Stellar Customer Service Is a Marketing Investment

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Brad Wolansky, president, consumer direct and CMO, Yankee Candle
Brad Wolansky, president, consumer direct and CMO, Yankee Candle

Is outstanding customer service a marketing asset? Brad Wolansky, president, consumer direct and CMO, Yankee Candle, asserts that it is.

Consider: A customer has an issue that's resolved or not. At a minimum, resolving it saves the relationship; doing so also may create a raving fan and increase lifetime value. Not solving it leaves the customer dissatisfied. She buys less or leaves—and then you need to replace that customer. “Do the math,” Wolansky said during his keynote at eTail West. “Customer service is an investment, not an expense.”

In fact, Wolansky recommends that companies fund customer service from marketing. “Invest in it and run it like any other marketing program,” he said, adding that marketers fund programs like retargeting, so why not do it for service? “Service is a marketing interaction.” And that interaction reflects on the brand and bottom line.

Wolansky shared his top 10 reasons to get service right:

10. Price isn't the only differentiator

9. The current sales tax advantage will go away

8. It's not that hard to do

7. It doesn't require leading edge software

6. Happy customers are good customers

5. It's cheaper to retain than acquire customers

4. Any company of any size can do it well

3. Happy customers find new customers for you

2. It pays for itself; think of good service as a marketing investment

1. Most others are lousy at it, so here's where you can win

Bringing marketing and customer service together may seem impossible, but there are companies doing it. To sell the CEO on the partnership, use math to show the benefits of having customer service be a part of the marketing organization, Wolansky said. “Math convinces all CEOs and CFOs,” he said.

Indeed, measurement is integral to the success of the service-marketing partnership. As the adage goes, Wolensky noted, what gets measured gets done. So, measure how customer service impacts marketing performance and revenue. Measure what you can, he said; 80% is good enough. “Don't wait to be perfect,” he said. Measure what matters most to your goals—and avoid measures that can lead to bad service. For example, measuring talk time in a call center often creates a poor customer experience that may lead to negative word of mouth—bad for brand image and propensity to repurchase.

Another measurable area where marketing and customer service overlap is in social. “Create great service in social,” Wolansky said. “Be present and respond. If you're not going to do those things, don't be in social media.” The more present and responsive you are, the more positively it reflects on your brand.

Wolansky reminded attendees to listen to customers' feedback in social and elsewhere, like the contact center and via surveys.  He recommended that marketers ensure that buyers are listening to customers, too, and taking action on what they learn to better meet customers' needs and expectations.

“Everyone in the company has a role in customer service” and delivering an outstanding customer experience, he said. It's about attitude, but also about the programs you create and how they're executed. When all employees consider themselves part of the “customer service team” is when a company will deliver a level of service that will be a competitive differentiator.

“Pay back your customers with excellent service,” Wolansky said. “Raving fans will evangelize your brand. Like all your acquisition efforts, think of customer service as one element of your overall marketing strategy.”

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