Is Customer Service the New Marketing? The latest debate.

Is customer service the new marketing? This question isn’t just about the increasing importance of social media and customer reviews, or rising consumer disenchantment with traditional marketing. For some, it’s about making the decision between long-term reputation and short-term profit.

Click for complete article and Video

Click for complete article and Video

This topic was at the center of a recent Google+ Debate that Ashley Verrill moderated, hosted by research firm Software Advice. A panel of experts discussed what kinds of companies should embrace a customer-centric strategy as a form of marketing, and how they go about implementing this approach.

I will share with you the highlights of this event…

  The speakers included:

  •  Micah Solomon, a top keynote speaker, thought leader, bestselling author and consultant. His work has been featured on NBC, ABC, CBS, FOX, Forbes, FastCompany, Inc. Magazine, Bloomberg BusinessWeek, and The Washington Post, among others.
  • Jon Miller is the marketing vice president and cofounder of marketing automation vendor Marketo. He earned his bachelor’s degree in physics from Harvard College and has an MBA from the Stanford          Graduate School of Business.
  • Shep Hyken is a customer experience expert, keynote speaker, author and chief amazement officer of Shepard Presentations. He is a New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestselling author and has been inducted into the National Speakers Association Hall of Fame for lifetime achievement in the public speaking industry.
  • Denis Pombriant is CEO and cofounder of the Beagle Research Group. He is a recognized thought leader, speaker and author.

Here’s a quick snapshot of their discussion.

The group first emphasized the importance of mirroring your customers’ expectations, rather than trying to dictate your brand to them. Customers won’t believe what you say about yourself unless it matches what their social networks also say about you. This can be amazing customer service, or it can be price, selection, or something else.

Next, they talked about breaking the bounds of marketing and customer service departments. Instead of feeling like you have to choose one or the other, leverage them together. Retweet an interesting customer service interaction on Twitter. Or get service agents to collaborate on buyer persona development. Be creative.

For companies that do want to implement a Zappos-level of customer service, you need to start at the top. Make the decision to put the customer at the center of your business, then reinforce the idea with process, resources and measurement.

Finally, the group said the most important thing marketers need to consider is that the buyer is in control of their buying process. You can’t decide what information they will go after, or when, so you still need to make your company as attractive as possible. Customer service is just a piece of that puzzle.

About Ashley Verrill: Ashley Verrill  is an analyst with Software Advice.She has spent the last six years reporting and writing business news and strategy features. Her work has appeared in myriad publications including Inc., Upstart Business Journal, the Austin Business Journal and the North Bay Business Journal. Before joining Software Advice in 2012, she worked in sales management and advertising. She is a University of Texas graduate with a bachelor’s degree in journalism.

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