the product or service at hand. in some cases, however, successful messaging can inform customer service initiatives that generate results. as long as both departments are talking to one another, progress can occur.

deliver valuable experiences to your customers

the customer experience is integral to what makes both marketing and customer service valuable. organizations that take the lead when it comes to managing that experience earn more and grow faster than those who offer fragmented experiences.

ultimately, your customers do not distinguish between your customer service representatives and your marketers. for that matter, they don’t distinguish between your mailroom intern and your CEO either – for them, it’s the experience that counts, first and foremost.

marketing and customer support jobs

looking for a job in marketing or customer support? ThirdCup.io is a job board designed specifically for marketers and customer support people.