When Customer Service Is Marketing

Crises are times that can bring people together. They can also be a time that businesses can deepen customer loyalty.

Proactive customer service is basically a form of loyalty marketing. Companies that take a proactive approach to service, especially in a crisis situation, certainly aren’t doing it thinking, “This’ll be great marketing,” but often that’s the outcome.

Over the past few days, for example, I’ve received a series of emails from Citibank with the simple message, “We’re here to help.” Along with expressing its concern for customers, the bank explained that it’s temporarily waiving fees, increasing mobile deposit limits, providing access to CDs, and the like to help its customers weather the aftermath of the Hurricane Sandy. Similarly, Jet Blue has sent it True Blue members an email extending its well wishes and offering to temporarily waive change and cancellation fees for customers affected by the storm who need to rebook.

Lot 18, a flash sale site based in New York that sells wine and the like, sent an email to customers earlier this week explaining that its staff was working from home and would do its best to respond to all customer service inquiries as quickly as possible. Also, Time Warner Cable sent an email with its plans for restoring service to customers impacted by the storm.

These are just a few examples of companies that are engendering loyalty by proactively connecting with customers during a time of crisis. It would be easy to charge fees and delay service. But these companies are showing their customer-centric side instead. And, most certainly, appreciative customers will respond by feeling a bit more loyalty to the companies standing by them.

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