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Customer service: your #1 marketing priority

There’s lots of talk about the need for marketing and sales to be more aligned. With the proliferation of social media and a global marketplace, however, it’s the relationship between marketing and customer service that drives customer engagement. The 5 top reasons for your marketing team to work with your customer service department:

1. Advertising (marketing) is out, relationships (customer service) are in.

People are people. So yes, today’s consumers may be too savvy to buy into your fantastic advertising and viral media campaigns, but they’ll still buy into people. Remember the last time you had a great customer service experience? And remember how that one interaction with an individual heightened your opinion of the brand? Be such a brand.

2. All the more vendors are competing for your customer.

Thanks to the internet, every retailer is now competing in a global marketplace. Online consumers have more retail options than ever before, and customer service is increasinglybecoming the key differentiator and a marketable commodity. Take Avis Car Rental. Back in the 1960s, Avis empowered its customer service department and successfully launched the “We Try Harder” campaign. The company's market share tripled within fouryears, and Avis still uses the slogan in its marketing today.

3. Social media forces customer service into the open.

Social media serve as a public forum, so any communication from customer service - whether online or offline - can become public fodder, affecting your company’s branding. A good example is UK supermarket chain Sainsbury’s. Following massive social media exposure of a positive customer experience (coming from a witty 3-year-old), the supermarket even renamed tiger bread to giraffe bread. Now that's what we call fantastic team work between customer service and marketing!

4. Brand ambassadors are priceless.

Word-of-mouth is now word-of-social media, which really helps marketers to finally identify brand ambassadors. There’s a good chance, though, you’ll need the customer service department to nurture and reward these VIPs. So get communicating!

5. Customer feedback should be at the forefront of product development.

Nokia was once at the forefront of mobile phone sales. Even now, Nokia arguably has better reception and reliability than iPhone. However, despite delivering fewer dropped calls and an antenna that actually works, Nokia is still losing market share to competitors. Why? Because product development doesn't seem to be listening to customer feedback. The customer service team is the best place to source the insights that product development needs.

Marketing’s how-to guide for working with customer service

1. Establish rules

Together, marketing and customer service should define the protocol for social media engagement. This starts with who should respond to which type of comment/question, assigning processes, when and how to refer to competitors (if at all), and escalation rules. If you’ve got a lot of customers, we recommend separate social media channels for customer support and corporate branding.

2. Make it easy and consistent inside out.

Every company with a little copywriting expertise from marketing should have a suite of canned email, chat and Twitter responses that reflect the image of the brand. These pre-prepared responses are not only an efficient way of working, but will ensure customer service stays on brand.

3. Personalize and reward.

Marketing-led social media initiatives that extend the customer service offering keep customers coming back. They also make it easier for customers to share positive feedback with friends and family. The Ritz-Carlton Naples, for instance, asked Facebook fans to tell them how they liked their coffee. When they checked into the hotel, their coffee would arrive exactly as they wanted it - and they didn't even need to ask. Conversely, you can encourage followers to answer questions from other customers on Facebook, Twitter and forums, rewarding their efforts. This will not only engage product evangelists, but reduce the stress on the customer service team.

4. Grab those great PR opportunities.

Keep your eyes open for that one great story, for instance about a customer’s need for support. A simple support ticket can turn into a jaw-dropping public relations piece.

5. Implement that feedback.

Any marketing team that works together with customer service, in order to develop and validate the product roadmap based on customer feedback, is sure to improve customer retention rates.