Why Customer Service is the New Marketing


[image courtesy of ansik]

Whether it’s in customer reviews, blogs or forums, people are talking about products and influencing buying decisions. Blaring out sales messages merely antagonises skeptical prospects, who place their trust in the objective advice of their peers.

Research is showing that the ROI of traditional marketing methods is falling, whilst customer interaction is increasing. This would suggest that an adjustment to the bean counter is needed to how marketing dollars are spent.

Perhaps it’s time to stop thinking about just ‘joining the conversation’ in marketing to an online world, but also to be useful in how you communicate. People want insightful advice and information of value. They want constructive customer service, not sales messages.

Engagement offers a more profitable equation

A recent Financial Times article ‘Can Web 2.0 help to build your brand?’ discussed how the costs of marketing in the IT sector are continuing to rise, whilst revenue is continuing to fall. With half of marketing budgets being spent on traditional methods (advertising, sponsorship, public relations, events etc), it was suggested that engaging with Web 2.0 tools (blogs, forums etc) could provide the answer to a more profitable equation.

The FT gave examples of Dell and SAP, who’ve both benefited from engaging through customer service, rather than branding, to build a closer affinity with prospects. Dell have recorded a 26% decrease in negative comments after providing advice on replacing fire prone laptop batteries, whilst SAP have created a self healing community in which members do SAP’s job of providing customer service to each other.

SAP’s example shows how people are interacting over their shared passions, which is what companies should be doing if they want to be of value to prospects. People want to be educated and they want authenticity in how businesses communicate, not just a well publicised logo.

Be useful to earn loyalty

Whilst the web savvy IT sector are the first to experience this shift, consumers interacting over shared passions is only going to spread as more become comfortable navigating the web to find answers. Branding is now not just claiming product superiority, but about how you engage this passionate online audience.

Be useful and people will reward you with their loyalty (the subject of my eBook incidentally), which is what marketing should be trying to win.

In the FT article it was estimated that 36% of enterprise websites now use blogs, customer reviews or discussion boards, with another 27% expected to join. Do you want to be part of the 37% left behind?

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